Knowing When to Stop

awkwardTraining through a ride that is not going well: yes or no? Last night, I went with “no.” Eli started well enough and I jumped him over a few low fences, he played a little, nothing out of the ordinary happening ….

But something about the changing light at dusk, dogs barking, and people walking up the farm’s drive set Eli’s brain to high alert, and he quickly descended into inconsolable spookiness. At first, I tried to ride through it. A spook or two, I can ride through (by ignoring the bad, praising the good, generally coaxing Eli into relaxing again) and reset Eli’s brain back to work mode from flight mode. Happens all the time. This particular evening, there was no riding through it. The spook-squeal-buck pattern repeated itself nine or ten times before I decided to quit. Yes, I did quit on a “bad” note. Yes, I am schooling or unschooling my horse with everything I do. Eh. So what? I have no desire to physically exhaust my horse into submission–I broke with that method of training a long time ago and I’m not going back. Horses are smarter than that. However, Eli has moments of brilliant stupidity, and when they coincide with my moments of impatient frustration, I would rather dismount and see what tomorrow brings. Neither of us had the right frame of mind, so I untacked him in the round pen and let him roam around, roll, spook freely, and snort while I cleaned tack.

In more fun news, Eli’s BoT hind quick wraps came and I got to try them out for a little bit.

BoTquickwrapsI put them on him while slowly tacking up. I doubt I will ever leave them on him overnight, but I plan to use them before rides to get his wind puffs down. He did not take to wearing them right away, as with anything I put on his hinds …

BoT quick wraps from rennikka on Vimeo.

23 thoughts on “Knowing When to Stop

  1. Eh, story of my life. Totes have those rides. I think it’s worse for the training to push through something like that and screw up your training than to just get off and not make bad associations. If things are going to hell, it’s best to fight another day. You’re a good enough horsewoman to know what to ride through and what to write off. 😉 I believe in you.

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    • Sometimes the easy way out is the way to go. 🙂 He actually hadn’t had a day like this in months–part of why I know I can get away with quitting is because I know this doesn’t happen too much with him any more.

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  2. I have this same attitude with Roger: I constantly have to remind myself that he’s only 5, and he’s definitely still learning, so I try not to pick fights if he’s honestly confused or if he’s being extra spooky. On those days, I try to bring him back by doing something I know he can do (trot circles are usually my exercise of choice), and quit there. However, if Roger is just being a butthole, I try to work through it and reduce the level of sass. Roger is a horse that LOVES to work so these moments are usually few and far between, but if I’m not in the right headspace or if he’s just not game on a particular day, I opt for short and sweet and call it good.

    In other news, I LOVE the BoT quick wraps for Roger’s front ankles; they have made a significant difference in keeping the swelling down. I put them on after our rides and leave them on for a few hours, and then my BO/trainer takes them off when she does night check. We have yet to leave them on overnight, but I have definitely noticed a difference. Hope they continue to work for you! 🙂

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  3. We definitely have rides where Val’s brain disengages and refuses to come back. I usually try to at least end with a few steps of stretchy trot on a figure 8, simply because that is our “everything is ok, and you should take a breath” tool. That way we at least end on a non-fighting note, for both our sakes.

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  4. honestly – i have regretted continuing on looking for that ‘good note’ to end on WAY more often than i have regretted just packing it up and trying again another day. it just is what it is sometimes

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  5. You did the right thing if you are trying to follow learning theory/science. Brains can’t learn if they are “over threshold” once an animal us in flight mode anything you do achieve will disappear into the ether. By training when animals are calm with lots of repetition the default patterns are set so the next time they are in a fear inducing situation they are less likely to get over threshold. The reason your halt back walk sequence works is because it is simple a has been repeated many times so it accesses a different part of his brain than a more complicated/faster behaviour. Also, horses legs have a separate neural next work that can process movement before their brain engages, seriously it is true. Once they start running, it’s hard to get them to calm down. In the end, do what works for you and your horse.

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