This week I had lots going on but I still needed to get two sessions in each day with the mustang. He was coming along fine and showed lots of promise as a solid little horse. I was always excited to work with him just to see what new things he could do or even just surprise me with each day. Mustangs are very adaptable to their surroundings and I found that mine was no different. He seemed to go so smoothly that I knew eventually we would have to have a ‘bad day’. ‘Bad days’ came with every horse I worked with, they weren’t necessarily bad in nature it was just a day that the horse tested the boundaries I had set for him up until that point. I knew those days were a part of growing and training and when they came I was always sure to deal with them as fast as I could so they would leave.
I had taken him out to ride in a smaller pasture the day before and he had done very well. I liked to ride my horses outside if I got a chance between rain and mud. It put them in a much more natural setting to be able to not feel so cooped up. I could also have more room to gallop him and help him move forward more. That was an important part of his foundation that I had tried to foster since the first time I worked him. As long as he moved forward we were in good shape and so far he had done so.
When he threw his first balk during groundwork today I knew that it was going to be a tough session. Trying to step him forward took more than usual and I stayed patiently waiting for him to move. I switched sides and got him to take a few steps forward and then he froze again. Waving his head in the air I knew that he had made up his mind he would rather not step forward so I changed the exercise and asked him to move to the side. I moved him from side to side constantly changing directions until he wakled forward on his own. It is important to note that doing this is not conceding to the horse but rather giving him work so that when he moves forward it is much easier than the work.
The next part of our ‘bad day’ was in the second session when I introduced long lines. I had made sure to desensitize his legs several days before I brought the long lines in to try on him. He had been alittle funny and sensitive about his feet but not anything unusual so I thought he was ready. He definitely wasn’t ready and so I introduced them one at a time so he could used to them slowly. I forgot one important step.
I always ask a horse to turn away from me with the lead rope behind his hindquarters long before I introduce long lines. It was a simple way to get them used to the pull from the other side of them since usually the pull only comes from the direction of the handler. When the rope wraps around behind them they feel a pull away as well as a a tightening of the rope around their hindquarters. For some reason, I’ll never know why, I forgot to do that with this horse. The first time he felt the pull and the rope tighten he lurched forward throwing his shoulder into me and spinning away as he bolted past me. The problem went further out of control when he realized he had a long line still next to his back leg and he kicked out at it. As soon as I got him back under control, I quickly took the long line off and went back to desensitizing him to the rope around his back legs. He had lost some confidence quickly and I needed to help give him some right away.
He bounced back faster than I expected and although he was blowing and spooky he quickly calmed down so I turned him loose in the indoor for a roll in the sand before I put him away for the evening. I had learned my lesson, never have expectations of your horse and if you make assumptions and you turn out wrong don’t be afraid to start over. Confidence is a fragile thing built on trust. If a horse loses confidence that fine, it’s not ideal but it’s fine. Just don’t let him lose trust in you because you pushed him past his limits, then you will lose confidence and trust. Both go hand in hand when it comes to horses..