Thursday, June 4, 2009

Riley Day 3: Fasten your seatbelts for a bumpy ride

Ride 3 was Wednesday, and there is only a tiny bit of footage. Why? Because things were too "interesting" to watch through the cam. It just wasn't the night to try new things. It was cold, rainy, and Riley seemed especially anxious about his buddies being turned out (leaving him alone).

A new saddle
Thinking it would be good to transition to the saddle I intend to ride in, I asked if Christa could ride in the dressage saddle. She had never sat in a dressage saddle but agreed to try it. The saddle turned out to be uncomfortable for the rider, and apparently it was annoying to Riley. Although he'd lunged in it fine for weeks, he was resistant and hollow now that he had a rider on his back. I don't know, he was just -- well - pissy. His attention was 100% on his mouth, and he was yawing and tossing his head. When we put the lunge whip behind him he kicked out, a standard Riley resistance. We rechecked the bridle but it was okay. Here's a little footage of the head tossing.

New equipment, a flash
The head fussing was starting to be counter-productive, and someone brought us a flash to control the mouthiness/chewing. It was adjusted appropriately -- not tight at all really just lying across his skin -- but it did prevent the yawing and wide-open chewing. To reduce the number of new things on his plate, we removed the dressage saddle and Christa dismounted and ran to get the jumping saddle.

The plan was to walk him on the lunge while waiting for the saddle. But flash was a deal-breaker for Riley. After a few moments testing it, he picked up a trot and then a canter, and started bucking. As he came around the corner, he fell.

Footage you won't see
You won't see footage of the tumble, because there isn't any -- but it wasn't pretty. Both hind legs slipped out and he landed on his left hind -- it looked bad for his stifle. Being a drama mama, Riley's life as a pasture ornament flashed before my eyes. But he got up apparently none the worse for wear. After giving him a few moments to relax, he walked and trotted sound. The jumping saddle went on, and Christa got back on.

The rest of the ride was very low key, basically work at a walk, without a lunge line. The pissy attitude had disappeared, and the flash really did its job in that he stopped the distracting mouthiness and focused on the rider's communication. A more relaxed Riley did some walk-halt-walk transitions and steering.

After a shaky start the session had ended well. The next step from my perspective is
  • Checking the hind legs this am and
  • Having him spend a bit more time the flash
I'm okay with the flash, and encouraged by how well the last part of the session went. But I'm a little worried about the "g" word. A BTB pen to the first person who can correctly name what this word is! (hint: it's a vice)

In my post about flashes, I said it's not so much whether they're worn but how they're worn (are they adjusted properly, etc.). Riley's reaction was pretty standard for introducing something new (it was much the same for the surcingle, saddle, bridle). In the next few sessions I'm hoping he'll accept it better and relax through the neck and jaw. Time will tell!


  1. Is the G word a grackle?

    He's looking as beautiful as ever. =D

  2. yaknow, her center of gravity and the muscles she is riding on are different from a jump saddle vs dressage saddle. He could have been acting up simply based on the rider feeling weird. You were smart to stop at the head tossing and do a time out. . .it would suck for him to go into bucking bronc mode.

    He is *such* the little worry-wort isnt he?? lol. His expression was very different for this session.He still looks like a pussycat though.

    Just a random thought (because I had to do this before) is breaking everything into smaller pieces. I rode a mare with a hackamore on a lunge line (we did walk-trot-canter) for a couple of weeks because she couldn't seem to process being ridden AND learning the bit at the same time. Once having a rider didn't phase her she was fine with the bit.

    I am actually starting My colt on long lines for that exact reason. I dont want to ride him for almost a year but I figure it cant hurt to do as much as possible from the ground.

  3. Sorry Psych Raccoon. Hint: It's a vice...

  4. Is the G word... grinding?

    I've seen a few horses take some nasty-looking falls. Each time it looked a whole lot worse than it actually was. Had a mare take a sliding, flailing fall at a gallop and end up stuck under a pipe gate. Was totally fine beyond a nice scrape on her belly.

  5. Are you a wee bit worried about him 'grinding' his teeth?

  6. I think the "g" word is grinding?
    Not sure if I'm right though... Hope the next session goes in a little more relaxed fashion for Riley :)

  7. Grinding teeth? If that's what it is, he may be trying to tell you something - pain or discomfort. Glad things ended better that they started!

  8. Grinding it is! If you offered this word send me your postal address at and I'll send you a pen. Jillian, Amanda, Laurea, and Kate, that means you :-).

    I worked with Riley last night, and used the same borrowed flash -- it actually was tighter than I thought, but that was the loosest hole. I promised my trainer I'd work him in the flash, so -- get this -- I added two holes to a flash that isn't mine, and I know the proper owner only a teensy bit. I'm feeling guilty even now! My rationale is that I'm going to horseman's outlet this weekend and I'll just replace it for her.

    Anyway, the looser flash was no big deal, Riley was accepting and very soft in the eye.

  9. I'll bet the owner of the flash would never have noticed the two extra holes! Maybe now she'll keep her flash looser when she uses it if you return it to her!

    I neglected to mention in my comment that grinding teeth can also be just a sign of confusion or lack of understanding of what is being asked - which would be perfectly consistent with where he is in his training. I bet it just goes away as he matures.

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  11. Gambling!

    Hehe, just kidding! That's more likely to be Harv's vice right, from his exploits with Manuel?

    Glad Riley isn't worse for wear.

  12. Gambling!

    Hehe, just kidding! That's more likely to be Harv's vice right, from his exploits with Manuel?

    Glad Riley isn't worse for wear.

    Bwah ha ha! Good one ABH! I've actually started a story about the 32yo pony at our farm. I'll email it, when I'm done. :)

    I'm glad Riley is doing well. Another thought to the "hardware" side (and my trainer-husband is ALWAYS telling me that I over-think everything), is to try a figure-8. Legal, but not highly-looked-upon in dressage. It might be just enough to keep him from evading the bit and grinding, but still have some movement to the jaw, so he doesn't overthink the bit thing.

    I used a fig8 with my jumper mare, when she was 3 (obivously BEFORE she was ever a jumper). She had tooth-buds on her jawline that were irratated by the caveson and flash (but, BOY did she need a flash!). Figure8 worked like a charm! :)

    I'm glad things are going well. In the grand scheme of things, these little hiccups will be distant memories, when you guys are showing years from now. He is a good looking guy. I can't wait to see video of you working him!

  13. Teeth grinding can be a sign of an issue with the bit too. You might need to try a different style.

    I have started three youngsters on the long lines and it makes a tremendous difference when they first go under saddle. The girl who rode my now older guy told me he felt trained already when she worked him.

    Some in hand work with the bit, asking him to yield and then rewarding as he does will help too.

    But honestly, the long lines are fantastic training tools. You can use them as a "double lunge" on a circle or go behind the horse. Either way, they learn to accept the bit and how to steer and stop before you add the "confusion" of a rider's weight on their backs.

    I also teach them to move off the leg a little with in hand work, using my hand or the handle of a whip as I might use my leg.

    You've done so well with Riley already, some more complex ground work might really bring him along.

    Just keep an eye on him for any soreness after his fall. While he probably is Ok, just watch for any unevennes or behavior issues if he is sore or out of adjustment (chiropractic.) Most young horses I've known kind of "bounce" like children do instead of "crunching" like us old fogeys.

    Do, also, check the fit of that dressage saddle with a rider on it. Saddles do not necessarily fit the same with weight in the seat. It may be putting pressure on his shoulders.

    I am an advocate of treeless saddles myself. But one of my good friends is a saddle fitter and we both agree that incorrect saddle fit is often the cause of training/behavior problems.

  14. This session is a good reminder to not introduce more than one new thing at a time. You guys did a good job backtracking, but, as a practice, it's better not to go there.

    I have to admit that I'm guilty of doing this, after which I have to make my apologies to my horse, who, because he's a horse, always seems to accept.


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