Thursday, December 8, 2011

Riley tests our friendship (oooh, am I mad)

Riley has been Very Very Bad. Last night, after a lesson, I was putting his blanket. Because I'm prepping for a clinic this weekend, I was practicing while wearing my near-new, expensive Petrie boots. I mean, those boots are pampered -- I barely walk in them and they are thoroughly cleaned after each wearing.

So I was at his shoulder, having fastened the front chest buckles, reaching for the belly buckles. It happened fast. Ri pinned his ears, reached down and bit my leg, HARD. I KNOW the three second rule and I went after him. The stall door was open and he almost ran out, but I caught him by the blanket. One last whack, and I stepped outside the stall. When I looked down, and there was my boot, zipper broken open at the middle. Ri must have caught the zipper with his teeth, and he actually BROKE THE ZIPPER. Boy did I see red! A broom was leaning against the stall exterior -- I grabbed it and butted him with the bristles, just because. Then I hobbled over to the tack trunk to inspect the damage and spew invective.

It never pays to be angry at a horse, but...
I truly have never been so angry with an animal. The ugliness of his expression and the violence of the action, the fact that I had just given him warm water to drink, and hay, and had mucked and bedded his stall prior to the ride, and the fact that THESE BOOTS ARE NEW, and I HAVE NO MONEY THIS SEASON, and I NOW HAVE NO GOOD BOOTS for my clinic.

I've never punished Harv like that--even in his salad days he would never behave so abominably -- and I certainly have never let the punishment stand by itself without a reassuring pat within a few minutes.

Even today, I'm not warm and fuzzy. I really have lost interest in this clinic, not because I care so much about the appearance of my other boots, but because I'm not seein' this partnership in a good light right now.


  1. I'd be mad too. We have a macaw that hates my guts and will violently bite me with no provocation. Riley doesn't fall into that category and although I'm no expert, I guess horses will do stuff for no logical reason so you probably shouldn't hold a grudge.
    Hopefully you can get your boots repaired.

  2. I can understand why you're mad (and maybe a bit scared too). But could anything have caused his reaction? A sore spot under his belly? A recent 'legs tangled in rug straps' incident?

    In instances like this, unless the action would be super dangerous if repeated (e.g. bolting, face biting)I'm inclined to write this one down to mysterious but somehow extenuating circumstances. But if he does it again...

  3. I think I feel this way at least once a week - but toward my dog. He really makes me wonder why humans have the urge to keep animals in their home. He's so good most of the time, but then I'll come home from work and find a pile of shredded paper (used to be the new book I was reading), and I suddenly love this little beast less. He also will curl his lip and snarl at me if I try to remove him from a comfy spot. Bad dog!

    I am angry at first but it doesn't do any good to punish him because the act of eating the book happened too far in the past. So I have to be angry in a different room. The only cure is time. And probably more training :S

  4. he's still a baby he'll come around soon :)

  5. Perhaps Riley's blanket is causing him pain? Also, you can have zippers fixed (usually fairly quickly, too).

  6. Nothing like animals. My corgi ate the sheepskin off my thinline trifecta pad the morning before a lesson.

    I understand your anger (and would completely feel the same way), but you have to let go. He's have done the same to $30 half chaps, which means you have a problem with him, but unfortunately doesn't get you any closer to being able to fix your boots.

  7. Don't be too hard on yourself... and try not to take it too personally either. Obviously biting should never be tolerated, and a well-timed correction is crucial. However... the fact that he lashed out at you is definitely worth careful consideration. Horses always have a reason for aggression. One thing that stuck out in your story was the fact that he bit you while you were putting his blanket on. A lot of horses get cranky about blanketing... blankets can make their skin sore (kind of like when you have a pony tail in for too long and your scalp actually hurts). Riley could be trying to tell you that something is hurting.

  8. I don't blame you for being upset! But boot damage aside, you have to be concerned about the lack of respect he is showing you. If you hadn't been wearing boots, he could have broken your leg!

    I do believe it is time to go 'Alpha Mare' on him...

  9. What do you mean by broken? Did he just rip the zipper-pull thing off track or cause the zipper teeth to open? That's usually easily fixable. Or did he actually bit a chunk out of the zipper itself?

    Try not to panic. I've had a bad zipper fixed for 30$.

    And try not to let your feelings get hurt. He's an animal--impulsive and in the moment. This is one bad moment in a sea of good ones.

  10. um, a pair of pliers will fix that zipper right up. stop being such a DQ.

  11. How was Ri for his ride prior to the bite? Is it possible that he is in some kind of pain? I had a typically sweet horse act aggressively and it turned out he had gastric ulcers. It's not totally unreasonable that Riley was just being naughty, but I always wonder about an underlying cause.

  12. Ooooh.... somebody's in trouble!

  13. As much as we'd like to think differently, our horses are not humans and tend to think and react like horses. It could have been anything triggering the bite--even an itch and you were in the way.

    So sorry about the boot, but at least it protected your leg. A big bruise there would have been even worse. Hopfully you can get it fixed quickly.

  14. A cobbler might be able to quickly fix the boots. As for the clinic, it's when I have felt exactly as you do that my clinics have been the most beneficial. Keep the intensity, ditch the anger, and go with the goal to improve as opposed to showing everyone how well you're doing. Then come back and blog about it!

  15. A cobbler might be able to quickly fix the boots. As for the clinic, it's when I have felt exactly as you do that my clinics have been the most beneficial. Keep the intensity, ditch the anger, and go with the goal to improve as opposed to showing everyone how well you're doing. Then come back and blog about it!

  16. My thoughts echo others here. He's still young and is going to be a dork from time to time. Doesn't mean you don't follow the 3 second rule, but he's a young horse and is going to boundary test sometimes. But I would also check him for pain or tenderness as it happened when you were touching / reaching for a particular spot.

  17. My horse gets growly faces when he is out in his lower back. I think it is his L7??? That being said, I dont mind nasty faces as a form of communication...but there had best not be any teeth involved, or any raised legs. Not ever.
    I am sorry for your beautiful boots, and to be honest, I think you reacted appropriatley. No matter the reason, my horse is not allowed to put his teeth on me, ever. I think you did the right thing by putting the fear of god into him. Hopefully Ri got the point that you meant business. I think in the long run, it is a respect issue. They are so used to us fawning over them...
    I have found too that my previous horse, a very sweet and sensitive TB mare; would show her opinion of grooming/blanketing, what have you...but, she would never bite but, instead, would move away from me. I think there is something less forgiving/tolerant about warmbloods/cold bloods. I think they have entirely too much self confidence.

  18. Ugh. I have a scar on my leg from where my Rileigh bit me while doing up his blanket. A year later it's still a pretty visible scar.
    I must admit that while he has ripped my clothes, I would be very upset if he injured my nice boots.

    That said, Rileigh has ulcers, which is what has led to his dislike of being touched near his belly. We've been struggling with them for over a year. They're hardly gone before they're back again, coming back worse each time. He's about to go up to the university again to be checked out, I fear he will need antibiotics added to his treatment regimen this time. It's troublesome for me that he has so many issues with this already as such a young horse.
    While I truly hope your Riley doesn't have the same troubles, it's definitely something to at least rule out.

  19. ooh I'd feel the same way!
    When you moved to do the belly buckles did you have your back or side to him or still facing him? If he was annoyed and you were in a vulnerable spot (e.g. not facing him, or sideways, bending over) then the temptation was irresistible. I don't think this is mysterious behavior or a sign of soreness or anxiety - sounds like a dominance play, which is certainly normal horse behavior. From other posts, Riley has played that game a few times.
    I've heard several anecdotes related to buckling blankets around the chest and belly. It can't always be because the horse is upset about something. Sometimes they just seize the opportunity because they can.

  20. This guy fixed my boots for me in a very timely fashion for a very reasonable price. Highly recommended...

  21. first thought was "welcome to parenthood." Unfortunately, nobody--NOBODY--makes us happy all the time. Just weigh the good against the bad, and remember how hard you prayed for him to be well and for you to get to ride him AT ALL. Merry Christmas Stacey. You are a lucky lady! :)

  22. First, I am a long time lurker and enjoy your blog.Your Riley is beautful. I am also glad that the only thing that was damaged was your boot and not you.

    I'm going to refer to an earlier post of yours...

    the video when you were patting Padre you said something along the lines of "you are nibbly like my Riley, smart horses are nibbly."

    I have to respectfully disagree. horses that are pushing boundaries are nibbly.
    There is a reason you never see any videos showing europeans tolerating nibbly behaviour in their horses. Nibbly escalates into biting.

    I too went from TB to WB. Learnt very quickly that the slightest nibble or push from my WB was going to be followed up by something much more dangerous that I would rather not have experienced.

    My TB could slobber all over me and not be a problem. Letting my WB do the same resulted in a lot of pain.

    Until I stopped it.

    Boundaries. No nibbling, pushing, anything where I felt the horse getting into my personal space.

    Once that was sorted WB was just fine :)

    Even if something was uncomforable for him there is no excuse for him grabbing you like that. Would you tolerate him attacking the vet in such a fashion if he had to do something uncomforable but necessary to him?

    I feel your pain and anger coming through the screen. He's not making it personal. He's just being a horse and in his horsey brain at that time you were subordinate and had to be put in your place. If he had really meant to hurt you he would have broken your leg.

    This is fixable. The nibbling has to stop. There is a lot of information out there in regards to fine tuning your ground work.

    *reads back* this is getting long but I will leave you with a thought. A friend of mine has a lovely new foal. We were watching him play with his half brother

    it started like this

    nibble, nibble, nip, nip, bite, bite, rear, strike...

    None of us play with the foal or allow him to nibble on anyone.

    You are not Riley's peer or his buddy. You pay his bills. You are his alpha. You get a handle on this behaviour, you will look back on this time as a turning point for a better relationship for the both of you. Good luck :)

  23. I had something similar happen to me when I was taking the blanket off a young mare at our barn. She put her teeth on my leg and started to bite. She and I had a come to Jesus meeting right then and there and she hasn't tried anything since.

    But, I've also gotten smarter and have reverted back to my original rule: all horses must either be on x-ties or at least have a halter and lead rope on before I start working on them. Sometimes you have to remind them you're in control.

    I hope you can get your boots fixed quickly!

  24. My nickname for my Appaloosa, who was given to me (I would never have bought him), is Big Butted Bastard. 'Nuff said.
    I'm sorry about your boots.

  25. Sounds like you have the perfect mind set if the clinician tells you to get after him!

  26. I think responding instantly to let him know that was unacceptable was good - but at that point all the rest was your own emotion taking over, imo.

    We have a pony who pushes the limits regularly - he does it with the herd and he does it with his people (interestingly he does NOT do it with young riders!) and the very best response to him pushing boundaries is to put his rope halter on and go to the arena or even in the barnyard and ask him to walk, trot, halt, yield, back, etc. on a very quiet cue. For awhile we kept his rope halter handy b/c we needed it frequently - this gave us an immediate response, a way to "work" through the moment but w/o human drama, and it really helped/helps. He snaps into partnership and then we can truly end on a good note.

    I don't know what to say about the boots - it sounds like you're displacing all your anticipation about the clinic and what it means to you into that zipper - Riley didn't intentionally target your special boots - they were just there. He did disappoint you w/ the biting behavior. The bottom line is, you can fix both things - the zipper AND the relationship with Riley.

    I would also check some basic physical things out if this is completely uncharacteristic of him. Sometimes they have to do something "big" to get our attention when we're not seeing more subtle behaviors.

  27. This is going to sound weird, but my horse got me twice on the arm once and without any apparent provocation. He had been cranky for a few days and on top of this, the bite was so out of character, I got him tested for Lymes. Yes, Lymes as changes in personality can be an indication and it's an otherwise difficult illness to spot before they start dragging their back feet. Sure enough, he had it. Off the scale, in fact. Massive doses of doxy later, and he was back to his sweet, mellow self. You might consider getting him tested. It couldn't hurt.

  28. I think you need to get over yourself.

  29. In response to DragonHawk, I just wanted to comment that Lyme disease (I assume that's what 'Lymes' is), in horses is rather uncommon in a lot of areas, and when there's a low prevalence of disease in an area, there's a good chance of false positives. Since most vets don't do confirmatory testing (Public Health labs would), many animals are treated when they're not ill.

  30. Get over yourself and DQ, really people? I would not read those folks blogs if you paid me to. Someone who does not get pissed off at their horse sometimes does not spend much time with horses. And in turn can't know much about them. I fully advocate punching a horse in the face for such obscene behavior. Call me what you want but my horses are on no level abused but do you think any of them have bit me? Hell no! Cause they know I will beat their ass. Sounds to me you kept your emotions in check fairly well and did nothing wrong. Sometimes horse ownership is ugly but think how ugly it is out in the pasture when horses are establishing pecking order. I completely understand your anger, frustration and disappointment it is 100% warranted. I also know you will find a way to move past it and will get resourceful to be ready for the clinic and you will learn much. Ignore ignorant people, though easier said than done.

  31. Gee. Ms. Martyr, I had a rooster like your macaw, but he ended up in the stew pot. He started out as a sweet pet. Then he got a few hens. After few months he turned psycho, not only did he attack the family, the dog, the cats, the goat, he attacked his own hens! He just couldn't figure out the rooster's job. He was delicious. The new rooster is doing great.

  32. In response to Sand, no, it's not uncommon at all. Not in the NY/CT/PA area! There is also more than one test for it that can confirm the diagnosis or not. It's incredibly hard to spot and I've seen horses who developed permanent issues with the hind ends because it wasn't discovered until it was too late. It's so difficult to spot in the early stages, I have it routinely tested for at vaccination time. Not only would this possibly "catch" it if he did have it, but it gives the vets a comparison that makes diagnosis easier. As for "false positives", just because the possibility exist, doesn't mean the test is always wrong. What you do is test again to confirm.


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