Today I got flattened by my Sheza filly, and the Why made sense. Doesn’t mean it was acceptable, but it made sense, and it was a great reminder/learning experience when working with greenies and youngsters.
What I Did:
Pull Sheza and trim her hooves, standard practice here every 2 weeks or so but she’s not worked on any sort of schedule. Today was her first day trying on and moving in Renegades ever, and when introducing horses to boots you really do want to let them get used to moving in them installed properly and improperly before ever getting on their backs (my flattening had nothing to do with her actually wearing the boots, as I’m well aware of those factors).
I *did* slide them on for a quick sizing and pic, of course!
(note momma Desire haunting her <3)
Next I strapped the boots on her saddle to go down to the round pen, mentally acknowledging it had never been done to her before but she does carry pommel packs and bottles up there so it’s not totally out of line.
Here’s where it got tricky: Back when, Sheza got accidentally bopped in the rear with a gate when passing through it *and it stuck.* Almost every single time we pass through a gate in hand she’ll get tense and I’ll often have to make her do 2 or 3 passes in and out of the gateway before she’ll politely go through without squirting her butt through at the last minute. It’s a rude and dangerous habit for a horse to even think about having, exactly because what happened today can happen..anyway back to it, today, with the boots on her saddle, she was just coming to her Sticky spot in gate passage when she spotted the boots “above” her in her peripheral vision, started to spook forward, snowballed that into her Gate spookiness/squirting, and completely flattened me as she bulled through the gateway.
What I Did Wrong
My mistake was in my lapse of attentiveness to Sheza going through that gateway, something that I know is a sticky point for her, coupled with the addition of the boots up there. My focus was more on the ever helpful Rory not escaping out the gate, and it was to my detriment. No, Sheza should never flatten me, but when working a fresh youngster and adding new things, you must be mindful. I also wish I could go back in time and NOT let her get bopped with a gate, but if it wasn’t that no doubt she’d find something else to be squicky about.
What I Did Right
My successes were in the basic fundamental training that I’ve put into Sheza (and April definitely helped cement), and that is that she knows there are expectations (no, her baby brain is not always capable of functioning within them, but ever more so, and when she reverts it’s to higher rungs on the training ladder mostly), she wants to stick with me, and, perhaps most importantly of all and maybe only because of the other two–she has some sense of caring for my preservation. But she flattened you ? you say. Refer up to 3 lines to that line in parentheses. Personally I couldn’t have spoken to that preservation thing before today or in the instant when she knocked me down–but lying in the dirt under your 15+hand 4 yr old as she rears over you and watching her decide to back on her hind legs and plant her front feet decidedly not on you is something, I’ll tell you.
After working on a polite re passage through the gate with no thoughts of coming over top of me, which included me ninja kicking Sheza in the chest (WWHD?)* while my husband was throwing rocks at Rory (horse Whisperers R Us), Sheza had a great round pen session including doing some quite nice moving out in Renegades for a first timer.
*What Would a Horse Do?
We also worked on her other hot ticket reverting item,her right ear. The right ear goes back to her momma Desire, who has a scarred right ear and will still occasionally sling her head dramatically away from being touched–why Sheza does it I don’t know besides a genetic quirk (yes she’s been medically checked for things), and I’ve had others tell me they’ve seen the same odd habits appear in offspring. Anyway it’s something we work on as much or more than the gate..
Be attentive to your early training, in implementation and consistency…the occasional squeak becomes the squeaky wheel becomes the broken wheel (the gate issue). Don’t be lulled into false sense of security, your fresh youngster is a fresh youngster (the adding boots to the saddle, divided attention). Set yourself and the horse up for success by minimizing extraneous risk factors (Rory charging the gate, etc). I *am* of the camp to see ridiculous shenanigans as “extra desensitizing!” but when it comes to something that can be managed to minimize risk in a learning environment I think it’s worth doing.
Rory put herself in the arena and lunged herself–circles in the half arena size, fast but perfect circles, even changing direction periodically, while I worked Sheza. She creeps me out with her smarts, when she’s not annoying me with them!