Thursday, October 22, 2009

The trouble with those pesky doors... that my horse won't go through them!

Yeah, we're still having problems with all the indoor stuff at the new barn. Panama is getting marginally better about the tie stalls — he goes in them best the first time of the day, but usually when I take him back to it after riding or turnout, he has some trouble with it again.

The indoor barn has been even worse. I did have him going down the aisle between the horses' stalls, but he wasn't keen on turning the corner to where the wash rack and indoor tie stalls were. The usual entrance to the indoor arena is at the end of this hall, so that could be something of a problem.

I did have him in there about a week ago, and while we were in the hall the stall cleaners pulled a truck down the aisle. That freaked Panama out pretty badly, and he was a long time getting over it.

Tuesday I rode Panama in the outdoor arena for about 10 or 15 minutes. It was our first time riding at the new place, so I didn't want to do too much — mainly I was working on getting him to focus on me, since he could see all the indoor horses in their turnout pens. After riding him in the outdoor arena, I took him to the indoor barn. He froze up and wouldn't go in, so I took him to the outdoor entrance to the indoor arena.

The indoor arena has one of those big sliding doors on either end, where you can access the arena from outside. I had to open the door pretty slowly, and stop to give Panama a breather every time I could tell he was getting ready to bolt. By keeping his panic within manageable levels, I think he handled the noisy horse-eating door very well.

Once I had the door open, I walked just inside and, holding the reins, let Panama check out the doorway. He sniffed everything, including the sand footing and the slight step up, and within perhaps five minutes walked in on his own. I walked him around on a loose rein, letting him decide where and how fast (an alert walk) we went. He checked out the arena and stared at himself in one of the mirrors.

I thought he was doing reasonably well, so I tried to mount. It turns out he was only doing well because I was on the ground with him — under no circumstances did he want me on his back. He threw his head, sidestepped away from me, and tried to make several breaks for the exit. That is literally the first time he has ever refused to let me mount, so I decided there was a good reason for it, and stopped trying. We explored a bit more and then I took him back out.

Today we made some progress, but also some steps backward. I didn't try to take him into the arena again — today after turnout we worked on going into the indoor barn. This time he did go in, though he was a long time at it — we took it literally a few steps at a time. I held him on a very loose lead, standing about six feet in front of him and facing him, and let him explore everything. He smelled other horses' noses and blankets, scooted the dirt on the floor with his nose, etc.

He was doing pretty well, so I decided to work on the hallway to the indoor arena a little bit. There is a metal trim piece across the concrete floor there, and it is like the Line of Death to Panama — getting him to put a foot over it, let alone all four, is like pulling teeth. I did get him to step over a dozen times or so, but then I struggled with keeping him from putting his head up and pulling back like crazy.

Around this time someone turned their horse out in the arena. I completely lost Panama's focus to that horse, so I changed tack: I walked Panama back down to the entrance, and we practiced going in and out. I didn't get him to walk in without hesitating at all, but I at least got him in through the door about a dozen times in a row. Baby steps...

Unfortunately, I think I may have tried his patience too much today, because when I took him back to the tie stalls he froze up again, and it took me literally about a half an hour to get him through that door.

My trainer wants to work on this problem in our next lesson. I have to admit I have mixed feelings about it. There's part of me that knows I need someone to help me keep his feet moving, because I can't do it from his head. But there's also part of me that wants to accomplish this on my own. I feel like letting my trainer help is kind of like threatening, "Just wait 'til Daddy gets home!" and letting someone else take care of the problem for me. That's not how I want to be.

If I were really motiviated, I could theoretically head out to the barn extra early before my next lesson, and work with Panama on my own for a bit before my trainer arrives. Or I could just wait for her. What do you think? What would you do, if you were in this situation?



At October 22, 2009 at 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all new to him, and it'll take time and patience. Although perhaps your trainer could help, I'm with you - he needs to have confidence and trust in you, not your trainer, and that will only be developed by you working with him.

At October 23, 2009 at 5:27 AM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

What your trainer can do is watch your technique and timing and give you some feedback. I came to the realization that the reason why Gabbrielle went backwards (literally) in her training was because each time she walked backwards I released the pressure to concentrate on my balance. So, I essentially trained my horse to walk backwards when I'm urging her forward. If I had a trainer watching me, he/she probably would have recognized that and changed my behavior before it became a habit.

At October 23, 2009 at 12:15 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Kate and NM, thank you for your comments! You are both absolutely right -- Panama needs to trust me, but my trainer also catches things that I'm missing that might be contributing to the situation.

My trainer came out this morning, and the session ended up being a blend of both of your suggestions. I'll blog about it this evening!


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