Sunday, November 8, 2009

Opinions are like armpits...

...everybody has one. I'm fine with that. When you insist on putting your armpit in everyone else's faces, though, that's when I have a problem with it.

My horse and a cow

Today I had my first bad "big barn" experience: Another boarder was basically a bit too aggressive about offering her opinions and help. The experience was enough to make me glad that I usually don't run into many people during my favorite times to go (late morning and early afternoon during the week).

I was walking Panama down the aisle of the indoor barn when he balked. Originally my idea was to just walk him through from back to front, instead of front to back like we usually do, on our way back to the tie stalls to tack up. But when he balked, I decided we needed to work more on the indoor barn.

Unfortunately there was a lot going on in there today. There were three horses and riders in the indoor arena, and Panama could see the occasional glimpse of them at the other end of the hall, where he'd balked. And another boarder was wandering around doing heaven-knows-what (though I have a feeling she was watching me, as I never saw her really doing much of anything).

The nosy boarder left for a little while to turn her horses out, and during that time I got Panama all the way down the hall to the indoor arena. He was balking quite a bit, so it was mostly one step at a time across the threshold (after which he walked fine on his own). He watched the other horses in the arena for a little bit, and then I walked him back out to the aisle to do it all again.

Around this time, the nosy boarder came back. She planted herself behind Panama — who was stalled at the threshold, looking down the hall toward the arena — and asked if I wanted her to stand behind him. I told her no thank you, and explained that I already know he'll do it when someone stands behind him; I was trying to work on him doing it for me working alone. I also explained that he's done it before, and in fact just did it — he just forgets and gets locked up still sometimes.

The nosy boarder didn't seem to understand — or want to understand — what I was saying. She seemed to think the goal was to get him down the hall, rather than the process of working with him. She said, "You just have to —" and walked up, got between me and Panama, and grabbed his lead rope right underneath the halter. "Come on," she said, and pulled a little.

I'm not sure why she thought her pulling would instantaneously fix the problem, but the result was that I was annoyed and shocked, and Panama was completely bewildered. I let the rope go slack, and he backed up several steps. I just stood there and waited for the nosy boarder to give up and go away, which luckily didn't take very long (though it was temporary).

Of course, her interference had actually made Panama worse. He'd gone from locking up only about turning down the hall to the arena, to locking up in the aisle altogether, so I had to work on getting him to walk down the aisle again before I could even get him back to the hallway.

I finally got him up to the turn, and started working with him on crossing the threshold again. Like clockwork the nosy boarder reappeared, this time brandishing a long crop. It wasn't a bad idea, actually — but again, I already know he'll walk forward if I scare him forward, and that's not the way I want to have to do this on a regular basis. He needs to be able to work through things with me, and walk forward for me. I tried explaining this to the nosy boarder, but she just started on a lecture about what her trainer showed her, and that you do it sometimes with the crop sometimes without just to get him down there, and eventually he'll do it on his own every time.

I understand what she was saying, but my problem with that is I don't want to rely on something or someone to coerce him down that hall every time. My feeling is that if I give in and get the crop (or the helper to stand behind him) every time, he'll learn that he only has to do it if the crop (or the helper) is present. I tried explaining that too, but my explanation fell on deaf ears.

The problem was, this boarder had no interest in what I wanted to do with my horse — she just wanted to help (read: take over), regardless of whether I wanted her to or not. Even while I was trying to politely turn down her offer of the crop, she was tapping Panama's side with it. (While she was standing right in front of him, I might add — she is lucky Panama is not scared of crops and whips!)

Finally she left. It only took a few more minutes — a step at a time, with release and praise every time he made the decision on his own to step forward — before I had him across the threshold and walking down the hall on his own. While we walked, I talked nonsense to him: "You did it and you didn't die! Why was that such a big deal? You're such a silly horse." etc.

The nosy boarder called from the wash rack, "There was a lot of commotion!" Well, obviously. But did she really think I expected an answer? I would think it'd be obvious that I was asking a rhetorical question. I mean, my horse isn't Mr. Ed...

I'm sure the nosy boarder probably thinks I was unable to handle my horse, and ungrateful when help was offered. But the thing is, I didn't ask for help, and I was polite about turning it down. And I did accomplish what I wanted once she left me alone. Regardless, though, I don't think it's appropriate to just march up to someone, get between them and their horse, and grab the horse's lead rope yourself. Not to mention poking someone else's horse with a crop!

I was too shocked at the time to decide what to do about it, but I've decided that next time, I really need to tell her — politely, of course — to get lost. In the meantime, well, I'll be going out to the barn tomorrow to work with him on it some more — during the day, when there is no one around to bother us!



At November 9, 2009 at 12:17 AM, Blogger Veronica said...

No, not appropriate at all. If she'd offered advice and then left you to do whatever you wanted with it, it would be different, but she sounds like she was really pushy.

At November 9, 2009 at 4:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next time you'll have to politely but more firmly tell her to step back - thank her for her wanting to help and tell her you and Panama are working on things yourself. The rule is, if I didn't ask for your help, I don't want it - said more politely, of course!

At November 9, 2009 at 8:07 AM, Anonymous Jackie said...

Ugh, how frustrating! Being at a big barn can be a double edged sword with stuff like this. Sometimes it's nice to have somebody offer help when you've been struggling and are at the end of your rope. But sometimes people butt in when they aren't needed or wanted. And getting between you and your horse and using a crop on him was totally inappropriate! I'm generally very polite and laid back, but I definitely would have snapped if someone used a whip on my horse without permission.

Your approach with Panama in his balky situations is going to teach him to trust you and to be OK for the long run. Using a crop and scaring him through is short cut that is only going to get temporary results. Hopefully the other boarders will see Panama improving and learn to respect your methods.

Ace and I just finished our first week at our new big barn ... but because I'm the only English rider in a barn full of western pleasure Quarter Horses, I don't think anybody will try to tell me what to do! Our styles, aids, and training techniques are obviously different.

At November 9, 2009 at 10:51 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Thanks for your support, everyone!

Veronica, she was really pushy. I wasn't telling her to get lost, mainly because I was so shocked I couldn't decide what to say, but most people would have known from my reactions -- lots of "No thank yous," trying to explain to her what I was doing, etc. -- that I didn't want the "help."

Kate, that's a good way to put it -- thank you, but Panama and I are working on things ourselves.

Jackie, the worst thing about the crop was that at first I didn't realize what she was doing -- she was using it on his right side, and I was standing at the left side of his head, so I couldn't see it well enough to realize. Then he put his head up and tensed up a little, and she started talking to him ("See, that wasn't so bad, now was it?"), and I realized what she was doing. (Luckily I never use a crop or a whip on him, so he doesn't associate it with "go," or he probably would have run her stupid butt over!) Again, I was too shocked to know what to do, but I'll be sure to be ready next time!

At November 10, 2009 at 8:36 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

When I read your title this morning, I was on my way out the door to work, so I left it in my RSS Feed to get to it tonight. I wanted to read the whole thing without being rushed. I used to be a parenting educator, but that didn't give me a ticket to tell strangers in the supermarket how to raise their children. In fact, I know that giving parenting advice is a very sensitive thing, so I only offered my services to those who came to me. It should be the same way with training horses.

At December 3, 2009 at 10:55 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

NM, sorry but I forgot about your comment until now! I agree with you about parenting and working with horses being the same... but then again, most people don't hesitate to push their parenting advice, either. :-\

At December 11, 2011 at 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope that this was not me trying to help. If so know that I only had the best of intentions. However, if it was me, I now know that I have a "stupid butt" or maybe that was implying that I am stupid... which I know that I am not.. but any ways, 1000 apologies for being nosy if it was me

At December 11, 2011 at 11:53 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Anonymous, I don't know who you are since you didn't leave your name, but I rather doubt this was you. This was someone who was at my current barn when I first moved in, and left not all that long afterward. If you found my blog via Facebook, rest assured that this was definitely NOT you, because my blog URL is only viewable by friends and friends of friends, and I've never seen this ex-boarder on my or anyone else's friends list before.


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