Hey there! If you’ve been keeping up with Cash and I, you probably know he hasn’t quite been himself lately. He’s been spooky on the trails, a mixture of buddy and barn sour, and pretty disrespectful. I’ve been slowly working through each issue with him, but have been feeling especially frustrated with his lack of respect for me. There have been some incidents of attempted rearing when I didn’t allow him to eat grass, and some bucking when transitioning to a canter. His focus is everywhere but me, causing him to constantly invade my space and almost step on my feet. A friend suggested that I try some of Clinton Anderson’s method because she’s had some major success with her own horse.
“Always be humble enough to learn something new. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before your knowledge becomes outdated.”-Clinton Anderson
Earlier last week I began watching his videos through the Downunder Horsemanship app. Although I’m not able to watch all of his videos without a membership, I’m still able to watch quite a bit. It has totally changed my view on how I work with Cash. Prior to discovering “the method”, I thought that I had gained Cash’s respect by being patient with him. I thought he trusted me because I was not forceful with him and I gave him time to get used to new things. While I don’t think my way of doing things was totally wrong because he did improve, I realized that there is still an underlying lack of respect.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.”-Pat Parelli
At the beginning of the week I started by lunging Cash and trying to gain control of his feet. It was the most successful we’ve ever been at lunging! He really struggled with the change of direction that I asked for. A few days later we lunged again, this time in the pasture. I also worked on yielding his hindquarters and backing up. I had to get a little rough with him a few times to get his attention. In one of Clinton’s videos he talks about how a horse not backing is one of the most disrespectful things your horse can do. He also talks about how some horses need to “wake up” and stop being such deadheads. Cash was definitely a deadhead when it comes to backing up. I got after him a few times and he realized that I was serious; back up means BACK UP!
Today I loaded up the trailer and took Cash to the same friend’s house that recommended Clinton Anderson. She was nice enough to offer her outdoor arena and round pen for use. We encountered many things today, and overall Cash did really well.
First we had to conquer loading. Considering Itty Bit (the steer) was crying the entire time, Cash got in after only a few tries. The new slant load is definitely much better for him than the straight load I used previously. This was the first time that I hauled completely on my own! It was only a 10 minute drive…but baby steps.
Once I got there I unloaded all of my tack first. Then I unloaded Cash and tied him to the hitching post. He was able to see the other horse and he visibly calmed down. I think he was happy to see another four legged friend that didn’t moo. I checked his hooves and applied fly spray before taking him to the round pen. I let him explore it first, then asked him to begin working on the rail. I took full advantage of the round pen since I don’t have one of my own. After several minutes and lots of direction changes, I decided Cash was ready to work on the lung line. He did fairly well, but still struggles to change direction on the line for some reason. He did beautifully when working freely on the rail. I stopped him to work on backing and yielding hindquarters. He did pretty good on his right side, but couldn’t seem to focus on the left. I tried to regain his focus, but ultimately put him back on the rail to work. He was starting to be disrespectful again and actually kicked out at me. He quickly learned that would only earn him more work and more direction changes.
He was responding to me much better, so I decided to saddle up next. It wasn’t until he was all ready to go before I realized I had left my helmet at home… I wasn’t sure how he would do with another horse being nearby, so I borrowed one before mounting.
First, I walked Cash around the arena so nothing would be a surprise. It may look like just a white fence to me, but horses always seem to find something much scarier. Next I asked for a trot. We did several minutes of trotting in circles in figure eights. I tried to keep his feet moving and ask for frequent direction changes. I didn’t want his mind to wander to his surroundings.
My friend tacked up her paint, Flash, and worked him on the opposite end of the arena. It was good for both horses to be exposed to each other while working. Although his eyes and ears shifted to the other end of the arena often, he still picked up on all of my cues. We worked for a bit at the canter each way just to get some energy out. He struggled to pick up his right lead since it’s been a while.
To wrap up the session, I worked on backing and yielding Cash’s front quarters again. He’s still slow to back up, but he’s getting much better! Although I definitely think there is some stubbornness going on, I also think he will always have a little trouble backing up at a hustle. EPM really damaged his hind up coordination. He’s recovered extremely well, but I still notice some slight “offness” at times. I am hoping it’s just some residual effects rather than a relapse. I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on him!
Lately, it feels as though I’ve had to start over with Cash, despite the many hours I have put in since buying him in August 2019. I’ve learned that in order to gain his trust, I have to require his respect. Horses expect to have a leader, and I’ll admit I haven’t been the best one. I hope that by becoming a better leader to Cash that we will have a better partnership, both on the ground and in the saddle. I’m really looking forward to our next ride. I feel like we’ve finally made a couple steps in the right direction!
“To change your horse, you must first change yourself.”-Clinton Anderson
For those of you working through issues with your own horses, I hope that by sharing my own shortcomings that you don’t feel alone! Please know that almost every equestrian encounters challenges now and again. Also, if you haven’t tried Clinton Anderson’s method, I highly encourage you to look into it! It may simply give you some new insight.