Herd boundness at drill!

This exotic 9 year old Arabian mare is in training to prepare her for a home of her own. Previously rescued by Cowgirl Spirit in November 2005, she now requires more advanced skills to be placed in a new home.

Herd boundness at drill!

Postby Juliane on Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:35 pm

Argh!!!! I must express my frustration with Zoe tonight! I am so disappointed in how tonight's drill practice went. However, let me preface that statement with the fact that I did not necessarily set Zoe up for success.

Trish and I arrived to drill practice late, as we spent way too much time at Jill's place, visiting Class (see her update!). We got to drill right when it was starting and had to rush through a quick brush down on both Dandy and Zoe.

By the time we got saddled up and into the arena, the group had just finished their team warm-ups (which is usually 20-30 minutes of intensive pairs and fours work at the walk/trot/canter). This is a great opportunity to really getting your horse in tune to you and paying attention to your requests. Last week, Zoe was excellent at the warmups.

Tonight, we entered the arena. Trish rode Dandy, while I mounted up and rode Zoe. Within about two minutes, our coach, Diane, had us lining up to learn a drill. Poor Zoe immediately lost her cool. Last week, Dandy was not at practice. Today, the minute Dandy would leave her sight, she would start acting very, very silly.

In fact, she reminded me very much of how Buddy used to be around Dandy. What is it with Dandy creating these insecure, needy horses? LOL I tried to ignore it as much as possible, but Zoe's dancing, head tossing and whinnying only got worse. I didn't have any kind of opportunity to warm her up, so she was vibrating and ready to go, only giving me about 1% of her attention :( I was so disappointed.

I continued ignoring her behavior, but it got impossible when her bouncing around caused us to run into other horses. So, I pulled out of the exercises and started working on big circles at one end of the arena at a trot and canter. This seemed to help alot, though she was still very, very distracted. What a difference from the soft, willing mare I worked with yesterday!

When I started to cool her down again (she had gotten herself very sweaty from her nervous behavior), she started calling to Dandy again. Ugh. So, I started getting on her case about it. Anytime she'd call out to Dandy, I'd have her turn in tight circles, while growling at her. This didn't really help either.

The drive home was frustrating as I tried to figure out how to fix the issue. Part of me believes Zoe's antics would have been much easier to control if I had had the opportunity to work her with the group at a walk/trot/canter and get her fully warmed up and have her brain functioning on the job at hand.

However, the other part of me keeps thinking of Buddy and how he never truly got over his addiction to Dandy. While Ally and I did do quite a bit of exercises with him regarding his herd boundness to her, it didn't really help other than that particular day.

I think that I will start separating Dandy and Zoe during pasture time again. If I can find someone to ride Dandy at drill practice next weekend (Trish?? :) ), then I'd like to get there with enough time to really put Zoe to work and see if she is any better. If not, I am considering moving Zoe to Ally's barn, as there is an indoor arena which gives me a better opportunity to work her more consistantly, as well as get her away from Dandy.

Darn that Dandy! :P
Feel the Spirit, Keep on Riding!
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Postby shellyr on Sun Dec 30, 2007 11:17 pm

Hi Juliane,

Hope you had a great Christmas. :)

I would say that Zoe's behavior is not "about" Dandy. It is about Zoe feeling safe and secure when she is away from Dandy. This is a problem with Zoe being unconfident, and I would guess that even if you move her she will latch on to another confident alpha horse and then the new horse will be her "safety" zone.
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Postby Juliane on Mon Dec 31, 2007 10:48 am

Hi Shelly - I know you are right about Zoe's insecurities. I'm just not sure how to fix it and allow her to gain confidence. She was not like this previously when pastured with Dandy and being ridden in drill. Perhaps last night was just a fluke. I want to set Zoe up for success, particularly in her new home (where ever that may be!), but I'm not sure how to resolve something like this. I never really fixed it with Buddy and he ended up being 'happily ever after' as an only horse. Maybe Zoe will be better off once worked more consistently?
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Postby cat_67 on Tue Jan 01, 2008 7:31 pm

What is it with Dandy? Everybody falls in love with her?
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Postby maefly on Sat Jan 05, 2008 4:55 pm

I wish I could figure out what does it! We've got a mare here that is exactly like Dandy. Her name is Quohadi and everyone falls in love with her. I have yet to meet a horse that doesn't like her, and most get so attached they can't be seperated! Quohadi isn't even the boss mare which makes it really weird. When we go to shows with Quohadi we usually have to keep her tied to someone elses trailer so the other horses can function. I wish I knew what did it.

Maybe you could try tying Dandy to another person's trailer where Zoe can't see her? When we go to shows we usually end up taking 2 trailers because of the numbers we take with us so the worst attached get trailered in a seperate trailer too. If that's an option it might help.
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Postby shellyr on Sun Jan 06, 2008 9:48 am

Hi Juliane,

I have an Arab gelding with a lot of the same personality traits as Zoe. He is unconfident, but tries hard, and tends to latch on to the alpha horse because he is sure his life depends on it. I have heard several theories on how to handle it. One theory I tried was whenever he would start displaying unconfident behaviors, I would take him back to where ever it was he wanted to be and then make him work. We did hq disengagements, side pass, backing, and any other tasks I thought would get his brain to override his emotions. He is the typical Arab with lots of go, so this could take a very long time, and he usually ended up lathered, trying very hard to control his emotions, but still very unconfident.

I am experimenting with a new tactic now. When I go to lead one of my unconfident horses somewhere, I start out in their girth area (like I was riding them). When I feel them hesitate or show any signs that they are becoming unconfident, I turn them around and take them back to where they were comfortable. Then, start again. I'm curious to see if crossing that threshold from comfortable to uncomfortable several times will in fact allow my horse to be comfortable for longer periods since he knows I'm not going to push him over the edge so to speak. If he stops and doesn't want to go any further, I stop with him and wait to see what he feels like he can tolerate next. I'm hoping that he may discover that I am "with" him and not pushing or forcing him this way. Time will tell! I only know that forcing him to do what I wanted and dragging him away from his comfort zone never increased his confidence in himself or me. So, it is time for a new tactic. :)
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Postby Juliane on Sun Jan 13, 2008 10:02 pm

Thanks for all the input and suggestions. They are certainly things for me to try. It's been two weeks since drill and I haven't done much riding - just the quick English lesson last night.

Tonight, I took Zoe to drill, without Dandy, and she was perfect! She completely redeemed herself (thank goodness!) and was very good at everything I asked of her!

I think maybe she will be fine with Dandy being there at some point, maybe once she is used to the 'routine'. Also, maybe if I bring Dandy and leave her tied to the trailer, or in the arena area, so she is within eyesight, but obviously not going anywhere. I'm not sure. Maybe I just need to take Zoe to drill a few more times before trying to introduce Dandy into the mix.

All in all, I was extremely pleased with how wonderful Zoe did tonight! And, she does the cutest little nickers! She's very talkative. When we are taking a break from working on something particularly hard, she really loves it if you will scratch her forehead. If you get it in just the right place, she will nicker excitedly. She's absolutely adorable and melts my heart every time I work with her! :)
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Postby ptownevt on Mon Jan 14, 2008 6:49 am

It really sounds like Zoe is a sensitive horse that has had a hard time since she was adopted out. I'm so glad she found her way back to you. She is a beautiful girl who deserves to be taken care of.

I know in my work with children that when we are anxious or stressed we revert back to a lower level of functioning than when we are feeling safe and calm. I think it is also true with horses. Could it just be that many things are new or new again for Zoe and that she may still be anticipating pain from her back issues so that she gets anxious and reverts back to lower coping strategies, such as, being with a horse she knows and trusts to keep her safe?

Just some thoughts,
Pam
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