Having had the herd of horses that I do for as long as I have, I take them for granted a lot of the time. They have become pretty mellow about the stupid things that we humans do. Butch makes me remember, he is the new kid and not so mellow.
The colder weather is causing Butch to stay in the reactive side of his brain more and, if not there, go to it quickly. We may or may not know why he does.
I planned on grabbing Butch and riding him bareback in a lesson.
When I went into his pen to catch him he looked quite nervous then turned away from me. He headed toward the barn end of the pen and I went after him. He again was quite reactive – head up, body tense. I reached to pet him and his body felt knotted. He whirled away from me again and took off. I had left the gate (stupid me) a little open and he found the opening and ran out.
Two riders were already in the arena holding their horses. Thankfully the Big Boss was in charge and neither one had gotten on. Butch left his pen at a trot and I was afraid he was just going to run off the place. He didn’t. He saw the horses in the arena and turned in the gate. I closed the outside lane gate before I left his pen and the other gate up to the barn. Then I went through the end pen to the arena, which meant getting down on the ground to go under the rail – that reminded me the body doesn’t bend much anymore. I managed to straighten my feet out and pulled up on the fence.
I closed the arena gate penning him inside and then walked over to Butch and pulled the gate open where I wanted him to go. He stepped away from me and I tried to carefully shush him into the opening. In his pen it was ‘get away from me’ and now it was ‘duh’. He didn’t move but his stance showed he was ready to take off if I did the least little thing wrong. I was slow and careful. He did walk off and of course missed the opening. I was able to steer him back and this time he found the way through.
I stepped through the gate behind him into the alley then closed the gate. He was now captured but not yet penned. Next I herded him toward his pen. Naturally he went into the one across the way from his. He came right out and found his open gate. I locked him in then went to the arena. By this time I was a little peeved at him for his behavior. As I was cleaning up the bridle and reins that I didn’t use I found a whip on the ground.
I realized that I stuck the whip in my back pocket before I went in to catch Butch. I was taking it because my rider forgot it for Lil. That was sticking up behind me when I went in to get Butch and he doesn’t accept that kind of thing. I had forgotten that it was there so that accelerated his anxiety and started the whole fiasco. (Sure does make me appreciate my old gang – they put up with a lot and do it gracefully).
Later I did go into his pen again after I threw in the hay just to make sure we quit the day on a ‘together’ note. Thank goodness he is not one who is out to get you. He was still a little reactive but his body was reasonably relaxed.
Three days later a long-term teen-age student rode Butch bareback. It was a cool morning and there was a pretty strong wind blowing. She did a good job with him even trotting him with things appearing to be fairly under control. As he trotted along the south side of the arena he would dodge to the middle when he reached the electric pole and teen-ager had to gather up reins and get him back on the original course. I asked her to transition him down to a walk and walk him down that side. When she did he didn’t dodge to the middle.
At the end of the lesson, she brought him in to dismount. She stopped then lay down on his neck a minute before getting off. After she dismounted, I took the reins to hold him while she put on her boots. (They slip off when riding bareback so she rides barefoot, even on cold days.) All of a sudden Butch spooked, pulled away from me and ran across the arena. I walked after him saying ‘whoa’ which he finally did. I walked up to him and caught him.
When I picked up the reins he raised his head and rocked back on his feet – keeping them in place. The thought ran through my mind that he has been whipped when he ran off in the past. I stepped up and rubbed a moment before turning him over to teen-ager.
I am sure glad the Big Boss was looking after things. Teen-ager was off Butch with her feet firmly on the ground before he went stupid. Had she been mounted at the time he would have unloaded her with the jump/turn he took.
Teen-ager, grandmother and I all discussed what possibly caused the ruckus and did not identify a cause; all we could do was speculate.
It looks like Butch and I have some work to do on this particular subject.