Dealing With A Young Horse’s Antics….Oh Jack

Jack riding

It’s not often that Jack shows his age. Most of the time he’s my little angel of a (now)4 year old that outshines his uncle in manners and his ability to remain calm. However our latest ride this was not the case. Every bit of his 4 years showed up! If you saw the video of jack lunging on my Facebook page then you saw his first two days of work after about a week off. Now he was amazing in the lunge but decided that having to listen to me in the saddle was not very fun!  (The video’s below if you want to watch here as well)

Now I want to point out that with Jack, even his worst day doesn’t compare to Cash AT ALL. Cash can make a bronc master proud and a racehorse weep when he wants to. Jack on the other hand, while he tries his hardest, really can’t get much of a rebellion going.  Even in an english saddle he as to really, really, REALLY try to get me even slightly unseated.

Jack has had the majority of the winter off. I won’t lie, Cash is my favorite(I’ve had him longer AND his mom was m BFF growing up) so when time is scrunched and I can only work one I always choose Cash. Now I’m trying to change my ways. I can’t take the “me next” looks anymore from Jack so I’ve started switching off working horses. One day I work Cash and the next I work Jack so they both feel properly loved and looked after. If I have a really good day I might get to work them both!

So it was Jacks turn. The first day I lunged him and he did his best “I’ve never had a saddle on” bronc imitation but it didn’t take long for him to settle back down and remember that he had to listen and that the saddle really wasn’t going to kill him.  His bucks are much worse on the lunge line then they are when you’re on him. They are maybe a little under half has big under saddle. I decided that it was NOT the right time to ride him and that another day  or two of work to get those brain cells functioning was probably a really good idea. After another day of lunging (the bottom picture in the video) I decided that it was finally time to ride Jack.

Now I didn’t feel like trailering out to the arena and I figured that the ground was probably dry enough in the pasture for a little ride.  So I gathered up my helmet and reins and headed off to the second pasture. Now he was a little snorty about the trees and the manure bucket but nothing way out of the ordinary. I got on and he stared out really good. He even paused long enough for me to get a picture. Then I asked him to walk away from Cash and into the more muddy( his hooves sink a little more it’s not really that muddy) part of the pasture.

*Insert Baby melt down here*

He didn’t wanna, so he thought rearing would be a good idea. Now jacks idea of a rear is probably no more then a foot or two off the ground. Just enough to know he went up. I rolled my eyes and asked him to move forward again and he did. I praised him when he halted like I asked. I asked him to walk forward again and I praised I’m for that. Then he decided he REALLY wanted to go next to Cash, who was calmly standing in the corner watching us.

Jack is apparently buddy sour after hanging with Cash all winter and he seemed to be saying “OH my god i’m 100 feet from cash! There might be a lion hiding behind this tiny bit of grass! I need the herd!” And he proceeded to try to rip the reins out of my hands and walk towards cash (high speed is NOT in Jacks vocabulary thankfully).

Oh no no no. That’s not allowed! So I calmly asked him to turn. Well he thought that THIS was just the most RUDE thing I could ask him and began to do his imitation of a bronc. I pulled his head up a tad and asked him to go forward. I mean really it’s more of an excited rocking horse motion, or maybe one of those old time merry go round in high speed. I almost laughed at him but he was trying so hard I figured I wouldn’t tempt karma or fate and held it in.

Now Cash can get those heels up above his head and spin and put a bronc to shame. (He’s got multiple areas of talent ) and Jack was just kinda humping his back and hopping with all four feet off the ground in a smaller version of his excited lunging. He was very displeased with how I responded to it. He thought I should be shaking in terror and ready to do as HE wished.  Silly boy gets a break from riding and think that he’s the alpha now. So I waited for him to finish his tantrum and just asked him to walk forward again. If I could have seen his face from the ground I’m sure he had the frumpy kid face when his plan was foiled. I’m sure he was thinking “But this would work for Cash! Why is she still on my back? grrrrr” If only he knew what Cash has put me through.

I kept asking for simple walk and halt transitions and praising when he did what I wanted and ignoring all his temper tantrums, other then just doing a correction to stop the action like bucking. But I never kicked him, I never yanked on the bit. I pulled his head up if he was bucking but as soon as he stopped I released everything. I kept my reins long with little contact until he pulled a temper tantrum. And you know what. It wasn’t long before he was sighing, licking his lips and doing what I asked! Once he realized that he wasn’t going to win he quietly submitted and realized it was futile to fight. And I never once had to truly punish him for any of his antics.

This whole session probably lasted 15 minuets (If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you may start seeing a trend here) but when he continually and calmly did what I asked I halted praised and then got off. It was a great note to end on and a high point for me. It’s the first time I’ve managed to react so calmly to a horses temper tantrum. With Cash I think I know what he’s capable of and fear makes me act more heavy handed with him when he acts up. I KNOW Cash can unseat me and hurt me if he gets it in his mind he’s not gonna. I’ve learned that the hard way a time or two so I try to hard to stop the action before it progress to something worthy of a winning 8 second ride.

Now waiting out a tantrum is not always safe to do on a horse, depending on the horse BUT if you can I feel it is well worth the effort with a horse like Jack, and even Cash’s smaller antics. I find that sometimes horses are trying to get you to act up and start a fight (*ahem* Cash). Sometimes the best thing to do is make a quick correction to stop the action and then carry on like nothing happened. Each horse is different on what corrections work but after the episode is over try your hardest to let go of any anger or fear that accompanied it (I know it’s much harder said then done)

The biggest thing Cash ever taught me was how to take a deep breath and release my anger. He WANTED that fight and manipulated me to get it. He wanted to prove he was alpha and if I gave him to opportunity he would take it. Once I learned to anticipate when he was going do something and then how to release my anger at his antics afterwards, our bond has really became strong. That ability to release my strong negative emotions is paying off ten fold now with Jack. It took me AGES to finally figure it out so give it a try when you seem to be having a bad ride! It may just end up being a great one if you can get passed YOUR emotions.

While I didn’t get a chance to Go Pro my episode with Jack. It died as I was getting on (One of these days I will remember to charge it BEFORE I ride)  I hope you got a little laugh at his antics and maybe just a slight insight on working with babies.

Until next time!


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