The interesting and frustrating part of baby horses is you really never know what’s going to happen each day you work with them. It’s not really a bad thing but its something I haven’t had to deal with in a long time before Ezio. Scarlet had many years of being super consistent, even when he became neurological.
I’ve been working pretty hard on getting Ezio to behave better when hand walking. While I was gone, my main concern was how people would have to deal with him and his not perfect ground manners. Luckily his feet issues have gotten better. I can usually get all his feet done without him yanking them out of my hand now. But he still tries to nip when walking.
I’ve been walking him with a whip 100% of the time so that I can work on his walking. I want him to stay at my shoulder, on the right side and to not bite at me. It has been getting better lately. I’d love to not have to carry the whip but for now that’s what I’m using until he gets better. And he has gotten better. The only thing he’s mostly not given up is the trying to bite me.
But he’s generally amazing under saddle. So when this last week he started throwing fits when riding, I was very concerned. At first I was worried it was his saddle. Except he’d been fine the day before I first noticed the behavior. So maybe not his saddle. I definitely started to panic though when it became clear that this was a consistent behavior.
After talking to a bunch of my horse friends, I decided it’s quite possible it was an attitude problem. He might be seeing how far he can push me. Then I longed him on Thursday and he kept spinning into me in the center of the round pen and rearing. Given that he cut that out when I made it clear that it wasn’t getting him out of work, it further solidified the idea that it was him pushing me around. Of course, it could still be some sort of pain so I’m planning on getting a chiro out, but I think the majority of it is attitude.
Friday I had more time to ride in the morning so I was prepared to spend a lot more time out there. I was there to do battle. I had a plan and was ready for it.
I got him all tacked up and headed to the main arena. The BO was walking a horse outside the arena. I saw and I’m sure Ezio saw as his ears pricked toward them. We get into the arena and I close the gate. I’m tightening up his girth when suddenly Ezio bodyslams me. I fell onto the ground and my arm got tangled in the reins. I was drug a couple of steps before I was able to lift my arm and loosen the reins. Ezio ran about a third of the way down the arena before turning around and staring at the BO and the horse that had come up next to the arena.
Luckily, I was fine. Never hit my head. My arm was sore and I was pretty sure I had some delightful rope burns. I also had dirt literally everywhere. And soreness continued to show up as the day went on. Still not sure why he spooked so hard. I’m pretty sure he saw the horse walking up. And he’s not a spooky horse. But this came out of nowhere.
I ended up getting on and riding. He was a bit keyed up from the spook so I rode him down for about thirty-five minutes before I tried to canter. The canter seems to be the place where I’ve seen more issues with him. He has thrown a few issues during the walk and trot. But most of it was during the canter. I was riding with my dressage whip which I haven’t before. Any time he gave me any fuss during the walk and trot, I was quick to remind him to actually move forward or transition or whatever we were doing.
At the canter, he did throw up a fuss but I kicked him through it for a few strides before transitioning and trying again. It took about four transitions before I got a half 20m circle without any fuss and I decided to end on that. So I’m pretty sure I can deal with the riding behavior issues. The following day it only took two tries for the same result.
So the riding stuff I can handle. But the ground stuff… Ezio had zero trying to avoid me. Other horses would have spooked backwards or done a half sideways half backwards thing. But there was none of that. Full sideways bodyslam. And that’s dangerous. And I’ve seen it in lesser ways on the ground. My body does not carry mass to him. If he wants to keep walking when I say halt and I’m in the way? He keeps walking.
Now none of it ever seems malicious. He’s not trying to trample me. He seems incredibly surprised when I beat on him to get him to back the fuck off. But he just doesn’t see me as being there. So I have a lot of groundwork practice where I’m going to deliberately put myself in his way and halt and backup and then correct him harshly if he doesn’t. My body, my space. I need to be able to be safer around him. And I’m now having to be on my toes while tightening the girth in the arena cause who knows what’s gonna happen there. -_-