How Does a Horse Learn Respect?

fearlessThe simple answer? I don’t know.  There is no simple answer, at least not for me and Savy.  In my last blog I mention that since the surgery, Savy had been more relaxed and happy than ever before.  She was a dream to ride – steady in the contact and swinging through her nicely lifted back.  Then I asked for lateral work, and it all fell apart.  All of the tension, attitude and anger was back.  Queue mutual temper tantrums and meltdowns.  After a week of terrible rides, and a meltdown (on my part) which ended in me yelling at Savy for pooping too much (it was ridiculous, like 6 times in 10 minutes, but still no excuse), I took a step back.  I had to.  After so many of these type of relapses, I can’t handle it anymore.

I took a week off and just thought about Savy, training, and the possible physical reasons why she might be acting this way. I also realized that Savy either ignored me, or grossly over-reacted to my aids.  As an example, if I would ask her for a walk to trot transition, she would ignore my leg aids until I had to use the whip, at which point she would act completely offended, like I was abusing her.  Finally I realized Savy didn’t understand the difference between respect and fear.  After sharing my realization with my trainer, she suggest ground work.

Our first ground work lesson was simple and astounding.  It was obvious from the beginning that I didn’t understand respect either.  We spent the hour learning about personal space, and walking, backing and stopping with attention.  By our second ground work lesson, Savy had figured out what I wanted and had gone back to zoning out.  Just that fast.  She’s too smart.  So we had to turn up the difficulty, we ran and stopped.  We learned turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches.  Savy still gets opinionated, but it’s so much easier to deal with her emotions from the ground.

Savy has always been weaker and more tense on her left side (she’s right handed), but now she’s very tense on her right side.  I had her massaged and adjusted by the chiropractor. Poor girl is a mess.  She was out just about everywhere, except her left hind, ironically.  She even had a rib out.  The chiro said a lot of times the surgery itself can cause a lot of problems, since they are lifted by their legs and laid on their backs.

Savy had 48 hours off after her adjustment, and the plan is to start back with an easy ride of walk trot.  The chiro is coming back in two weeks and the goal between now and then is to strengthen and lengthen Savy’s right stifle. I plan on spending as much time out of the ring as possible, my goal is to do trot sets on the old racing track, and in a week or so start back on the ground work.