Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mentally Unstable

(Re-reading this live post on Feedly at 11:43a on 8/14/14 and noticing a LOT of mistakes that weren't present in draft form....fixing as many as I can. Blogger really botched this up.)

I went to the barn on Monday night with the goal of putting in 3 to 5 fast miles on Griffin. I try to not go to the barn with strict plans any more because chaos reigns when I do. I THOUGHT that 3-5 fast miles was vague enough to be a not solid plan (didn't specify how fast, didn't set sights on precise distance, just a range based on what I thought I might cover on trail). APPARENTLY, my plan was too strict though because surprise, surprise chaos reined.

I fed both horses and then turned Q out and tacked up Griffin complete with 4 boots. I had planned to utilize the haul road for part of the ride as it's easy to really move out on that trail. Griffin hates the rockier footing though, so I decided to boot him. He was too large in the front to wear the size 1 Renegades, so I tossed on slightly large size 1 gloves in the front with Renegade 0s behind.

Griffin was a complete and total pill for picking up his feet to have the boots put on. He REFUSED to pick up his feet. Upon finally getting the first foot off the ground and the boot on, he play-acted like he couldn't put any weight on it when I set it on the ground. He buckled at the knees like he's done before, "falling" in slow motion until he realized I didn't give a damn, and then he re-righted himself like it was nothing. DRAMATIC!

I put on the other boots WITH EFFORT. I pinched his chestnuts as I've had some people recommend to me to get them to pick up feet, except when I did it to his final foot (right hind) he FREAKED OUT, goosed me in the bicep with his hock (I think it was his hock...might have been hoof judging from soreness?) and skittered away like a mad horse rolling his eyes at me. (In hindsight, this should have been A Sign.) "DUDE. Seriously? This isn't the first time you've been asked to do this." I resumed, and had success the second time.

I took my crop too because I anticipated he may get lazy at some point. One pop on his rear earns you his full attention when he's being a pill. Tapping on his shoulder refocuses his attention on the matter at hand instead of on whatever greenery he's trying to rip from trees and shrubs or any other random thing that grabs his attention. (Can horses have ADHD?)

Have some zen-photos of me in pretty places
doing relaxing things...
It'll counter the frustrating nature of this narrative
We mosied out of the barn yard, across the creek and into the back field. He was forward and he felt strong and solid. I remarked in my head about how much he'd changed in the 2.5 years I've had him. <3

And then as we trotted across the field toward the trailhead in the woods chaos loosed itself.

Griffin snatched the bit, turned right and made a strong attempt to turn and run home. Side passing at first, then gaining full control to try to take off.


I tried one rein stopping to the right. No dice. To the left? He threw his head up in the air and his nose out away from his body in full effort to resist the bit while putting more of his weight in his hind end than front end as he skittered to the right. It felt like he was going to just fall over to his right. So I quickly aborted attempts to one rein stop to the left and renewed my attempt the the right. I was not fully successful, but he did slow down enough that I could emergency dismount without hurting myself.

I'd thought for a moment about riding it out longer, but the way he'd just SNATCHED up that bit and turned for home with such strength was frightening. The fact that I had NO control over him was horrible.

So I emergency dismounted as he was skittering, barely standing stilll. With reins in hand and horse in front of me, I lost my temper and yelled at him for being an asshole and jerked the reins once, twice popping him in the mouth. Not a proud moment, but I need to note it. That reaction stems from working with him in a halter for so long where a jerk on the reins like doesn't apply pressure in his mouth. A typical reaction from Griffin when I pop the reins/lead when he's in a halter is that he backs up as far out of my space as he can and waits. I've done it with the bridle/bit before when he's been a royal piss about standing still; he'll roll his eyes a little and maybe take one step to the side or back, but never anything more.

But still.... Sigh. =( Bad, bad Liz.

In response to my hasty action though, in the matter of 2 seconds: Griffin rolled his eyes at me, skittered backward a big step or two (I was on his left side slightly, now), REARED UP (with his head slightly turned and nose up in the air JUST like it had been when I was on him moments ago - scary realization to see he could/would rear; I was even more thankful I'd dismounted), and then he fell hard to the right as he came down onto all four again which successfully ripped the reins from my hands.

He then galloped off.

He headed away from the barn at first, toward the upper pasture, but then slowed and circled back at a trot. I walked to him, still seething, but resolved to be calm enough to get him to be calm so I could mount. He couldn't win this.

He let me catch him and untangle the reins from where they'd settled. As I went to put them over his head though, he REARED UP AGAIN. I tried to hold on, but he jerked to the right AGAIN and tore the reins from my grip.

He then TOOK OFF anew for home this time.

Ooooh I was boiling mad. I sent Nicole a text immediately:

Me: "Griffin is for sale."
Nicole: "What? Your Griffin? Why? What happened?"

Mmm, yes. Oooohmmmmm.
I explained, very disjointedly as I was trudging through the field and trying to watch where my runaway grey demon went, but I explained.

I muttered under my breath as I trudged, many cursewords edited out: HATE walking. HATE this. HATE being hot. HATE that this stream is up. DAMNIT why is the water up TODAY? my boots are going to be SOAKED and of COURSE I had to wear the NON waterproof boots of COURSE.

I eyed up the stream crossing trying to figure the best line of approach to dance across. Shallower areas to shallower areas....5 footfalls in the water and it was done. But not good enough to keep my feet dry. Le sigh.

Griffin had the audacity to be eating grass ahead of me. I trudged up the hill from the creek eyeing him. He turned to me, mouth FULL of grass, and casually walked further away toward the barn. -_-

I trudged onward.

Once in the barnyard, and within 20 feet of him, he acknowledged me anew, and then WHEELED away through the barnyard at a gallop.

I couldn't help but recall this day on trail when he bucked me off the first time and proceeded to evade capture for the longest time. Little. Shit.

I tried to get near to Griffin twice more with the same gallop away behavior. The third time, he ran out of the barn yard, through the yard, and to the road. "Whatever Griffin. Go. GO down the road. RUN away. DO IT. I dare you." He got the road and turned around confused, and then picked up a trot, a canter, a gallop and came rocketing by me and headed to the back field again.

The boots were staying on at least? Yay?

Well, nope, right as that thought hit me the left front glove flew off. Boot unharmed fortunately.

I jogged up to the house now and hopped on the 4 wheeler. I revved it up and was quickly in third gear and took off. If that little horse wanted to run, so be it. We'll run, sucker, we'll run FAST. Move those damn feet little grey horse.

(I've learned how to drive a horse away from me with a 4-wheeler just like I'd do on foot. It's a faster dance with modified body language from on the ground, but it's still effective. I have utilized the skill in times when I've had a very uncooperative horse who doesn't want to be caught from the field. When your horse has 40 acres to escape to, you need another method than just pushing them away on foot. I tried to pursue Griffin on foot when he didn't want to be caught during the first spring I had him and gave up after awhile; as a result, I got a horse in later days who wouldn't let me near him. He thought it was a terrific game. The behavior he was displaying on Monday night was just like that, a game. He's a strong-willed guy. Mr. Highly Opinionated. Couldn't let him get away with this kind of behavior again, thus the 4-wheeler. His game becomes significantly less fun when he can't stop and graze while I huff and puff to catch up to him.)

I perused the ground where he'd passed for boots as I went, then decided it was more important to catch up and make him keep moving, I could look for boots later.

I found him near the other creek crossing. All 3 remaining boots present. Excellent.

I revved the engine a few times and Griffin rolled his eyes at me and trotted off fast. Beautiful little fucker, I tell ya, he's turned into quite the mover with that extended trot. -_-

I drove him into the creek, dropped the 4wheeler off the 2' drop bank into the water, and revved on up the other side. Griffin raced through the back field with me driving him from about 30' behind.

Through the field, back across the creek, up the hill, and back into the barnyard we ran.

The remaining glove was holding strong, but both Renegades had slipped and were hanging on by gaiters around his pasterns.

I drove him around the barnyard for a time with the 4 wheeler. I closed the gate so he couldn't escape to the back field again.

Run. Run. Run. One Renegade tore off, cables intact but the metal circle with screws gone and destroyed. UGH.

Ooooohhhhhmmmmmmm. 3 weeks away from this exact view.
Griffin showed signs of wanting to "come in" and be done. I drove him a moment or two more, and then asked him to be done. He obliged.

I left the quad running and walked over to him. SUCCESS. (The reins had tangled around the top of the saddle somehow during all of this, so he never tangled himself. BONUS!) I held him/let him stand and huff and puff as I quickly removed the gaiter/heel captivator of one Renegade and removed the pastern strap of the other whole boot (one shredded cable on this one) and undid the gaiter from the remaining glove, but didn't take it off completely.

I stood, removed the reins from where they'd settled, gave Griffn the stink eye, and made to lead him to the barn. He refused to move forward. I gave a twitch to the reins (light and not mean!) and he FREAKED OUT, head in air (no rear this time) and tore the reins from my hands as he spun (to his right....again....) away from me. URGH.

Back on the quad. Back to driving him around for a time before he settled near the barn entrance where I caught him up. (He was hardly sweaty. -_- Just wet from the creek.)

I took him into the barn, put the lead rope on his halter and then led him to the outdoor round pen from there, turning off the quad as I passed it. (Go figure, running engine fazes him none.)

In the round pen, I removed the reins completely, removed the lead rope, and with a loud, "ZAH!" sent him cantering around and around. I made him change directions often. He ran and ran and ran. It would be another 15 minutes of hard, fast movement before he was finally too tired to move above a walk. Only after this round penning was he FINALLY sweaty.

I put on his breast plate (to much eye rolling), and also added the running martingale *Just To See*. If he was gonna toss his head up in the air like that to evade then maybe if he hit the martingale's resistance....

I led him into the barnyard and mounted. (To an audience of all of the other horses RIGHT at the fence, might I add. If a horse could look smug, then that's how Q looked! Haha.)

I turned him to the right. Sticky, not happy about martingale, but he did it. To the left? Cue PANIC over martingale applying additional pressure. He nearly fell over for real. I somehow managed to get him to stand still long enough to unhook the martingale from the saddle.

Many mountain. Much beauty. So high. Wow.
I continued to try circles to the right then left. Right, okay. Left, FREAK. Freak to the point where he skittered into the fence with his ass. This stopped the potential "fall over" sensation.

I removed my feet from the stirrups for quick dismount if necessary, and decided to just ride out his skittering to see if he would really fall or if he was just being stubborn and tricky to get his way.

Right. Left. Skittering panic and stumbling, dropped off a slight drop into the yard/ditch which startled him long enough to give in and turn more. I released and asked him to go forward.

We meandered along the drive turning right and left, making circles each time. He was less sticky with each attempt.

Across the creek and into the back field to the start of it all. Right. Left. Right. Left.

I took him over to the jump line I'd worked Q through and did everything I'd done with her on Sunday: circling and weaving around every jump/cavaletti, serpentining between them in various ways.

Good, good, better. Praise, praise.

And then, on a whim, I had him walk over all of the cavalettis (they were set at 9"). He was confused at first, but did well. He did try to avoid walking over them a time or two, but it just afforded us a moment to do a circle and repeat the request to step over. Again. Again. Again. Weaving and circling all the while. Praise. He finally was comfortable walking over all three in turn. Praise.

He was relaxing.

We trotted some. Weaving, circling, serpentining. He was really trying now. I'd captured his Working Brain and managed to convince him to stow away his Arguing Stubborn Brain.

We trotted over the cavalettis, turning before the vertical - 2 stride - oxer. Success. Praise. Repeat.

Each time we approached the vertical (18"), he would key in on it as his "next" obstacle. So, on a whim again, I let him tackle it. 3 cavalettis to the vertical at a trot. Boomboomboom BOOM. Success! PRAISE.

And wow, he was so much more balanced than I anticipated over his first jump!

Repeat x2. Praise x4.

Zen for me, though I know it isn't for all of you. ;-)
And then, because he was keying in on the oxer as he had the vertical, I decided on a whim, what the hell.... (Recall that this little horse used to seek out the jumps when I was starting to ride him in the barnyard. They were jumps I'd been taking Q over, but he always gravitated toward them.)

Boomboomboom BOOM BOOM. Praise! He over-jumped the oxer, but it was good.

I asked if he wanted to do it again, but with a little more purpose for the oxer? Then we'd quit (I've no desire to jump him hard or crazy for awhile to come; just wanted to see if his tendency would be to over jump again; kind of using this moment as a baseline for later pursuits). He seemed eager enough, so we tried again.

Except I looked at the oxer and threw him off so he refused it. So we repeated so I could not throw him off and then HE refused it. So we repeated a final time with success and QUIT. Praise. Ended on a good note. Mosied back to the barn on the buckle.

So a good ending to all his shit. A pleasant surprise to have a good first time over small jumps on a surprisingly well-balanced 4 year old. (He was so much more calculated about jumping than Q; she is so snappy about it.)


So, the jury is in on Griffin's mental readyness for any more attempts at competition for awhile: too mentally unstable.

Is he physically capable? Oh hell yes. His brain JUST isn't there yet.

He's got a problem to the left. He spun only to the right with Nicole at RBTR, too.

He's got a problem with bit snatching now, too. I'm totally open to recommendations on this one! Not entirely certain how to resolve this behavior. I can fix it in certain environments, but because it could happen in nearly any does one nip it in the bud for good?

He's got an attitude. I've known this. Nicole wondered last night about when his herd-boundness had begun. I replied that I don't think that is entirely it. It's a trigger, certainly, but once an argument has started he is just so hell-bent on winning it that everything else goes away.

Tiny-eared mule, ladies and gentlemen. Tiny-eared mule.

After Monday night, I'm nearly positive I'd have received the same result on trail at RBTR with Griffin if had I been riding instead of Nicole. He's a little shit and this is just the newest phase of his struggle to be right and not listen to humans.

He's always had this bit of attitude and streak of stubborn. In ground work as a babe he'd always squeal and kick up his heels in argument with what I wanted when he didn't like it. He'd keep this up until he was too tired to do so (because I'd make him move his feet faster and longer). With the bit in the beginning he'd grunt and crow hop and buck in argument to the pressure on his mouth. He did this until we worked for months in side reins and other gadgets to teach him that pressure on his mouth was not a reason to be an ass. And now? Now we have bit snatching and stickiness to the left. Just the newest chapter of fun with this grey beast!

He snatched the bit two weeks ago during our mountain sprints, but he was so jazzed up in the moment that I thought little of it once we'd corrected it (and sprinting up that mountain a second time tired him too much to argue again. He snatched the bit from Nicole because he didn't want to go forward on trail any more at RBTR and in the field at basecamp when he didn't want to work any more. He whirled to the right with her, too, in attempts to run home. Always to the right (clearly his preference).

I foresee increased exercise on the lunge in side reins with emphasis counter clockwise for a time. And then advance to work on long lines with driving. Additionally, we'll be doing lots of bendy exercises under saddle. I'm sure we'll leave property on some trail rides - solo rides because he's got a problem with those apparently - but it may be a little while!

I was planning to entertain his brain with introductory jumping exercises for awhile this fall (a goal for this month actually!), so we'll probably focus in on that in addition to the lunge work, long-lining, and bendy exercises. Not work with verticals and oxers (that was really just an in-the-moment whim, "Can he?" as I'd had no plan to do it at all), but more with cavalettis. It'll be a good mental reprieve for him to have something so structured for awhile.

The trail is definitely in our future still, but I need to get his head in a better place for "work" and deal with his Angry Stubborn Brain in environments that are close to home so if and when I end up on the ground again I'm not in such a bad way.

So there you have it. The newest chapter of Stubborn Evil with Griffin the Grey.

Recommendations on dealing with bit snatching welcome!

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