Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Griffin Logic: Ditches ≠ Ditches

You all know Griffin.

Tall, grey, and handsome

He's my raised-and-trained-by-me dabbles-in-everything-with-a-focus-on-eventing horse. Part of that whole "raised-and-trained-by-me" bit means he spent the better part of 2 years doing more trail riding than anything else. It helped him learn how to be a riding horse, balance himself with a rider in oodles of situations, and helped build a really solid, balanced body as a result of all that terrain.

On a trail. In water. Happy.

He's also been a lover of water since I introduced him to it as a babe. He loves drinking from the hose, playing in the trough, and we've recently been doing a lot of swimming in the pond (which I need to get media of because it is THE MOST FUN).


But apparently since we've hunkered down and focused more on eventing these past few years, Griffin has forgotten how to be on a trail. In particular, he's decided he CANNOT cross ditches on trail. Not even when they're LITERALLY 6 inches wide with a trickle of water. Cue: rearing (fortunately not too big!), crow hopping, squealing, head flinging, giraffe imitations, turning and trying to bolt in the opposite direction (yes, even AWAY from WTF horse, the barn is the other way?), and general athletic outbursts of protest.

I mean, okay, I get it, dude. You're a fancy sporthorse now. You don't "do" trails.

But like. Can we just reframe that for a second? Maybe with some photos for emphasis:

Tackles ditches with ease.

C ECS17-0905136
And log-like things aren't a problem either!

Because last I checked, as a fancy sporthorse he's tackled his share of ditches and logs. And he tackled them all with ease. So, Griffin, while you may have Opinions with a capital "O", your argument is invalid. So invalid, in fact, that it amuses me more than it frustrates me!

A pretty picture but OH the argument we had 20 minutes before this!

And thus, last weekend when I had the opportunity to get all three horses out on a trail ride on the trail with the godforsaken 6-inch wide ditches on repeat for the second mile of trail (seriously, there are about 8 of them), I decided Griffin was going to Get Over his opinions. And if he simply Could Not, then I'd let him follow Stan or Q and work with him again at the subsequent ditch.

I really didn't expect him to have too big of an issue following the ride pictured above, I just needed to bring the right mindset and the proper tools with me to better address the issue before he could escalate to such a point that I suffered another injury. Because yeah, his Opinions and subsequent outburst preceding the above photo resulted in what I can only conclude is a minor fracture to the joint on my right middle finger as it's been swollen (though less over time) and painful for 3+ weeks now.

Happy ears checking in with me

Leaving the barn the other morning with my friends, I think Griffin could tell I meant business; but I also think he was excited to get to go on an adventure with his friends. And he responded appropriately, striking out in the lead of our little trio with admirable confidence. I couldn't help but grin. This was the trail horse I raised. The confident little front-runner who loves to get out and tackle whatever terrain I put in front of him.

He carried that confidence and marched proudly in the lead clear to the first ditch where he promptly stopped, snorted, and expressed his Opinion. In anticipation of this moment, I had not only warned my riding partners that I'd be schooling him, but I also had a dressage whip in hand and ready.

I have no idea why this photo came out looking like the dead of night, but it wasn't. And also, this was the turn around point
for our ride. Grif didn't give a hoot about the river.

I put my leg on and told him to cross the ditch. Griffin snorted. He flung his head in the air and body to the side. I put my leg on and told him no with my voice and body language and asked him again to cross the ditch. He reared. I popped him one and told him no and asked him to cross again. He spun, reared, kicked out, and generally threw a little fit. Fortunately, it was a very well-balanced fit that was easy to ride! I popped him once again as he escalated his fit, told him no, and represented him to the ditch where he then stopped and snorted, staring at it.

I asked him to go forward. He hesitated then tried to back up. I applied leg and annoyingly and persistently tap-tap-tapped him on the shoulder with the whip. Any movement away from the ditch earned more annoying tapping; any movement toward the ditch earned praise and an immediate cessation of tapping. He evaded and I tapped until he'd take a step toward the ditch where I'd praise and cease my annoying taps. We repeated this only a few seconds more before he overjumped the hell out of the ditch to cross it. I praised him LAVISHLY, laughing at his excessive jump.

After that, he protested mildly at one more crossing and was an angel for the rest of the ride, leading confidently the whole way just as I knew he could. I continued to praise him with exuberance each time he crossed a ditch and after the second I didn't have to use the whip again the whole ride - except for shooing deer flies away from us both!

All smiles before heading back.

And so, more frequent trail riding is now on Griffin's agenda. It's so obvious how much he truly LOVES his trail time, and now that I have trail access again, I want him to have it, too! He's forgotten a bit about what life is like outside of dressage schooling and jumping and has developed a more "sporthorse" reaction to express his Opinions (which I can only blame myself for because I've worked so hard to build such an athletic little creature who uses his body correctly lol). His sweetheart-need-to-please core personality is still there. I just needed to set as firm of boundaries during the trail work as I set elsewhere in his life, which totally makes sense!


  1. Replies
    1. Clearly, I should treat his majesty more kindly and not subject him to the stresses of trail life - especially trail life with ditches!

  2. More trails sounds like a great plan! It's so funny when horses decide to have opinions about things they have done before (mine totally do that too).

  3. omgosh what a goon.... unnaturally square boxy ditches? nbd. perfectly reasonable depressions in the ground? nope, no way, no how.... lol...

    1. If there isn't a perfect 90° angle boxing that shit in, it's clearly going to break loose and consume a horse whole.

  4. So funny! B does some similar things - she was 'scared' of an up bank on the trail the other day...the same one we rode almost daily the first year I owned her. I guess now, as an "eventer", she expects a wooden wall face on it or something? Not sure, lol.

  5. I'll fess up: if you try to walk or trot Henry over a ditch he thinks it's a black pit to hell. Like he CANNOT, at least not without a lot of snorting and stink eye and an inevitable giant leap. If you canter it, or if you put the ditch under a jump, or if you put the ditch in between jumps, it's all a-ok and totally normal.

    Horses. They're dumb.

  6. As I'm sure you already know, I love, love, love the annoying tap on the shoulder method. It is my go to for anything that can be easily solved by Just Going Forward. I giggled my whole way through this entry.

    1. Such an annoyingly effective method lol! Stan is the only horse of mine it doesn't work well on because his tolerance for that kind of annoyance is SO HIGH. Love him to pieces but oi vey!

  7. Its funny to see where the horse draws the line in the sand. Cruising around a xc course and jumping all the things? Sure! Go over a ditch on trail? Apparently not! HA!

    1. His majesty would rather have a manicured lawn approaching the ditch, clearly lol!

  8. Poor Griffen- 'I only do event ditches now. A pony must have standards after all! These are sub-par and I find them to be suspicous. Clearly I need to file a complaint with the safety committee.'

    I found this to be amusing. All of sudden Carmen has developed an aversion to troll corner again. I think that the annoying tap-tap-tap will help me quite a bit. I'm going to use it.

    1. That damned troll corner! Hopefully Carmen will vanquish those beasties in the near future.

  9. Hahaha! OMG Griffin. Amber's gotten a bit more of a "show horse" personality too since we haven't been riding on trails or doing much out-of-the-arena stuff since she was about 5. It's part of the reason I'm doing SO MUCH outside walking haha. She has to be able to get back to doing that haha.

    1. Great idea! Hopefully she'll be re-adjusted to all of that outside stimuli in short order. It's a scary world out there ;-p

  10. Omg! This exact thing happened on P’s first hunter pace.

    On an XC course: Water? Check. Ditches? Check.

    On a trail? HELL NO.