Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Red in his home pasture
"Zhhh-shoop" is the phonetic spelling for the terrifying noise made by snow sliding down the fabric roof of the indoor arena.  Here we were enjoying the sunshine with a nice little mosey down the road, and I had to ruin a perfectly good thing by locking poor Red inside the belly of a huge beast intermittently & unpredictably roaring out in anger.
The darker areas are snow on the roof, poised to slide down at any second
This is the time when my original plans for the ride go flying out the window, and I improvise.  I employed multiple tactics today to attempt to salvage a worthwhile ride out of the horrifically scary (to Red) situation we were in:

1. turning on classical MPR and BLASTING it,
Kelso supervising
2. covering the arena in a plethora of poles, cavalettis, and other devices to hold his attention,
Red hides in the corner furthest from the sliding snow while I get all our stuff set up
3. lunging him over, around, and through said devices to get him to focus on something other than the scary monster
4. riding him over, around, and through said devices to get him to focus on me
5. giving up and retreating back outside, and taking a leisurely walk back to his barn to cool him out
Back home post ride, ready for a few treats and a great big hug
Really, though, it was a good ride because he didn't come completely unglued and he was able to work & think for short periods of time despite the distractions.  When I think back to the rides we had together when I first bought him, I realize how far we've come and how much we trust each other.  I knew he wasn't going to explode and do something stupid, like run us into the wall or take off bucking.  And he knew that whatever that scary noise was, it wasn't really going to eat us because I obviously wasn't concerned about it.  I didn't find myself getting worked up or frustrated with him, but enjoying the challenge of working with him in this less-than-ideal situation.  Did I accomplish what I'd set out to do on today's ride?  No.  Did I enjoy my horse and did we both get a little sweaty in body and mind? Yes.


  1. I love it. You know, it's great that he can notice that you are not getting upset about the scary monster and actually extrapolate from that. Earlier today, I tried to give Louis an apple on his special new treat skewer (to hang from the ceiling of the cage), and he was very, very afraid of the skewer. So I tried taking bites out of the apple to show it was just fine, and the skewer was not a horrifying bird-killing skewer. No dice. I had to just hand over the apple.

  2. Poor Louis! I think because horses have a herd mentality, they are very attuned to behavior, mood, body language, etc and domestic horses have learned to pay attention to human's body language as much as other horses' body language and therefore temper their reactions to things (sometimes) based on our reactions to them. I find that if I really concentrate on staying relaxed, or if I'm concentrating on something else entirely, when a scary event occurs, Red reacts less to it. It doesn't always work, as sometimes his flight-or-fight response is just too strong and he can't help but run/spook away from the horse-eating monster (log, boulder, flower, puddle, whatever). Red is also less reactive about these things when we are with another horse (and, he's actually better when Kelso is along as well). Rhio is less reactive in general and my attitude is less important to him - I find with Rhio I need to allow him to stop & think about it/look at it and not push him through something - once he's considered it, he'll usually move forward/cope with the issue on his own. But Rhio is also not at all likely to react to the stupid stuff that he shouldn't react to!