I let him walk one lap on the buckle as I got my coat adjusted and generally shifted and fiddled around before picking up my reins to get to work. Bobby obediently dropped his head and did the same. After one lap, I halted him at the far end of the ring to do a turn on the forehand to change direction.
He'd barely completed the halt before he started going backwards--not in a frantic way, but in a "Oh, gosh. We've halted. Time for a rein back. I know how to do this. Just do it quickly so we can keep going." way. I corrected him, had him halt again, and asked for the turn.
He's done turns on the forehand approximately one million and a half times. This wasn't a new request. It wasn't a difficult request. But for whatever reason, it completely set Bobby off.
He whipped around, legs flailing in every direction, stepping all over himself (remind me to take pictures of his now shredded Dover boots when I get back), until he was facing the opposite direction. Whatever, Bobby. We'll come around and try it again.
Only he'd frozen in place and wouldn't move his feet.
That's not a new Bobby evasion by any means, so I heaved an exasperated sigh and went through the motions of getting him unstuck. I grabbed mane with one hand since he does occasionally go up before he goes forward, used my other hand to give him a big opening rein into the wide open space of the arena, and put my leg on relentlessly until he took a step forward.
Back around after a lap and try again. Once more he flung himself around to face the opposite direction and added in racing backwards this time. I quit on the idea of a turn on the forehand and simplified the plan to walking a lap and then halting calmly at that end of the arena before calmly walking off again.
Once he halted, I'd scratch and pet his neck and tell him he was a good boy. While I was doing this, he'd bend his entire dinosaur neck and head and shoulders around to touch my boot. He had to splay his front legs out to compensate for how twisted he was getting himself, so when I did finally manage to get him walking again, he'd half lurch, half fall forward.
Mostly it was just him doing this over and over again, to both sides of his body. I could feel his heart pounding under my legs, but he wasn't snorting, his eyes weren't wide, he wasn't trembling. He wasn't biting at my leg or his own sides. He was just bending his whole front half around to look back at me.
Occasionally he would change things up when I asked him to walk off. Sometimes it was throwing himself sideways. Sometimes it was launching forward into a canter instead of a walk. Once he even sat backwards on top of the arena fence.
The finale came when BM left the ring with her lesson student and there was just me and another girl hacking a horse in the ring. Bobby and I were standing at the far end of the ring with my reins completely drooped. I was petting his neck and he was standing like an idiot with his front legs wide apart after turning back a few times when suddenly his whole front end buckled and the back half started to go down with it.
I goosed him with my spurs and yelled, "Don't you dare lay down with me, asshole!" He hopped back up, but was still frozen in place. At that point I kicked my feet out of the stirrups and got ready to bail if he tried it again. He has no concern for what happens to his body when he gets in this mindset, and I had no problem imagining him laying down right on top of me without a care in the world.
I finally got him unstuck and gave up the whole "halting calmly" thing to trot it out again.
We trotted nonstop for an entire hour. BM gave another lesson. The girl I was riding with hacked, untacked, blanketed and turned out the horse, and had another one out and groomed by the time I was done. It took every minute of that hour to get Bobby to take a breath, relax his back, and just trot around like no big deal.
Every now and then as we went around, he'd randomly lose his cool and go jetting sideways before getting back to work with no correction from me. It was like his brain would just misfire out of nowhere and then go back to being normal.
Once he was consistently loose, I halted him at the end of the ring again. He was totally relaxed and we stood there on a looped rein for a bit before he calmly walked off when asked to.
I hopped off after that, gave Arthur some thorough belly rubs, and put Bobby away for the night.
|"it's time to get off now, human.|
i'm in serious need of loving down here."
This wasn't the first time Bobby's used laying down as an evasion to get out of work. He tried it a few times when we were teaching him to drive. It was, however, the first time he's tried it while I was on his back.
Now I know to assuage readers I have to cover all the bases first before blaming it on a brain that has in the past malfunctioned violently and seemingly did the same over the weekend.
- He's been in the outdoor dozens of times since moving to this barn.
- He's ridden in the ring and on trail with all the horses that he worked around Saturday.
- He's worn his quarter sheet already this year without issue.
- None of his tack or boots changed in the slightest.
- He wasn't sore in his back once I got off, and his saddle was still sitting right where I'd put it when I got on.
- He's not lame, and all he was (supposed to be) doing was walking and halting.
- Ulcers? Maybe.
- A Lymes flare up that made him body sore? Maybe, but again he wasn't actually working yet, and he didn't appear body sore once I got off.
- Mr Tappy? Probably, though while we were halted, I was alternately scratching his neck with the hand that held my whip and the one that didn't, and he didn't once acknowledge it.
- Neurological problems? Doubtful. I've had two different vet offices do neurological testing on him in the years I've owned him precisely for this reason (Vet, is my horse bat shit crazy because his brain is damaged?), and they've never found anything.
- Genetics? Those golden eyes are courtesy of a papa with a well founded reputation for being the biggest asshole to ever walk the earth on two legs because he was too busy rearing to ever lead quietly beside you. Amirite, Sarah?
I know that won't be the popular answer, but for me--knowing this horse his entire life--it's the most likely.
|ignoring the whip, the end of the arena, and whatever|
other traumatizing thing he'd thought up the day before
to watch people pull into the parking lot. parked vehicles:
now that's something he's consistently freaked out by.
I went back out Sunday morning prepared to do battle if necessary. I got him booted, wrapped (since he destroyed my hind boots), put his quarter sheet back on because it was super chilly out, and grabbed my whip.
I'm a big proponent of ground work, so first things first, we marched over to the end of the ring and stood there for awhile. I rubbed his face, scratched his neck, gave him lots of pats, and told him what a good boy he was.
|"whatever. just going to stand here with my mule face on."|
He wasn't remotely concerned with anything, so I spent some time running the whip all over his body. That didn't light so much of a spark, so then I asked him to do a turn on the forehand in hand which involved asking him to move his hind quarters over by tapping him with the whip. He did so both directions without fuss, and then stood quietly afterwards.
|"whatever. whips don't bother me. |
that horse getting hayed in the barn does concern me though."
Since he was so chill, I jumped on him, kept my reins on the buckle and repeated what I'd done Saturday. We walked one lap and then halted at the far end of the ring. Bobby stood quietly while I petted him before walking off with the slightest squeeze of my legs.
|listening mule ears don't care.|
I repeated the same process on the buckle once again with the same results, and then picked up my reins and came around again. Bobby dropped his head and continued to march forward, halted when asked, and stood quietly, occasionally glancing back at me to see what we're were doing.
|"what's all the fuss about, lady?"|
After that, I walked him to the middle of the ring, jumped off, and put him away. He won't get ridden all week since I'll be in Illinois, and I think that was a really good five minute mental ride that he can hopefully sit on while I'm gone.
I also think it goes to show how much of Bobby's problem is all in his head. For whatever reason, something will offend him, and he mentally cannot come back down. He keeps getting himself more and more upset over it.
Could there be a real physical issue? Possibly.
Is it more likely he's a difficult horse with certain issues that are unfounded and acted out on in an uncalled for manner? Um, yes.