Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Training Progression of Bast: Part 4, The Problems

As I alluded to in the last post, this recap of Bast's training progression is not going to be a lot of sunshine and rainbows. Every training process can expect to hit some bumpy sections, and a retraining process can often experience more issues. Horses relearning a career can get frustrated or lose confidence. As such, I wasn't surprised when a lot of the issues I've run into with Bast have dealt with insecurity and a tendency to be a bit herd bound.

However, I can't say that lack of surprise has meant I haven't found some of his issues to be challenging and a bit scary.
Are you ready for drama?!
The insecurity has been apparent since day one. Bast hasn't been quick develop a trusting relationship to the human on the other end of the line, in addition his ability to "self soothe" seemed limited. Any situation that made him uncomfortable (a horse in turnout trotting the fence line toward him, his pasture mates spooking and making a ruckus) would cause him to withdraw inside himself. He would get very quiet, and his body would go rigid.

Thankfully, he is not a very spooky horse. (As an aside: Pig by contrast is a spooky horse. It's funny how spookiness alone does not define how dangerous a horse can seem to a person.) We ran across very few situations where Bast struggled in an uncomfortable place when he first arrived. Perhaps this was because everything was overwhelming, and he was basically in solitary confinement and had only myself to rely on.

Once he was turned out in field board, however? Issues started to manifest.
"Bletch. Changes."
When I bought Bast, his owner/breeder disclosed to me that he had a history of bolting on the track. I dug up his old racing videos to see if I could find mention of what she meant. While bolting mid race can be hard to spot (uh, hello, isn't the point to go fast?), there was plenty of evidence:
Check out that little #1 horse in the bottom left corner. Notice that jockey almost fall off the back of that little bastard in an attempt to slow him mid-bolt. Yee. Haw.
In almost every single one of Bast's races, he seems to break from the gate in a sheer panic then bolt headlong down the track. Usually he would wear himself out before the actual race began, and would finish last. When his jockey would ask him to swap leads, he would clearly be unable to listen-- instead he was just completely shut down mentally and running.

So, uh, that's cool.

I had figured most of this was due to anxiety about other horses, and I figured I would work on that and see how he handled things. The de-sensitization to working around other horses was going fantastically, and Bast had never shown me an indication to bolt. He would get fast sometimes, or bulge a bit. But that was really the worst he'd ever shown me.

Until that day in early October when all hell broke loose and he started running...
I don't know what you're talking about, Lady. This looks fine to me..."
Okay... I feel I should back track.

See, before there was bolting, there was another problem. Remember when I talked about introducing Bast to field board? I mentioned he became besties with one of the other horses in his field?
Look at them. They're so cute... sorta.
Well, actually. Bast decided their relationship went beyond besties and he went full on stalker. I'm not sure if he became so attached to his new turnout friend because he hadn't been turned out much in recent years, or because he was stressed and this horse matched his nervous energy. What I do know is that Bast morphed into a confirmed Stage 5 Clinger practically overnight.
Sigh.
 Things got so bad that my barn mate and I joked Bast had his head up Ari's ass. Then, of course, this happened...
Are you fucking kidding me horse?! That is not a good place to take a nap!
Which of course led to this ...
No. You're shitting me. Omg. What even is this life?
Things would break down when I would take Bast out of the field. He would scream constantly. He would overreact every time the horses in the field would move. He would tend to drag me around trying to return to the safety of his best friend's side. One particular day I ended up getting dragged across the property at the end of a lunge line, ripping off several nails because I refused to let go. Yet, he was still okay under saddle for the most part.

However, all that ended the day we went out into the nearby field along with my friend and Bast's favorite (and literal, sigh) butt buddy. When my friend and her horse (you know, the light and peace of Bast's heart) walked away, Bast literally dropped his brains out onto the floor.
I felt his hind end drop and his head came back into my lap and he squeezed his eyes shut and started running. My first thought as we began hurtling across the field?

"Welp, I found the bolt."

My second thought?

"OMFG HOW DO I STOP THIS THING?!"
Actual footage of me trying to pull up Bast.
See, there's one thing about a true bolting horse: You can't stop them. Sometimes you can steer them, but you can't just pull them up. So, thanking my stars that Bast is a smallish horse, I proceeded to tell the screaming child in my head to shut up a minute and attempted to influence his trajectory. Thankfully, I was able to turn him into an ever tightening circle until he had to stop.
We ended up staying out in that field for a long time, going through several all out bolts. Finally I managed to get a bit of civilized walk that didn't morph into a mindless race to oblivion and shakily dismounted.

Guys, it's confession time. See. I have this secret: I. HATE. BOLTERS.

I have this theory that everyone has at least one thing that makes them wet their pants in pure terror. For me? That's bolting. If I feel like I don't have brakes on a horse, I immediately break out into a sweat of pure fear. I contemplate leaping off, no matter how fast the horse is covering ground. It's my biggest fear.
Pictured: the most fun horse in the world with the absolute best set of brakes around.
So, over my beer and shaking nerves that first night I thought over my problems. While the bolting scared the crap out of me, I knew Bast had it in him to be a sweet and thinking baby horse with a lot of potential. Maybe it was the beer talking, but I decided not to put him aside just because of some bolting.

"With some work," I thought. "We can get through this." So I started thinking of a plan.
"Come on, little man. Work with me here."
... To be continued

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For past editions of The Training Progression of Bast, check out these links:
Part 1: Lunging

36 comments:

  1. That's so neat that you can go back in time and watch his behaviors on films like that. Poor guy must have been pretty terrified out there on the track! Being a baby is so harddddd. I'm glad he found his way to you so he could have a chance to move past his issues and be the kickass dude he's becoming. Bolter or no, he's still freaking gorgeous! Definitely more attractive though knowing he's exhibiting much better behavior in recent weeks ;-)

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    1. Yeah, I feel like his race training was full of holes. Luckily his ground training was excellent and he has a lot of good experiences with people on the ground I can build on. He's just gotta open up to me a bit more.

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  2. Bolting is my thing, too. I laugh my way through bucking; rearing is dangerous but doesn't scare me; rankness on the ground can be fixed. Bolting makes my guts turn to water. It's also one of Tristan's vices, and he has a tendency to stumble, so.

    I know you already have a plan and are already on your way to solving this, but for Tristan, I installed a one-rein stop with the help of a very big bit, and it's a lesson we have to revisit in the spring, still. This past summer was particularly bad. For him, it's not about panic. It's clearly a decision he makes. So I think that makes it both easier to deal with in the short term - his brain is still there - but harder in the long term - he is really stubborn.

    I look forward to reading the update!

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    1. Oh no Tristan! Be nice to your momma!

      I actually think a bigger bit is maybe not a good idea for Bast, since I'm trying to increase his trust and confidence. He's very easy to pull up when he's not panicked, so I think he'd probably just roll right through a more severe bit, too.

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  3. Oh man, bolting in an open field is definitely one of the things that scares me the most. Moiya "bolts" ... but it's more like a fast surge forward for a few strides and then I can stop her, which isn't what you're describing here at all. It's also why I tend to stick to arenas more with her -- they make me feel a litttttle bit safer hah

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    1. I actually prefer bolting in an open field (as much as one can "prefer" bolting. LOL. Oh god.), mostly because I got taken through human doorways on a pony as a kid and I have no desire for that again. Bleh!

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  4. I hate hate hate bolting and it's obviously one of TC's most go-to behaviors. Luckily the last year or so I've been able to catch the early signs and address the root cause enough where it's now just annoying vs scary, but it will always be in there. It's hard when they're young and don't have enough buttons yet!

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    1. It's the worst when they have no other communication skills! I kinda hope mine enjoys being in the dressage ring as much as TC, though I'd prefer he not bolt directly at the judge... lol

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  5. I can't imagine why you don't like bolters. OMG that is terrifying. I'm anxious to hear your plan though, as I feel like you'll work through this and have a really nice horse. Maybe one with a poopy face, but still....

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    1. Haha, yes, very strange reaction of mine. ;) Can't solve an obsession with butts. :)

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  6. The few times I've been on a bolting horse I definitely stopped them by riding them into an object lol.

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    1. Thank god for trees. Trees are goddamn saviors.

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  7. omg that makes my insides go weak just reading it. I don't like bolters either (I think it is the inner child screaming that gets me too)...and Remus does not bolt (HA) but i have been on horses that do (My first horse the Morgan if he got scared, ran like a banshee and would run into stuff in his terror UGH). Don't miss that. I can't wait to read the 'rest of the story' He is cute as can be though Bast. :)

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    1. Aw, he is a cute, and it's his saving grace. Can you imagine Remus trying to bolt? I feel like he'd get 3 whole steps before he remembers he could just put his head down and eat instead. <3 Remus.

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  8. OMG, my palms got sweaty just reading this post! Bolting on a short coupled horse? Even worse. That awful feeling when they tuck their hind end and scoot into the bolt... AHHHHHH! Ps. the face poop photos had me laughing!

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    1. Ah! It IS the worst! They turn on those afterburners and you just know you're screwed. Eeeek

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  9. Bolting is no joke. Especially outside...eeeeek! Glad you both are okay. The shit face photos are ridiculously funny though lol.

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    1. Outside seems marginally better than inside to me, with more space to negotiate slowing. But only marginally. I would much prefer zero bolt. Lol

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  10. Ugh Charlie isn't a bolting kind of horse (thank god) but I definitely often feel like I don't have brakes. It's not as out of control feeling as a bolt, but it's unnerving and can make it difficult for me to trust and let go. Esp compared to Izzy who also had impeccable brakes. Wishing you luck in instilling confidence in Bast! And hoping he learns how to recover sooner and sooner from these..... Lapses

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    1. Ugh. Lack of brakes is just as scary, I think. That lack of control is really awful. I'm sure you and Charlie will get even better this year, and I can't wait to see!

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  11. Terrifying! I've only been on a truly bolting horse once and it was bareback for over a mile. Lets just say a LOT of time to assess my options and realise jumping off at that speed would be very bad. She was headed back to the barnyard where luckily there were round bales. I can still remember flying through the air and hitting the bale then falling down to the ground.
    Best of luck with Bast! I'm such a sucker for horses like him. A bit of work for sure but once your relationship grows and he believes in you, he'll give you his all.

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    1. Oh my god, that sounds horrifying! Such a long time to bolt! It must have felt like an hour. Eeek!

      I'm hoping he'll learn to look to me as much as Pig did. That sort of bond these thoroughbreds are capable of is just amazing.

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  12. Oh my gosh...I've owned 1 bolting horse and it was horrible. I can't wait to hear "the rest of the story."

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  13. I owned one bolting insecure ottb. Every horse is different of course, but what helped us the most was loads and loads of ground work. I also ended up turning him out with a boss mare who took no nonsense and she taught him how to horse - meltdowns were not accepted in her world. Good luck - it’s a challenge for sure - make sure you think of your safety first!

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  14. Well this has been a really cool blog to stumble across! I was looking for a video on braiding, and found that you have a baby racehorse like I do! I was reading your blog about having to find another horse and having an affinity for chestnuts, and it rang so many bells. My baby racehorse (who is also 5) competed at The 2017 Thoroughbred Makeover in dressage. Many of your baby racehorse problems resonate strongly with me. I remember our beginning rides... trying to turn... literally running into walls. They get it eventually! My baby racehorse was cool as a cucumber, but every now and then would go into a bucking bronco mode and then quickly realize that was wayyy too much work. I hope Bast does the same with his bolting. I am not sure what type of situation you have, but maybe Bast could use some solitary confinement.. lol KIDDING! or an old horse who won't give him the time of day :)

    Another thought is to almost recreate the bolting, but on your terms, with hills. Let him tire him self and learn that the happy place is the consistent, rhythmical place that you create for him. I am looking forward to reading more about your new baby racehorse and maybe will even see you at a few local competitions (I am in northern VA).

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    1. Lovely to meet you! I wish I could afford to keep my two horses turned out together, as I think Pig would be the perfect buddy for Bast. Pig doesn't care a bit about other horses, and it's always been his best quality. Bast could learn a lot from him. Unfortunately, I can't do that.

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  15. Poop photos made me giggle, bolting made me sweat. Bolting horse is what landed me a helicopter ride to a trauma center once upon a time so it is firmly on my DO NOT PASS GO list. You're braver than I am - that would have been the last time I was on him.

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    1. Oh god! That sounds awful! My fear is helped some because Bast is so small. Plus, I do feel like I can fix the issue. Otherwise ... he'd be returned!

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  16. I hate not having brakes. I also feel way better about my fear after reading about yours. It makes me feel less alone. :)

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  17. Ok the butt buddy thing made me laugh out loud. Need that today! LOL oh Bast

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    1. <3 I just about died the day I found him like that.

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  18. I am loving these Bast progression posts!! I don't know that I'd be able to remember everything as clearly as you do for the sake of blogging tho!! Can't wait to hear more.

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