In case you hadn’t noticed, we currently have a spooking and setting back problem. I can’t trust my horse to be cross-tied or tied to anything right now, because he keeps spooking and stepping back and then as soon as he feels pressure he runs backward until he pulls the clip off of the cross-tie or undoes the knot where it’s attached to the wall. You can’t unclip him after he’s started to spook because he runs back when you reach for his face from any direction, and there’s no knowing what he’s going to spook at. Last week it was the plastic purple tote in the aisle, and the week before it was the shovel leaning on the wall. Also leaves on the tin roof of the barn where he’s lived for four years.
Sometimes he also gets spooked when the ice cells I’m unwrapping slide down his legs and hit the ground, or because someone walked up the aisle and popped up out of nowhere.
It’s super frustrating. Partly because I don’t know what’s causing it or how to fix it, but also just because he’s a grown up horse and I expect better from him.
It’s really easy to get fixated on this and other issues like it. After a long day, I don’t feel like handling my horse like he’s 3 and has never seen the world. I’ve possibly been heard telling him his cute factor is the only thing keeping him out of the glue factory.
But joking aside, he actually does have a lot of good features that far outweigh his vices. And it’s good for me to stop and remember those.
- He generally stands politely while I wrap his legs with polos, ice cells/standing wraps, quilted wraps, poultice, etc.
- I may not be able to cross-tie him, but he stands quietly in the cross-ties without a ton of supervision even without being attached to anything.
- He’s not fussy about whatever boots I put on him, front or hind.
- He’s very sweet and easy to handle. When people bring children to the barn he loves to sniff and nuzzle them, and I can trust him not to nibble or hurt them. I even send J off with him to graze all the time while I clean up, take photos, etc.
- While he might end up wild under saddle, anyone can handle him on the ground with no chain even after months of stall rest
- He’s very stoic and won’t fuss when he’s getting shots, having blood drawn, or getting any sort of drugs.
- He’s easy to clip (well with small clippers; we won’t talk about body clipping) and he stands still with his head low so I can reach everything.
- Sometimes it takes him just a second to open his mouth, but he’s easy to bridle.
- He’s never girthy, and he’s never threatened to bite or kick me for any reason other than when he gets too playful in his pasture.
- He climbs onto any trailer, big or small, ramp or step-up, without issue and will wait politely for you to get him back off
And those are just examples of the positives of his ground manners.
So, yeah, I am kind of frustrated with this issue, and I’ve got a few things planned to see if I can’t figure out what is going on. But in the grand scheme of things, this horse isn’t actually so bad to deal with on the ground. And I think it’s really important for me to keep that in mind when I’m getting mad at him for what I think is a stupid habit. Even though plenty of horses stand just fine in the cross ties, there are lots of horses who won’t wear certain boots, or who can’t be trusted with children and SOs. It’s hard to find a horse that’s foot perfect about everything on the ground, and the really talented ones always seem like they come with weird quirks.
So next time he spooks at his own boot sitting on the ground, I’m going to try to laugh and move on, and consciously acknowledge the good.