Homeboy don't even know what's coming for him..
Thank you all for your AMAZING comments on my last couple of posts! Being able to be real about the tough stuff and to see such an incredible response from this community is my favorite part of blogging. It lets me know that we are all in this struggle together, and that my words are encouraging to people. Being able to support others in this community - and be supported by it - is the biggest reward in blogging. What a sweet gift you all are to me!

One of the major takeaways from the Lainey Ashker clinic was that Dino needs a hefty dose of respect for me as the brains of this operation. Seeing as how I still felt like I'd been hit by a bus on Tuesday, I decided to start my respect training from the ground with some in-hand work.

I wanted to see Dino remain attentive to me at all times, respect my space, and react immediately when I put pressure on him or walked into his space. Armed with a long lead rope and a dressage whip, I set out to reestablish my leadership.

We began with leading, which seems silly, but I know I'm not alone when I admit that I can get very lax about my horse leading in an attentive, disciplined fashion. I can often be seen dragging Dino up from the pasture at snail's pace, my pony dawdling at the end of the lead rope and frequently stopping to snatch a mouthful of grass or contemplate the meaning of life.

Clearly, this has led to some problems.

Fat Pony does what he wants, and Fat Pony wants to eat. 
From the start, I demanded that Dino walk at my shoulder. He had to stop when I stopped, go when I stepped forward, and match my pace. I used my whip to correct him when he either lagged behind or barged in front of me. Just a quick tap on the flank - Walk Faster, or the chest - Stop Please, with no other fanfare.

The really interesting result of this little exercise was the way that Dino responded to each correction. After I made it clear with the whip that he was not where I wanted him to be, he would drop his head, lick, and chew in a sign of relaxation and submission.

So. Interesting. No 'tude, just, "Yes ma'am." It was almost as if the corrections were allowing him to relax because he knew what the rules were.

Once Dino was reacting in a prompt and respectful manner to my basic walk/halt/rein back requests, I switched it up a little bit. I changed the speed of my walk, tottering around like a crippled old lady and then sprinting away, and asking him to move his shoulders and hindquarters away from me, as well as lunging him on a small circle at the end of the lead rope.

While it took a few taps with the whip to make it clear to Dino what I wanted, by the end of the session he was behaving VERY well. He was watching my every move and giving instantly to whatever pressure I put on him.

Good Pony.

"I'm ready for my close-up."
On Wednesday I was feeling well enough to climb back into the saddle, but not before I gave Dino a reminder of what we had worked on the day prior. I went to fetch him from the field armed with my whip, and asked him to march up to the barn next to me, at my shoulder, instead of lollygagging behind. He was a bit startled by this request at first, but quickly fell in line. Once he was tacked up, I worked Dino in hand a bit more before getting on.

Dino was now so primed and sensitive to the whip that I actually had a hard time getting him to stand at the mounting stump! We 'lunged' in a circle around the stump until I could get him to stand quietly, and then hopped on.

And WonderPony was ready to roll! On our walk down to the pond field, he was mostly very forward. As long as he kept up an energetic, swinging walk, I tried very hard not to give any sort of leg aid or driving aid with my seat, and just sit in neutral. There was maybe one time when he slowed down and I gave him a squeeze, which he ignored, so I had to tap him behind my leg with the whip. But Dino reacted promptly and appropriately by walking faster, and aside from that I didn't have to correct him at all on the way down.

He was really quite good once we started our work for the day. My only goal was to have Dino react promptly to EVERY forward aid, and to commit to correcting him immediately if he chose to ignore me.

Round. So round.
There were definitely several times where I put my leg on or lifted my seat and nothing happened, or we'd be trotting along and suddenly I'd feel the RPM's take a nosedive, but one swift tap of Mr. Whippy and we were back in business. No fuss, no 'tude, no swishy-tail-ears-back-foot-planting nonsense, just forward. I got the canter right away on both leads, and Dino was so on fire and plugged in to my aids that all I had to do was soften my elbows and lighten my seat to put him into a hand gallop.

That's the stuff.

I also got some of the best walk-canter transitions ever, because my pony was actually listening to my leg. Go figure.

By the end of the ride, Dino was at the point where he was answering every subtle forward aid immediately, and it was awesome. Even after walk breaks on a long rein, I had absolutely no trouble getting him to trot or canter off with a light aid. There were even a few times where I swung my seat to get him to step into a bigger free walk, and he trotted instead, which was excellent!

I am very curious to see how this work will carry over into locations where Dino is historically balky and rude, like indoor arenas or our jump field at home. Knowing that he's not going to totally melt down or have his brain fried when I get on his case about going forward gives me a lot more confidence in riding him successfully and tantrum-free wherever we go!


  1. What a massive breakthrough!

  2. That's great. We can get complacent sometimes and it comes back to bite us in the butt - I know I've been there with Suzie!

  3. Oooo, I like it! Welcome to boot camp, Mr. Handsome Round Pony!

  4. I feel like you have grasped onto that magical key for your round pony! Enjoy the freedom and happiness!

    1. Me too! I'm sure it won't come without some pushback from him at some point, but so far I like where this is going! :)

  5. I have a mare with similar... respect issues. I felt silly, but spending part of the winter (in the indoor, where she becomes a tantrum-ing spooking terrorist) doing ground work with a rope halter - since she also knows she's 1500 lbs of red mare - really brought about a change, and has given us a back to basics routine that I think will be really helpful in new places where she defaults back to "barge around and be terrified". I hope Dino makes a similar turn - so far, my red horse is very self-empowered and well behaved!

    1. That is awesome!! So glad to hear that a similar approach is working so well for you - it's so easy for us to think we're 'beyond' basics like that, but it always comes back to bite us eventually!

  6. Ha, must be Red Pony reestablish boundaries time of the year. I have had similar conversations with Roscoe. Glad Dino is responding well.

  7. Love this post! This whole thing is so complicated--you had to un-sour him before this was possible, but so cool to see his potential now that you've done such good work. Onwards and upwards!

  8. I have these same issues with Miles, and I find that being strict on the ground typically translates SUPER well to our under saddle work.

  9. I definitely need to do this with Ries. He runs all over me


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