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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Nathe A Go-Go and the Neverending Lunging Fail

That sounds like a great name for a band.

So remember, my dear readers, when you told me that Gogo would forgive and forget the error in judgement that I made when lunging awhile ago? Well, you were all wrong. That was nearly a month and a half ago, and I've lunged her a handful of times since then in the chambon (once in sidereins) and oh my god. It keeps getting worse... and worse.... and worse.

First, before we get to that nonsense, I have good news! I think we may have a new bit winner! I briefly discussed in my last post how I wanted to give a rubber mullen mouth type bit a try on Gogo, and yesterday Pat loaned me her Nathe loose ring snaffle. Or well, I'm pretty sure it was a Nathe - it could have been an HS Duo, but they're pretty much exactly the same bit, so there you are. Unfortunately the bit in question was like a 5.75" instead of the needed 5", but I figured I would give it a try just to see how she felt about the action and feel of the mouthpiece instead. Right off the bat, she felt more relaxed - like she was just carrying it better in her mouth. She felt completely open to the idea of the right rein, and even foamed up quite a bit. The only thing I felt that she wasn't sure about was the weight - like she wasn't quite sure how to follow the weight of the bit out because there was no real weight to it, but she definitely settled into it and was really quite fantastic by the end. This huuuuge bit was still pulling waaaaay out the left side of her mouth due to its enormity, but I have a solution for it. I hopped online and found, for very very cheap, a Korsteel Flexi Mullen Mouth Eggbutt bit. The funny part is that the cheapest one I could find anywhere came in the color - you guessed it - pale blue. Sweet! Hopefully that will come quickly...

And then today. I seem to have a serious, full-blown training issue on my hands now. Gogo, who once upon a time was the most relaxed, lazy lunger in the world who totally loved her chambon is now a complete trainwreck whenever you go to put it on, every since that bad episode a month and a half ago, and I've really got my work cut out for me. Gogo's big thing is a complete aversion to pressure when she's not relaxed - she completely wigs about it sometimes and just, well, leaves. Such was the case today. I had the broken pieces of my chambon still lying around, and they were in a good enough shape that I thought I would just clip the elastic part to her surcingle and that would be that. Remember now, she first broke the chambon's leather attachment, then she ripped the ring right out of my girth where the attachment goes, and now.... well, you guess it. What's left to break? The leather crownpiece attachment, or more specifically, the metal rollers that the chambon's elastic lines run through. I lunged her loose to warm her up, and then hooked up the chambon and asked her to stand there. She had this weird look in her eye, and I figured something was about to happen, and I was right. I asked her to walk off, and what did she do? Rocket backwards at high speed, immediately breaking the chambon. She's not about to learn that she can just break things when she doesn't want to deal with pressure and leave, so I went and retrieved the rope chambon, which has a nylon crownpiece that cannot possibly be broken. I put that on her, and of course, another immediate blowup. And another. And another. She rockets backwards, sometimes in a rear, sometimes not, head thrown up and mouth agape at the pressure on her poll and mouth, and if she loses her balance, completely sits down. She exploded so violently once that not only did she sit down, but she completely rolled herself over backwards, thus entangling the lungeline in her legs and forcing me to just let go and follow her as she scrambled to her feet and continued to run backwards until she hit the wall. At that point, I was sort of at a loss as to what to do. She was standing there sweating, trembling all over, obviously completely terrified of the pressure even though she's been lunged in this piece of equipment for about a million years with zero problems. I had her put her head down and gave her a cookie when she did it, and that seemed to settle her a little. She eventually was able to walk, trot and canter both directions quietly - she was moving like a million and one bucks too, I wonder if the new joint supplement is doing that or she was just that on edge - although she would not listen for the life of her to my downward transition aids. Both directions, I had to direct her towards the wall, where she promptly and smartly stopped before coming near it, thankfully. I was just finishing up going to the right, totally done and convinced that she was finally okay, and she would not whoa. I mean seriously, she would not. So I directed her into the wall and she stopped. Good girl. She quietly walked off when I asked, but still would not whoa. I directed her into the wall, and she stopped. Good girl. She quietly walked off again, and still would not whoa for a third time. So I gave a very light tug on the lunge line with my voice command. And she freaked out again and went flying backwards for the ninety millionth time! So then we had to start over, from calming down at the trot, to finally getting the walk, and then? A perfect whoa when I asked for it. MARES. I had to hose her off and stand her under the heat lamps and a cooler for over an hour to get her to dry, and I gave her a gram of bute for good measure.

So I don't know. I think the next step is to take the elastic line from the one chambon and attach it to the nylon crownpiece of the other chambon, and see what that does. She definitely is against the non-give of the rope chambon, so the elastic might be slightly more relaxing. I'm terrified that she's going to seriously hurt herself, but she cannot learn that she can just rear and break things and leave. She already knows how to do that through her own trial and error and she's not going to get away with it, because she is definitely the kind of horse who would immediately figure out that if she does something very dramatically like rear or put all her muscle against whatever is putting pressure on her and break it, the pressure goes away and she wins. She is very obviously getting very scared when the pressure DOESN'T go away though, and I don't like that either.

My dear readers, what would YOU do? My ideas at this point are as follows:

1) Don't lunge for a good long while. Sometimes revisiting an issue a long way down the road after other things are improved under saddle (such as dealing with increasing pressures, for instance!) makes the issue suddenly resolve itself. I'm not convinced this is a good option, because the other thing that might happen is that the issue is still totally there, and it was time wasted that could be spent fixing it.
2) Lunge her in something else. I could dig out the Faux-ssoa or some sidereins, and see what happens with those, but I really don't like lunging in equipment like that anymore, not after the (well, former) success I've had with the chambon. I also have horrible images of her getting totally tangled in the Faux-ssoa if she does freak... shudder. Also, this does not address the chambon issue, but it does take the pressure off her poll temporarily. Again, I think it's a bandaid fix.
3) Put the chambon on a few times a week, and work on it quietly and patiently until she quiets down. I figure this is my best bet. Put the chambon on a few times a week and just lead her around, and give her cookies and praise when she's relaxed and okay with the pressure. Then, start to walk her again, quietly, on the lunge with it on. When that's okay, progress from there. Just slowly and steadily try and reintroduce this very scary pressure until she adjusts to it and figures out that it's really not the evil demon she thinks it has turned into.

Mares. Seriously, mares. My horse is a psychopath sometimes. In all honestly, I'm kind of glad she's with me of all people, because I feel like I'm a relatively patient, relatively fearless person who is not intimidated by her boldness and not easily sucked into a fight. If she were with any of the other people at this barn, they would have gotten rid of her long ago for meat. I can see it now - one little fuss, and they'd get off. So she wins... next time, a bigger fuss, they get off faster. Soon, you've got a horse that is rearing in the crossties or right when you go to get on her, because that means she can go back to her stall and eat some hay. She's that kind of horse... too damn smart for her own good.

Damn I love her though.


dp said...

My apologies. I obviously didn't give GoGo enough credit. Raven is very similar in many ways, but her memory is short. Explosion due to A on day A does not equal explosion due to A on day B. Like GoGo she is very reactive to pressure, especially around her head. If she is going to go bonkers it is because something is pulling down on her nose or behind her ears.

I switched her to a stiff rope halter for everything and that has made a big difference in her reactivity. She cannot lean on it and, as a result, she gives much more easily to pressure on her head. That would be my first step with GoGo (assuming that you use a flat halter), followed by some combination of options 1 and 3.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of Key, only in my situation, I didn't have quite so much fear.

Key ground-tied when we bought him. Which is a nice phrase for saying 'he doesn't tie.'

When Key is tied, he will stand there forever--until he gets scared. Then he'll pull and rear and sit because the more pressure he feels, the more scared he gets. As soon as it breaks, he's fine. He's broken halters and both of my tie clips, a nylon lead, metal clips, a metal fence (oh dear what a day)--get the drift? Haha. He actually got to the point (and very quickly!) where he would sit down on purpose, break something, and then go help himself to our hay field.

Not tying Key is certainly an option for me, because I can drop the lead and he won't move. However, I hate leaving a hole like that--I don't want to /avoid/ tying him because he can't. So instead of tying him to bigger and stronger things and letting him stand there for three hours, I decided to 'do it myself'. lol

I hooked up a lead to the halter, and ran it through the tie ring. Then I pretty much sat on it. The moment Key felt the pressure he reared and pulled and flipped shit. And when he realized nothing was actually breaking, he stopped, and took one teeny tiny step forward. And with him not being tied, I was able to give him immediate and BIG, release.

We did this a lot--I'd pull, wait for him to freak out, and then release huge when he stepped into the pressure. It didn't take him long to stop pulling because the release was there. I also pulled abruptly a few times, to simulate him 'hitting the end of the rope' when he would pull on his own. The main problem is that horses like him--and Gogo, I guess--pull when they feel pressure. To fix, I had to teach him to go forward when he felt that pressure. Durr, silly me.

I wonder if you could do something like that? Run a string/rope over her head, and pull light. Watch her get nervous, wait for her to relax, then give her the big release? Then increase the pulling until she'll accept a pretty hard contact/or, gives into it immediately. For Key, I know it worked because whilst he freaked out, I was still in control because there was some give (as opposed to none) and he learned that there was /no reason/ to panic when there was pressure because we went through it so many times that it just became non-issue. I think. lol I think just working her lightly in it and avoiding a blow up will just tiptoe around the problem of her pulling when she feels the pressure.

Good news is, he ties now! lol

I don't know if this is an option, but I do wish you two the best of luck! My father just recently let Key out of the horse trailer at the end of the show season, and forgot to untie his head. And asked him to back up. UGH. I hate dealing with self-created problems!!!! Getting him back on the trailer was no fun time, nor teaching him not to fly off when i undid the butt bar. Silly pony. :P (Gelding can be just as silly!)

Andrea said...

dp, Well unfortunately I lunge Gogo in a lunging cavesson with a bit, so the rope halter part doesn't quite work :)

And DIJ, it's very interesting - Gogo ties all day long no problem. But once in awhile, if I'm doing something she decides she doesn't want to deal with (she did this once for the farrier, and once while getting her mane pulled - two things she was VERY used to at the time!) she just... well, leaves. Breaks her halter by sitting back systematically and then walking away calmly. She's onyl done that a handful of times, but it was definitely NOT due to fear. I can also leave her tied to the trailer allllllll day long no problem. Very weird.

So we'll see. I think I'll try your idea, but in conjunction with the chambon - that will be what puts pressure on her. I'll only use the elastic one though from now on.. the rope one is not the answer here, I don't think. I'd probably feel trapped too.

Now That's A Trot! said...

Remember how you just went back to super low-key walking and stuff the other day? Why not apply it to longeing? Maybe just do a short longe session without any chambon, side reins, etc, praise her like crazy and quit if she's good. Then warm-up with that routine, and just ask her to walk with the chambon as loose as it can be, and again, praise and quit before anything negative happens.

I know I like to have my horses actually doing something when they're being longed, instead of just puttering around in a circle, but maybe that's the kind of thing Gogo needs for the time being.

On a slightly different note, have you ever tried long-reining her?

Andrea said...

Unfortunately I don't think it's going to be that easy, because she still lunges totally totally fine without anything on. It's just when you put the chambon on that the death happens.

Gogo is awesome at long-lining. Actually, I kind of want to teach her how to drive, but I obviously have no idea where to begin. She walks and trot on the long-lines, backs up, and does all sorts of turning and maneuvering through and over stuff. Mares...

manymisadventures said...

I don't know exactly how a chambon works, so my suggestions may not be applicable...

First question: can you loosen it? If it's possible, perhaps you could longe her with it attached but so loose that she will not get any pressure at all. Then, gradually, making sure she's comfortable at each step, tighten it. Over a period of several sessions.

Second question: can you attach it to the caveson instead of the bit? Perhaps if she doesn't feel the pressure on her mouth, she won't react as badly, but you can get her used to *some* sort of pressure [even if it doesn't have the same training value] before gradually reintroducing the chambon.

On the bit matter - that's wonderful! Is the Korsteel Flexi Mouth soft, like Nathes? I always looked at the picture and thought they would be hard plastic, like the Happy Mouth bits.

dp said...

I didn't mean that you should lunge her in a rope halter -- only that you should do everything else in a rope halter to start desensitizing her to pressure around her head.

Andrea said...

OH! Ha, I get it now :) I could try that.... but in the barn, and in all equipment while I'm working with her on the ground, she knows the 'head down' trick - put pressure on the leadrope, and she immediately drops her head. And she does it all the time just fine, I was practicing it yesterday to make sure she still understood it.

Sigh this is too complicated!

Stacey Kimmel-Smith said...

Hi, Just stumbled on your blog after searching for nathe bits. Is the Korsteel really similar in feel? I'd love to save $50ish dollars.

I'll be back -- your journal is very interesting and I love the blog title...

Andrea said...

Hi Stacey,
The Korsteel is relatively similar in feel, but it is much harder and less flexible than the Nathe. The Korsteel does have some flex to it, but you can about bend the Nathes in half if you wanted to (but you probably shouldn't!). The shape of the Korsteel mullen mouths are also different - if you google the two mouthpieces you'll see what I mean.

I totally recommend the Korsteel mullen mouths though. My mare LOVES hers!