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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Holy White Terror

Oh boy! Well I've finally seen the naughty side of Marti that his owner warned me about. I didn't quite realize the extent of it though... I have some serious work on my hands.

Marti is a very, very big boy. When Marti is scared, Marti runs in the opposite direction with all haste. Marti also pulls back when tied if he wants to leave. I had seen a bit of this when I went to put on his blanket the first day. He shot backwards like a cannon, but I stopped him after a few hops. 'Ah ok,' I thought. 'I see what she means.' I've been able to do some work with him, which I will elaborate on a little bit later, but he was so amazingly hairy, out of shape and nervous that he worked himself into a total lather every single time. After one of these lathering sessions when he WALKED for 30 minutes, I attempted to hose him off, and he pulled back from where he was tied. He was tied with a nylong hater and strong line to a pipe fence, so he was unable to get away, and he stopped as soon as he figured it out. Hmmmmm. 'Ok, I HAVE to clip him,' I thought. Marti had another freakout prior to beginning his clip when a motorcycle came down the road. He lost it and shot backwards at high speed again, but yet again I stopped him. The actual body clip itself was a total disaster. I had no idea that underneath his ridiculously thick coat, an impenetrable layer of filth existed, and my clippers just stuck in his hair and refused to cut. This was a totally stupid error on my part.... I refuse to clip other people's dirty horses, so WHY did I bother clipping mine? It was awful. Worst clip job I've ever done. And it's not even done yet! After two torturous hours, I finally just gave up, and decided I'd bathe him today and then finish the clip tonight. I'm embarassed by how horrible the clip is. That horse has more lines than I-35. (And you guys know I pride myself on my awesome clip jobs.)

He pulled back twice when I was clipping him, both times when I got up near the top of his head. (He has a clipped bridlepath, so I don't think he's scared of it!) Having anticipated a potential problem, and having watched how he pulled back on purpose two days prior, I tied him with a trailer tie and a nylong halter - unbreakable. If he were to get away, I'd never catch him... and if he is pulling back on purpose, that habit needs to stop NOW. He cannot keep doing it. I don't want him to get hurt, but there is a larger risk of him getting hurt if he gets loose, so it's a risk I have to take. He did stop after the second pullback, thankfully. My problems were not over there, however. Once we got back into the field, I brought out supper and moved in to feed the two. Marti has actually been SHARING a feed bowl with Gogo whenever I can't chase him away from her, and TAKING HER BOWL FROM HER, which is mind-blowing to me considering what a nasty piece of work she is to other horses. Because of this, I had him with a halter and chain still, and fed her first. Marti, of course, moved to sneak in and take a bite, and I turned around to back him up. He bolted backwards at high speed, and once agan I stopped him, but then I decided to back him up an additional step. At that, he absolutely lost it, wheeled on one foot, and galloped away, with me hanging on to him, chain and all. He galloped right through a stud chain with my weight dragging on him. I had no choice but to let go.

But I had the upper hand. I had two things to hold over his head: Gogo and food. I fed Gogo, which upset him, and waited to see if he would come to me for his dinner. He did not, so I took it and fed part of it to Gogo, handful by handful. He still refused to come over even though he watched intently the whole time, so I then took Gogo away from him. Finally, he decided that he REALLY would like to be caught, and let me lead him back over to his dinner and remove his halter. I stood for awhile petting and scratching him, but I am sure my body language was electric. I was not amused.

Today was no improvement. At lunchtime, I came home with the intention of bathing him so I could finishing clipping him this evening. His filth just wasn't going to allow for anything else, so I set up all my bathing stuff and opted to bathe him in his field in case he pulled back and got away during his bath. I tied him in his rope halter and lead, as opposed to his nylon halter and lead, and apparently this was a mistake. I watched his mother bathe him and spray him in the face, so I was surprised to see that he totally freaked the moment I picked up the hose and ran it over his legs. He pulled back once and stopped, then twice and stopped. Then he pulled a third time, and really put his weight into it, fully sitting down and staying taut on the rope until something finally has to give - the lead. He sat fully down, awkwardly stood back up, and took off. There was clearly no catching him after this, so I packed up my bathing stuff, took away the snack I brought for him, and took Gogo away also. He was not happy about this, and screamed his head off, but would not come to me, so I left him alone for awhile. I had to go back to work, so I had to turn Gogo back out, but I clearly needed a new tactic. I will not get on a horse who is a struggle to catch. If he doesn't want to be near me, then I can't trust him to be a willing partner just yet. And if he dumps me, I'll never see him again.

So this evening? He still wouldn't come near me, so I brought a chair, a book, and a bag of Chex Mix, and just sat down and read. Gogo, of course, immediately mugged me for Chex Mix, and probably ate about as much as I did of it. This intrigued Marti, whose curiosity and food drive finally overcame him. We all shared some Chex Mix for awhile, and they both finally lost interest after it was gone and wandered away. I brought out dinner, fed them both, and Marti finally let me catch him and take his halter off.

Clearly, we have some MAJOR issues to work on. 1) He has no interest in being with humans. 2) He doesn't like to be caught. 3) He pulls back HARD. 4) He is scared of his own shadow. I think the root of this is his nervousness, and his distrust and dislike of people. He is waiting for boogiemen to jump out and eat him, and right now he sees me in two lights: food bringer, and scary bathing/clipping/riding lady. He needs to trust me, and learn to like me and want to be with me. When he learns to trust me, he will learn that scary situations are ok because I will say that they are.

But clearly we have to go back to square one: groundwork. I was lucky enough to be contacted by a Parelli representative about a month ago when I mentioned wanting to try playing some Parelli games with Gogo, and they sent me the Getting Started video which covers the basic Seven Games and the basics of Horsenality and the zones of the body. I am not one who ever bought into any of the natural horsemanship guys simply because some of them really do look like complete highway robbers waiting to sell their overpriced wares to any bumbling idiot who came along looking for an answer (you can only train in MY lead, halter and stick, only $3999.99 plus tax and shipping and handling!), but I have to admit that there is something to giving them a try. Good training is good training, no matter what school you subscribe to, but this horse flinches every time I touch him anywhere. He needs to be desensitized, stat. And THEN we will think about riding. I am going to Parelli the SNOT out of him, and pair it with the clicker. No more spoiling him with treats.... those days are over.

I am pretty sure I can get him turned around. It's just going to take some time. Trust you me, if there ever is serious risk to either one of us then he will go to someone more capable than myself. I'm not a trainer and I am not getting myself killed over something like this. Honestly though, Gogo dished it out something terrible when he was his age too. He is only five after all.

But he sure is darn cute for a total devil child.... and he and Gogo are totally in love:

Did you ever think you'd see the day when the naughty spotlight wasn't on Gogo? Me neither!


Hurricanes12 said...

wow, i have so much respect that you were able to scratch him and give him treats when he pulled back and bolted away. i would never growl oscar for running away once i'd caught him, but the most i can do is just continue as if nothing happened. good on you.

secondly, it's actually cool that marti has big issues. however long it takes, it's gonna feel awesome when you look back on these posts and he's over the whole pulling back and bolting off business.

hopefully he doesn't have too much attitude where it's dangerous as he is most definitely the cutest white terror ever!

Muriel said...

^-^ you really do pick them well ^-^ I would NOT take Parelli road. I did, I passed my level etc ... As the method and teaching are correct, they make you progress very very slowly, they use lots of airy fairy metaphors.

You are in Texas, so I would advise Clinton Anderson, less BS in his talk (less subtle than Parelli though), but he is the KING of desensibilisation. Really. He explains it much better than Parelli. I had splendid results with my mare and others horses, because CA explains when to start and when to stop desensibilisation and how to do it.

Regarding the riding, both methods are limited, you get better results by going to work with a REAL reiner trainer, or a REAL dressage trainer or REAl jumping trainer, well you get my drift.

There is the "road to the horse show" the 25th -27th february, where both trainers are competing so you can make your mind up.

Both methods are horribly expensive. BUT you can join their website for ONE month. MAKE SURE you sign up for one month otherwise you are stuck for one year forced membership (I know, I was!) You will have access to many video it will give you a good idea about their method and HOWE they present it.

Good luck and ahve fun with your new wild child!

Candy said...
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Candy said...

Love reading your blog - you sound like you give everything you do 110%, with no exception for the new guy! Definitely sounds like he is going to be a challenge - hopefully a rewarding one!

Re: training methods, have you heard of Andrew McLean? He is an Australian trainer with a doctorate in equine cognition and learning, he clinics around the world. I love his book "The Truth About Horses", it explains learning theory and its application to horse training very clearly. There are some great articles by him on this website: as a starter.

Good luck with Marti!

Jo Belasco said...
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Jill said...

Holy crap - that's a lot of horse to be running through a stud chain and you! Please stay safe and good luck with him. :)

Barbara said...

Welcome to my world. Sounds a lot like Nina when I first got her. Good luck, patience is your friend.

Dom said...

That is a LOT of horse to have big problems. He's in for a wake up call with you. Can't wait to see how he progresses.

Judi said...

Andrew Mclean combined with clicker has worked like magic for me.

I am going to enjoy reading about your adventures with Marti. He sounds like a challenge--and the greater the challenge--the greater the reward!

smazourek said...

It can be done. My mare was completely wild and unhandled at 5 and now at 7 she's perfect on the ground and being just super about starting riding work.

Clicker training was the key that unlocked her, I'm glad you're willing to try it.

Emily said...

Sounds like both of my TB geldings when I first got them!! My first guy pulled back because he could--it was a game and he could get away with it, took a nylon rope halter and unbreakable rope tied to a heavy metal hitching post every day and he eventually figured out he wasn't getting away with it anymore.

The other guy, it was because he was scared! Scared of stuff being around his feet, that was just a looooot of desensitization. Took me a few years, but I had that horse ground-tieing by the time he went to a new home.

Best of luck! With a little blood, sweat, and tears anything is possible!

Allison said...

I love reading about your stragies for addressing tricky problems. Can't wait to see how this guy progresses.

Brittany said...

Wow, I can't wait to hear about this adventure! I also prefer Clinton Anderson over Parelli.

Good luck, stay safe, and have fun!

Emily M. said...

When you're done with Marti, can you take mine, he needs to learn to canter but I'm scared. I think you might just be moving too fast with Marti. My own horse hasn't been off the farm since I got him since I don't have a horse trailer. He thinks I'm awesome and he loves my friend Colleen, but the farrier and the vet are devil men that he finds terrifying. I'm always so embarrassed because he is fine for me until he sees them. He just doesn't interact with anyone but me so he doesn't know any better. So it sounds like Marti might be coming from the same type of situation. I think if you just feed him and catch him and brush him once a day for a week or two he will settle in and learn that you're his new person. And then you can start doing the scary things with him. First he needs to learn that his life depends on you to feed and care for him.

starrynights said...

I agree with Muriel. I have been to both Parelli and Clinton Anderson clinics in person. Parelli was just a giant infomercial telling people that they too can have that magikal relationship with their horse as long as they fork over their wallets.

Clinton, on the other hand, was great. In fact, I recently went back to his training methods with my mare, after having some serious problems with her, and let me tell you. It's no exaggeration to say that it *transformed* my relationship with my mare. I was ready to sell her and take up knitting instead, but using Clinton's step by step, no B.S. methods have allowed me and my mare to have a positive partnership again. And, yes, my mare enjoys the work. She has never been so soft, light, flexible or confident.

I would *not* join Clinton Anderson's club thingy. You can find used copies of the DVD's everywhere. Or even check your local library. Even my tiny library in my podunk town had several C.A. DVD's.

Good luck with the big boy.

Oh, and one more thing. Get yourself a Blocker tie ring asap. It will save your horse from hurting himself and it works wonders with horses who pull back.

SmartAlex said...

I'm not sure about the blocker ring just yet. I have a horse who exits out the back door when things look a little hinky. The blocker ring does keep him tied, but it hasn't taught him anything.
I think with Marti I'd be more inclined to go the girth rope route first, especially if you have to nerve to watch a litle pulling.

Red Horse said...

I got a mare in December who would do the spin/bolt move... it's a tricky one. We spent a lot of time in a rope halter working on disengaging her hindquarters (a Clinton Anderson move but I'm sure Parelli has something similar) She still sometimes WANTS to take off instead of coping with the scary thing, but now I just point at her butt and she stops and looks at me. It's amazing how fast they can learn. Keep your chin up, it can be done! It only took us about 6 weeks and the behavior is all but gone :)

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

Aww a BIG baby! ;)
Well, I can attest to giving the Parelli games a shot. They are pretty basic and you will find you already kind of do that anyway, etc. BUT it seems to work. I did get the stick but I used a diff rope halter and lead and it's been fine for Laz and I. It has helped tremendously with his trust in's odd, I dont really know why? But it's worked for us..we are still in the 7 games but I look forward to doing more! It's translated into better rides as well! Hoorah for that

Abby said...

He sounds like a piece of work. Don't get yourself killed Andrea. Be sensible (we know you will)! Have you conferred with his owner about his tricks?

Kate said...

yikes girl, hang in there (literally). sounds like he doesn't know his own strength, or he does and he's being a brute. either way, not good. stay safe!

Lisa said...

You are more then capable of dealing with these issues. What I admire is your confidence, and he will learn to trust this. Just stay super confident!

Muriel said...

I did not know that Texan library had Clinton Anderson's DVDs ^-^

I would like to add that you are already a experienced horsewoman, so you do not have to go through all the Parelli level.

You just need to learn the technique, IMO Clinton spells it out well. You get fast, real results.
Plus I really dislike Parelli phase 4, because in the long term it does not work!

I would add that the 7 games or Clinton Anderson's groundwork, will be quite strenuous for Gogo as both methods use 12' (14' in CA's case) lead rope, and that puts LOTS of stress on the horses joints.

I personnally always use the 22' long rope or a normal lunge.

You can do it all in a nylon halter too. But you get better feel with a rope halter. Good quality ones are sold everywhere. Some firm make them to measure for a proper fit. Only my carrot stick is Parelli branded. The rest of my tack I bought it on Ebay.

Have fun.

mcfawn said...

I see a future Sunday Success Story!

Val said...

Whoa. I don't care how cute he is, this behavior is unacceptable.

I agree with Red Horse, who recommended teaching him to disengage his hindquarters. I mentioned this in a previous post to help in catching him. I am glad to hear that you are not willing to ride him until he is acting like an upstanding citizen.

He may scare easy, but it sounds like defiance and disrespect are also on the table. Drafts have big shoulders and they are bred to push into them. Mobilize his shoulders from the ground after he knows how to disengage his hindend.

I apologize for the gratuitous advice, as you are an accomplished horsewoman; my motive is to contribute to your safety. I worked with a pushy draft who squashed a person in a doorway. Accident or not, the horse did not respect human space and it took many, many hours of (not fun and thankless) repetition to retrain him.

Dunia Berkarya said...

nice article and a tough horse, greeting from Indonesian bloggers

Erin and Mari said...

Get thee to a round pen! I hope you have access to one, preferably with solid sides at the bottom!

Ditto what several people said about Parelli...there are some good things there once you get past all the Majick, but what I learned of the system from a serious devotee was all on the line.

This is helpful at a certain point, but with a horse like the one you describe, I would want to put him in the round pen with a halter and work him free!

I'm not personally familiar with Clinton Anderson's methods, but have heard many people I respect recommend him. I use a mix of NH methods learned from working with fresh off the range mustangs.

The thing with free work in the roundpen is that you are teaching the horse to THINK, pay attention to YOU and CHOOSE to come to you! This is different than a horse that "chooses" to come to you or stay with you because you have him attached to a line or chain. It will be hard, but in my experience with a dominant/defiant horse (which you definitely have here!), getting them to the point where they are choosing to be with you regardless of restraint is the key! Otherwise, you've always got them looking for the way they can get one over on you.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a complete guide to roundpenning! Find someone who knows what they are doing (Should be easy in TX) and work with them, or learn their method through much study. This is about body language and timing, but it will work! I recommend Hank Hepperly from TN, maybe he has a clinic near you?

Good luck and be careful/smart/safe!

Val said...

Please seek professional help if you plan to roundpen. A scared/defiant horse can turn aggressive if the animal feels trapped.

I still think that you should keep him on a line (12-14 feet) until he is willing to move his hind and front end on soft cues (your eyes and posture). Use a fenced enclosure, but do not turn him loose until he willingly turns his hindquarters away from you on command. This way, even if he runs you can cue him to keep his hindend facing away from you and he will run backwards instead of turn and bolt. Horses can only run backwards for so long and dislike doing this. You will be able to calmly walk/jog with him as he runs himself silly (in reverse). As long as you are not punitive or stare him down as he is moving back, he should start to realize that running backwards is far worse than sticking with you, especially if you reward him for stopping and standing.

Angelia Almos/Angie Derek said...

I love reading about your horse escapades. Some are so familiar to me. :-) Anyway, I am giving you the Sweet Blogger Award for so honestly showing how it is to love and take care of horses through the highs and the lows.

Dressager said...

I think you'll be able to take him. Gogo's a good little maresy-mare, she's certainly a testament.

tangerine said...

I might be repeating things cus I didn't take the time to read all the comments, but what really worked for me with my mare (who does EXACTLY everything Marti does, from pulling back to no interest in people to not being catchable) was tons of roundpen work. I took garbage bags, balloons, feed sacs, sweaters, saddle pads, medicine balls etc into the round pen with her and just desensitized the crap out of her. I also worked with her following me. We went out in the pasture and walked over scary stuff. Horse blankets, tarps, towels, poles, cinder blocks, logs etc. Once she knew that where I had been wouldn't kill her I think ti really hit her that I was trustworthy. She still doesn't tie, but that's because when I tie her and she spooks, there's usually blood. She's in so much terror that she literally fights for her life. So we ground tie :P

Good luck, and even though you won't realize it until you look back, it will be really rewarding :D