Saturday, July 14, 2012

News Flash: Dusty’s a Witch

" Why don't you give this a smooch "

It’s official, my mare Dusty is not only a mystery to me but she’s also earned the title of  “Little Witch!”  This morning each and every time I tried to put my foot in the stirrup she’d move just enough so it would be impossible to mount safely. I would then get down and reposition the mounting block. If a horse could snicker or sneer I believe she would have. For years we have had mounting issues and she really should be over it by now: she just turned 16 on July 9th.  We’ve been really concentrating on this one issue solidly for the past few years.  Every time I think she’s got it she throws something else into the mix.

When I was finally able to get my foot in the stirrup and swung my leg over she reared a little and ran backwards before I even sat in the saddle.  Being thrown forward I hit my breastbone on her wither; then with luck and perseverance I was able to sit up and catch the other stirrup.  If my daughter wasn’t holding her I’m sure she would have kept going backwards until I came off.  She pulled this same stunt a few weeks ago.  I thought we had conquered it by putting the portable mounting block in the center of the arena.  Apparently not.  With Dusty running backwards is an evasion to doing what’s asked of her.

While my daughter held her in place she kept tossing her head because she couldn’t move off and do what she wanted.  Basically, she was giving us the finger.  I should add that there is nothing physically bothering her.  She’s just got a real bad attitude.  As a matter of fact earlier this week she thought it was a good idea to strike out at my daughter when she took her feed bucket out of the stall after breakfast.  She’s always got her ears pinned if someone comes near her food while she’s eating or even approaches her bucket after she's finished eating.  Okay, I can live with that but the ill-mannered way she deals with people occasionally is unacceptable and she does get corrected for her bad behavior.

The best and most mystifying part of the whole morning was that after we walked off from the mounting block she was a nearly perfect ride.  Anything I asked of her she did with no problem.  So she picks a fight at the mounting block and then is the little darling that can do no wrong.  Is it a test?  If I pass the ‘make me do it’ challenge at the mounting block and you win then I’ll do what you ask. 

I know that each horse is different and each horse comes with their own individual set of issues and challenges.  I also know that training takes as much time as it takes and lots of patience.  Truthfully, I’m running out of patience with her but I will keep at it until we have a breakthrough and I can eventually mount each time without having someone hold her.  I also know that this post is uncharacteristic of me but right now I’m so frustrated with her I just had to vent.

Until next time

Quote for Today
 How to ride a horse:
        1.  Mount the horse
        2.   Stay mounted


  1. it can be so frustrating, especially when there is no apparent reason for them acting out like that. and she certainly is an opinionated mare. i know you'll work through it. but if she thinks anyone is going to smooch anything, she's got another thing coming! ;-)

  2. Vent away! I SO know where you're coming from.
    (btw, Maddie and I had a brief "assessment session with a possible trainer this morning that went pretty well, as far as showing her "sticky spots, but also showing her strengths. Blog post in the making...)

  3. It can be frustrating. I've fixed a few horses both through massage therapy and training who have had major mounting issues like rearing, bolting, bucking and flipping over when mounted.
    I know you said she has no physical issues but don't rule that out completely. Mounting and dismounting a horse from only one side is a bad habit for the horses anatomy. It creates uneven muscle tone and can even cause atrophy of the topline and can even lead to things like saccroilliac subluxation (hunters bump).
    Have you ever had her checked for ulcers? Commonly horses who are nasty at feed time and dislike mounting (biting the rider when mounted is common due to a pressure point there) can have moderate to severe ulcers. This is a great video

  4. Stick with it. If she gave you a near perfect ride she must have been playing you at the mounting block.
    What a smarty pants!

  5. Mounting block issues always need to be addressed. So many people let things slide right there. I noticed you said you move the mounting block to her if she moves. I'd be pushing my horse back to the block, not following her around. She does sound full of "personality"

  6. AnonymousJuly 14, 2012

    Sorry you and she are having a hard time. Some mares are just too smart . . .

  7. Just keep working at it. It will get better. She's lucky to have you!

  8. Howdy, Keep mounting her over and over again and do not stop until she stays put when you mount, then stop that's her reward.You might not get to ride that day but keep at it.
    And you can lunge her before you mount her, too.This can take hours.My husband took 3 hours one day mounting and dismounting my horse until she stood still. It worked and she now stays put.

  9. I dont blame you for wanting to vent carrots for Dusty I'm figuring!!!

  10. Been there, and just about resigned myself to never being able to ride Hank because of it. Then I found a training exercise that worked for us. Here's the link if you're interested:

  11. Sorry...that sounds annoying and especially since you have been working on this and through it for many years. Maybe this time it was real? Could she have had something bothering her that you didn't notice or think of? Do they really give us the finger, or is it some mysterious ouchy thing to them?

  12. Wow, I too thought this was a past issue! Huh.
    Well, if I was truly honest about the constant many training issues I have, my blog no fun at all.
    Your vent, understandable!
    Dusty, you caused your persevering momma to get mad!

    I hope your ever creative mind will come up with the next step in Dusty's evolution.
    Love that she was a dream to ride!

  13. What a brat! Good thing your daughter was around.

  14. Have you ever tried mounting from the other side? Or mounting from some completely different place, like a picnic table or something not in the arena? Sometimes changing the way we come at things will fix the issue and/or give you some new information to look at so you can continue working on resolution.

    Does this behavior happen when others mount too?

    I too have to wonder if there is something hurting (or that used to hurt) only during mounting and she is trying hard to avoid it. Though I know you check things out with a fine-toothed comb and I know sometimes this issue has gotten better for periods of time.

    Although it sounds terribly frustrating, I also think that she is telling you something - it might be go to hell and it might be something else - but since it has persisted for years it seems like it's something important.

    Given how smart she is I am betting this is more complicated than just her saying go to hell. Does the mounting issue coincide in any way with her cycling?

    Sending good thoughts and hope things work out for both of you!!

  15. Ooo! What a madam!!! She is lucky she's with you and not some impatient ... person. Best to vent, that's what we're here for :D

    What is it with the female of the species?? Give us women a bad name ... Our girlie cat does try our patience with her unsociable behaviour, pushes us to the edge then is as sweet as can be -- sheesh!!!

  16. Some horses just have to take a stand on something, I guess. And the mounting business seems to be Dusty's. Can you dismount and will she stand still? Or does she try to walk and move around, too?
    I agree, it can be so frustrating...and dangerous, too. What do you do if your daughter's not around?

    I will say one thing...Dusty sure has a huge butt! But there'll be no smooching it. lol!


  17. Oh...and I meant to ask you if you ever try mounting from the opposite side?
    Because of my weak left knee, I have trouble mounting from a horse's left side, so I almost always mount from a horse's right side, unless I have a tall mounting block or log/boulder.
    When I first bought Apache, she was often lame in her left shoulder, but after mostly mounting her from the right side for over 2 years (and her every other day dose of Glucasamine/Chondroiten/MSM), she rarely is ever gimpy in that shoulder anymore, and I've noticed that she is more symmetrical from front to back and back to front, and her spine appears straighter and in alignment, too. She just looks and feels more comfortable.

    So, if you don't do it already, maybe you could try mounting from her other side a few times just to see if she prefers that and is more accepting??

    Good luck!


  18. I think you have put your finger on the problem yourself...she is spoiled and is not respecting you. I like the7MSN suggestion. One other simple exercise that you can do that will have positive ramifications with everything you do is to get control of the food aggression. If a horse can push you away from it's food, it is more dominant than you and will test you in every step.

    If you feed her hay in a stall you can remove her from the stall while you place the feed inside. When you are ready to put her back in, make her stand quietly at the door of the stall until you give her a signal to enter. Make her stand quietly while she is set loose. If you feed her grain, use a bucket and do not give her the bucket unless she is standing quiet with her ears forward. This may take 10-15 minutes the first time and be sure to reward the first hint of "try" on her part. The next day ask her to keep her ears forward a little longer, keep progressing daily until she will stand quietly and wait for you to feed her. This could take a week or two, but stick with it. Also, practice pushing her away from her food and only give it back if she follows the rules and stays polite. Taking control of her food will establish that you are in charge and will make it much easier to stay in charge while doing other things, like mounting.


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