You know that temperment scale that they put on horse ads where you're supposed to rate your horse's temperment on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being "very calm" and 10 being "very high-spirited" ? I often ponder that scale because what you get used to every day might be a whole lot hotter than you actually realise. Saddlebreds are notoriously "hot". My grey gelding is probably a consistent 8. My mother's gelding is about a 3, and Ace's dam Copy is a pretty steady 2. Ace's sire, from what I've seen, I would rate around a 4. Ace has turned out to be a 10...+...+........+. Yep, I think three pluses ought to just about cover it.
Today I went through the normal routine. I led him around for five minutes then made it through the gate and up the aisle in a very orderly manner. Well, the leading in the arena wasn't very orderly, but we'll get to that. I put him in his stall, made him wait a few minutes, then gave him his lunch. It took about 15 minutes for him to clean up, then I brought him back out. You see, he wasn't particularly well behaved the first time, and I thought I'd do some more work after he had his routine and hunger satisfied.
You see, he is quite nice to work around in the stall, but he is soooooo high energy any time he is outside of it. When I got there, he was standing at the arena gate literally jumping up and down. I had a heck of a time getting a chain on him. As soon as you reach for him he tries hard to bite and I'm getting sick of it. So I gave him an uppercut to the chin with my left hand. He backed off and did the "na-na-na-na-na" routine just out of my reach. No problem. There is a tie rope hanging right there. I got the rope snapped pretty easily, and then went in and with him securely tied, put the chain over his nose. "Pttthhhh, so there".
He knows that as soon as he walks nicely we can go in and eat. But, it ain't easy. He spends plenty of time dancing around. He finds it absolutely impossible to walk past the open back door quietly. Heck, no horse goes past an open arena door quietly. Their eyes don't adjust well to the darkLIGHTdark so they always spook. I get it. Actually, it's sort of comforting as a rider to realise you can't even lead a horse past a door, much less ride one past without a reaction. So, what I do is lead him to the door frame, stop, let him look, then we start past. This helps, but half the time he ends up dancing around in a circle. OR he bulls into me with a shoulder. THAT's not allowed. Bulling gets you poked in the shoulder with the whip. He hates that. Hates it. Sometimes he balks. Balking gets you a swish in the butt with the whip. You know how he reacts the third or fourth time he gets reprimanded for balking? This:
He flat out refuses at first to move forward, and he does a perfect Levade in hand. It looks very much like that photo, only in our version, I'm facing forward and swishing behind me with my outside hand. The swishing turns to tapping, tapping becomes snapping....Levade.
Besides being willful, he is in constant motion. I swear, every time I look at him, he has his tail up over his back, his head thrown up, and he is headed somewhere. Today it made me think of this illustration from Will James's Smoky.
I hope this Smoky the Cow Horse thing is not going to be a common theme throughout his life.....
So, I decided to do more work after lunch. We headed down the aisle with his head down, on a loose lead, and I thought "oh good, he's going to be calm and steady now". WRONG.
We went through all the same antics. The shying, the shoulder bulling, the balking, the Levade. I try to get a few moments of orderly behavior and call it quits. Today we have lost our "Whoa". It is impossible to discipline him at this point. I ask for "whoa", he bulls into me with his shoulder, dances in a circle... I tug on the shank, stick the butt of the whip in his shoulder and shove him against the wall.."WHOA". Ace gets all upset rearing a bit and trying to flee. Why? Because #1 he hasn't been paying attention so he has no idea why he's in trouble, therefore #2 I must be "mean" and "attacking" him.... gee this is going well. I manage to get the chain off him between being bitten and shoved at. I'm done. Go do what ever it is you feel is so important.
Ace takes off in a cloud of dust making several laps around the arena. When I leave, he is at the gate again, bucking and kicking in place, whinnying and generally throwing a fit. Just like he was when I got here. Nice to see you too. Will this EVER stop?