Monday, March 14, 2016

Mark Rashid Clinic March 2016: Final thoughts

Today was the last day of the clinic.  Brett and Pistol did a review of their exercises from the previous two days and then spent a good amount of time working on trot work.

Brett's goal was twofold.  First, he worked on getting the walk-trot transition from thought.  Secondly, he worked on Pistol's trot.  Pistol has a tendency to throw her head in the air and hollow her back at trot.  And she tries to break into a lope -- trotalope, as Mark calls it.

Brett was able to get Pistol to relax and carry herself in a more balanced frame by turning her whenever she rushed or braced.  They had some lovely stretches of trot.

Brett said he's never enjoyed trotting so much -- no pressure and riding from thought.  Mark said that Pistol didn't look or act like she is 20 years old.

It was another very successful clinic for Brett and Pistol.

Tex and I reviewed our work as well.  I thought we would quickly lunge, I would take Tex to the mounting block, get on and work on whatever Mark felt we should do.

It didn't go that way.

We reviewed lunging.  Tex and I had great connection and he tuned into me, getting lighter and quicker and smoother as we went along.

Then we went to the mounting block and Tex nailed lining himself up (we had also practiced that some on our own earlier).

And then Mark said, "I don't want you to get on him.  He isn't safe."

My heart sank.  He was right, and I knew it, but I was disappointed nevertheless.

Mark talked to me at length about how reactive Tex is; even with me.  He still flinches when I touch him and he about jumped out of his skin when Mark approached him.  This was after Mark worked with him two days in a row and gave him nothing but kindness.

I am looking at three scenarios.

1.  Tex may have PSSM or some other medical condition that is causing him to be reactive.  I am going to take him in for a complete work-up as soon as I can get an appointment.  If the reactive behavior it tied to a medical condition, we may be able to manage it and he may eventually (say in six months) be rideable.  ...there's a lot of "ifs" in there and, I have to say, I'm not feeling very optimistic.

2.  Tex may be reactive because of his breeding.  Here is his pedigree.  I don't see any "repeats" but it also only goes back three generations.  If the issue is breeding, there is nothing we can do.

3.  Tex may be reactive because that's just how he is.  Mark held his hands out, shoulder length apart, and said "this is the range of normal re-activity in horses.  There is variation, but most horses fall somewhere within this range."  He stretched one hand further out, the arm almost straight.  "This is where Tex is."  If he reacts to something, and he will at some point, it would be dangerous to be on his back.  Tex isn't mean; he's a very kind horse with a ton of try.  But he's a flight animal with a hyper-sensitive flight reaction.

So, if we end up with scenarios 2 or 3, I will never be able to ride Tex.  I will still work with him of course.  There's lots of stuff we can do on the ground and we have a good, strong bond.  I don't want to lose that.  I just want him to be comfortable and confident -- at whatever level that may be.

I won't deny that I was pretty depressed on the drive back home.  Maybe we'll find some straight forward medical reason, maybe he'll respond to management of that condition, and maybe in six months (when all that has a chance to work), I'll be able to ride him.  Maybe.


  1. He goes back to Driftwood twice on the bottom and once on top. There are a couple of others he is doubled to also. A lot depends on how close (so-so in his case) and the individual that he is inbred to, Driftwood in tis case, who was a hot, reactive horse.

  2. That is very disappointing. I am crushed for you.

  3. He seems to be reacting really well to you and I really believe in the power of love . . . and consistent work. Give him some time and see how it goes . . . and don't rush. If Tex is like most QHs, he was started early and pushed hard to learn as much as possible in as short amount of time possible. It may be, that with patience (perhaps a year or more) and consistent work (four or so days a week), you will create a bond that will allow him to find a place of softness with you where he won't be as reactive.

    And I agree that it looks like he is inbred to Driftwood.

  4. I've been thinking about you all day. I've had that happen at a clinic, I'm all excited to get on (mara) and learn something and the trainer says, "This horse is not ready for you to get on. *I* wouldn't get on that horse, so you shouldn't either." SO frustrating.

    My question is how Mark sensed that - especially since Tex was standing still at the mounting block, perfectly calm, right? Or?

  5. That is disappointing and eye opening for me. I had never considered that some horses are just too reactive to ever ride, although instinctively I've felt that before. Beautiful Girl is very reactive, too, and I've always stopped short of riding her. That's why I started wondering about Mustangs and inbreeding after reading your last three entries. I hope there's a medical reason for Tex that can be managed. The scenario of having a ground relationship, though, can also be a beautiful experience and you already have a great horse to ride.

  6. Test for Lyme if it exists in your area.

    If you run his sire's and dam's pedigrees back, there's a lot of Driftwood Ike. My Red is also heavy on Driftwood Ike, who was a top QH performance sire. Red's also got a lot of TB, which your guy doesn't. The Driftwoods can be very hot and reactive, which is why they're successful in the performance world (cutting/reining/barrels). Red is by far the most reactive and hot QH I've ever ridden - he's got a pretty good spook in him and actually bolted with me twice at the clinic in 2012 - he came right back to me because we've got a very strong relationship, but he definitely isn't easy to ride. Driftwoods can also be very opinionated - Red certainly is - but your guy doesn't seem to have that in him, which is good. Red was dominant/aggressive when I got him and that still occasionally shows up when he's extra worried.

    Tex may end up being safe for you to ride under certain circumstances, but be careful with yourself. I don't take Red on the trail, for example - his tendency to explosively bolt when startled isn't safe in that environment. In an arena, it doesn't trouble me as I can ride through it and he comes back. He's never been a bucker or rearer. Bolting/spooking doesn't bother me that much, but for lots of folks that's not OK.

  7. and you can always be humane and euthanize him. If he is going to be too expensive to have as another pasture horse, there is nothing wrong with euthanizing him. The awful, horrible, thing would be to sell him or get rid of him to someone who will abuse him. there is a lot worse than dead for animals. It is an option.

  8. I'm sorry the clinic didn't end with you riding like you wanted, but I'm glad you're safe rather than taking risks. I saw some other people already commented, but he's got Driftwood twice on top and once on the bottom. That's a shame. I really don't like the AQHA breeding world. I'm not terribly fond of TB breeding either, but the AQHA people really seem too willing to breed things that shouldn't be bred. Like HYPP horses. I hope the PSSM testing helps out.

  9. First get him tested.
    Then make decisions.
    Hot and reactive doesn't mean never ride but it might. I would look for someone like Mark to see if they would work with him.

  10. I too own a hot and reactive Paint horse that was started way too early and pushed too hard. He's 27 now and, despite a wonderful working relationship of over 18 years, he has never lost his fear of strangers or dislike of quick movements. And he's a complete lunatic on trail rides, but used to kick ass in dressage and eventing because he was so in tune with me and tried so very hard. So if you can develop that trust, you'll end up with a horse that will do anything for you. It's a pretty amazing thing to have, and one I doubt I'll ever have again. It's also a big responsibility, because they are fragile souls and earning that trust can be very, very challenging.

    If I knew then what I know now, I'd have him tested for Lyme (which he doesn't have), checked for ulcers (which he almost certainly had in his competition days), and I'd put him on magnesium to see if it helped with the tension. Apparently some horses have magnesium deficiencies and it causes muscles to be tense and/or misfire. My vet likened a feed-through Mg supplement to us eating a banana because we get muscle cramps and need extra potassium (dunno if that's a thing for you, but it's a problem for me!). Anyway, it's an inexpensive thing to try and it's something that helps quickly if that's the problem. And if not, horses can process any extra and it's not harmful.

    Sending you and Tex good vibes.


Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.