Ellie the Lease Horse

I hope you haven’t forgotten about Ellie. I’m still riding her, but she did have a week of no riding while I dealt with work and depression about Ava.

The last few rides have seen an improvement, I think.  She’s getting better at seeking contact at the walk.

At the trot, I’ve found that if I let out the reins at the beginning of the ride she’ll start searching for the bit. She didn’t before. I was really nervous about giving up more rein to see how far she would stretch out and down at the trot.  I’m starting to trust the horse more, but I still don’t know her that well so I was nervous. She responded much better than I had anticipated. She had moments where she honestly stretched down and released her back some. She also had moments where she lost her balance, but she let me rebalance her without freaking out and curling her chin to her chest.  I need to get her to push more from behind and level her balance (front to back) out more, but it’s a start. It’s hard when they’re just not strong enough to use their backs for very long.

And after the stretchy trot, she gives a big rib expanding, flappy nostril sigh like the weight of the world just lifted from her. She seems looser and more mentally relaxed from it too.

I’ve introduced shoulder in and haunches in this week (walk only). She previously had some shoulder-in training, but she’s insisting that she’s had none. Ha. The little faker.

When I rode her Tuesday, I was playing around with haunches-in (walk) down the rail. It started out with her bouncing between my left and ride aids. When she couldn’t escape that way, she tried stopping. So I bopped her with both heels (she had dug in at this point).  I swear you could see her gears going on how to get me off her. I have no desire to push her past her comfort level right now, so I straightened her out, of haunches-in, got her thinking forward again, then circled and re-established the haunches in. That seemed to work. I definitely don’t want to start a fight I’m not sure I could win, so I figured it’s better to just go forward and get her out of the balking mentality first. She did better on the next attempt.

What I found interesting though is that after the balky little tantrum and re-establishing the haunches-in, she had so much more swing in her back at the walk. She felt freer through her body. It didn’t last very long though.

I do want to add… After riding the horse for three week, I don’t think the curling, hiding from the bit thing, is the owners doing. The mare is wound tighter than a drum. And it seems like (I may be wrong) that the horse is attempting to protect something that either hurts, or used to hurt. I’m not quite sure yet which one it is.  <– the owner vetted the living daylights out of the horse a year ago for a back issue. Nothing was found, but this is why the horse hadn’t been ridden in a year. She isn’t exhibiting the problems she had a year ago, so it’s either healed or is only exacerbated by collected work.

However, the horse has some nice training training on her.  You can ride this horse completely off your seat. She has an amazing leg yield with just a slight shift of weight. I can turn her on a dime by rocking my shoulders back and shifting my weight in the direction I want to go. She’s very weight sensitive and light to ride.

I don’t know… We’ll see…. I really like this mare. She’s smart, sweet, has an opinion, but is ultimately a people-pleaser. She internalizes her fear until she’s a wretched mess of clenched muscles, but she’ll let you convince her things are okay as long as you don’t let her behavior affect you. And she tries extremely hard to do what you ask. When she doesn’t understand she gets very frustrated, but she’s super easy to ride if you break things down for her in small chunks.

4 thoughts on “Ellie the Lease Horse

  1. Poor stressed out girl. She sounds pretty typical TB in her sensitivity to seat/weight aids. Almost every TB I’ve ridden is sensitive to those, which makes them very fun to ride. I have a mare I’ve been working with who is also a stress internalizer. I think her issues are trust based (not sure of her previous history), but if she doesn’t trust you she won’t even breathe when you ride her. She just clenches up and holds her breath. Not pleasant. Lots of praise, release, and easy work has been key for her. She’s a hot little thing, which can make the releasing feel counter-intuitive, but if you relax and give, she does too. Meanwhile, my horse is very protective of his footing, due to having worked with poor sole depth for years. Because I know the issue, I can work with him on it. I hope you guys are able to figure out what causes Ellie to back off. Knowing the trigger is so helpful.


    • The lots of praise is so true. She’s like a puppy when you tell her she’s a good girl. 🙂

      Is the internalizing issues and tension just a TB thing, or is it an off the track thing, do you think? I’ve never had a horse get as wound up as this before. Like you were saying, she won’t even breath. I’ve owned some super hyper Arabs in my life, and they might jump around a bit, but I’ve never had one just clench up like this one does. The first time she did it, I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Her lip was moving a mile a minute. Rest of her stone still and every muscle tensed. Took me a few minutes to figure out the new cover over a window was scaring her.

      I haven’t figured out her triggers yet, and I find her a bit hard to read since she does internalize everything so much.


      • I think it’s a bit of a TB/OTTB thing, both. My theory is that TBs are so sensitive, and have to learn to deal with so much on the track, they just learn to kind of shut down and let things happen to them. Just my theory, though! I know it’s pretty common in the breed, and most are off the track. 🙂

        For the mare I’ve been working with, treats and praise have been so huge. I started giving her treats periodically while we ride. (Especially just after I get on) That seems to break her out of her shell a little bit, and give her something to literally chew on. I also made sure to take my time with her. If she wasn’t breathing, we would stand (which was hard for her!) until she finally took a big sigh. That took maybe 15-20 minutes the first time. After that, it was easier.

        The other big thing with that type of TB is their dislike of pressure/tight legs. With this mare particularly, if your leg is loose and relaxed, she is loose and relaxed. The moment you tighten up, though. She’s gone. So, she tenses, I breathe and force myself to unlock my legs (even if she’s careening around the ring at the canter), and half halt with my core. She comes right back. Despite having no training, her sensitivity allows me to ride her like a more advanced horse. Requires me to, really!


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