Behavior Problems, or Saddle Problems?

Posted by Tiffani Radake on

Let's talk about an average day to the barn. 

It's a lovely, cool day with a light breeze. The bugs aren't quite out yet, which we can all agree, that is the best time of the year! You grab your halter and head out to the pasture to catch up your favorite riding horse. That was easy! No, funny games today. A cheerful nicker from your best friend is just what you needed after the long day at work. Back to the barn you go, followed by your horse whom is trying to sneak a bite of the juicy green grass that hasn't been grazed on. 

Ok, now it is time to tie up and curry the clumps of winter coat, mixed with bits of last falls dust and mud. Your horse is not complaining while you reach all those itchy spots that he couldn't reach. He is stretching his neck out and beating his lips together, "Thanks, mom"! Almost ready to tack up, just need to go dust the 12 pounds of winter fur and dirt from your breeches and off of your face. Maybe even take a drink of water to rinse the rest down. Barn life, isn't for the weak. 

Off to the tack room, it isn't far from the wash stall where you usually tack up. Glancing back, you see this beautiful horse that you can't help but be proud of. He gives so much of himself to you, he could totally over power you, but he chooses not to. Your saddle is on the top rack, so you carefully wrestle to get it down without pulling other saddles down with it. Success. You grab your pad, girth, bridle and head back to the wash stand. On your way back you see your horse is patiently waiting for your return. This is a big deal because you realize the training and time spent asking him not to paw the ground has finally shown progress. What a good horse. 

As you approach him, you notice that he is getting anxious, eyes wide and white. He is starting to step forward and backwards. That seems odd, wonder if he got spooked or maybe he is excited? Saddle is next, he still seems a bit off, but, nothing to be alarmed about. As you lift your saddle to set it in place, you see his back dive down and his head shoots straight up. He will probably settle once we get to the arena. Saddle is on and in the right spot, now time to buckle the girth. As you reach under to grab the girth and slide the billet straps in the buckle, your horse braces, takes a deep breath and freezes. You wonder what that is all about, it seems to be happening more often. 

Alright, now it's time to head to the indoor arena. Before each ride, you always do some ground work, lunging, just to see where your horse is mentally that day and to be sure he is sound. Round and round he goes, head high, short strides, tall flipping back and forth. Maybe he is full of himself today, maybe he needs to burn some energy off. Or maybe,...…he is trying to tell you something? Do you really think he needs to burn off energy after coming from the pasture? The weather is beautiful today, not very windy, just a little perfect breeze. Why was he so guarded once he knew the saddle was going on? Is the "bad behavior" due to an improperly fitting saddle? Could he have ulcers? Maybe it's worth calling the vet or your saddle fitter to verify.

Should you take a step back and try to understand your horse?

The answer is yes. Listen to him. He will speak to you. You may be surprised how much you realize he's been trying to tell you. You may even find yourself feeling guilty. But this is not a time to feel guilty, this is a time to grow! This is a time to become connected with your horse. This is why I am writing this blog. This is why I am devoting my time and compassion towards the Hidalgo saddles. I am not trying to become rich. I am trying to strengthen the relationships between horse and rider. I firmly believe if we are going to ask the horse to "work" for us, we need to be the best boss he has ever had! I myself, have finally found a wonderful employer and I will give my all, every day that I am there. I know my employer will listen to me and try to help my job be as pleasurable as possible. We owe the horse comfort and we owe them a voice. I look forward to watching the progress within the horse community. I believe this community has began moving more towards the "whole horse" approach. I am proud to know that I am part of the growth! 

Always Listen---- Tiffani Martin-Radake

 

“One of the primary ways horses communicate with us is through their behavior. Again, it is my belief horses don’t distinguish between how they feel and how they act. So if they act a certain way, their actions are reflecting the way they feel. A horse’s body then becomes a mirror for their emotions. So the body informs us of what is truly going on internally.”
― Mark Rashid, Whole Heart, Whole Horse: Building Trust Between Horse and Rider

1 comment


  • That is beautifully written and so so true.

    Lindsey on

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