Carefully….with oven mitts. Better yet, with full firefighter gear.
Just Kidding. But really, what constitutes a hot horse?
In my experience I consider a horse to be “hot” if it tends toward being high spirited. This means it might run itself into a lather, it spooks a lot, rears, bucks. Many would consider my horse to be hot.
When I began riding Blade in lessons I rode with several other students. While Blade and I were minding our own business another rider was jumping her horse over some fences. Her horse’s hoof tapped the rail; not even hard enough to knock it down. Blade decided that the sound might be predators coming to eat him and he turned on a dime and left me in the dirt.
Other times Blade would spook at a person standing by the fence watching our lesson….despite that person having been there the first 5 laps we rode!
A few other things that Blade abhors include plastic bags, tarps, hula hoops, kiddie pools, sometimes his blankets (when he feels like it), sometimes the hose (again when he feels like it), sometimes his fly mask (get the idea?). We call his occasional outbursts his neuroses because there is no reason for something so routine to upset him…but it does. When it’s windy and chilly he gets very excited. When his farm buddies are trailered away for the day he spends 20 minutes running around his paddock at top speed.
Although they can be silly hot horses are still amazing creatures and can be managed with the right work. They are not for the beginner, for the impatient, or for those who don’t have time to commit. They require routine, patience, and a good base of knowledge; intuition helps too. They need a job.
When I began committing myself to Blade I saw remarkable changes in very little time. I purchased the Clinton Anderson fundamentals kit and taught myself the method. I often woke myself extra early in the morning to do 30 minutes of work with him 5-6 days a week before work. Before I would ever get on him I did my groundwork. I lunged, yielded his hindquarters, forequarters, and backed him up. By doing this I earned his respect and I got him focused and ready to perform.
Through desensitizing him to objects he became less reactive. When he spooks now it is often a fleeting moment; a simple brace on all four legs followed by relaxing as he realizes that he’s ok and I’m not scared. Today I rode him bareback and bitless around the property and we came across a flock of turkeys. Two hens and about 8 chicks. Blade was concerned but he followed my guidance splendidly. A couple of years ago he would not have been able to mentally handle it.
Another factor that limited this hot horse’s mental capacity was his health. A horse that isn’t healthy or sound can be hot out of instinct. In the wild the weak horses don’t survive. By reacting and staying on alert they are looking for the threats to stay alive. I have addressed his physical issues through good diet and physical therapies.
A common misconception I see is the belief that hot horses are stupid or dumb. In fact I believe quite the opposite in most cases. Hot horses often tend to be the smartest but they live in their own heads and act from instinct. These horses could be stressed from their living situations or overwhelming work. Maybe their diet is too high in sugar, maybe they don’t receive enough turnout. It could also be that they are not challenged nearly enough. Unfocused horses might dissociate out of boredom…can you honestly say you want to jog around the same track over and over?
I find that Blade thrives when I give him new challenges. At his best he tackled new ground pole configurations like a king. We’ve recently conquered the puddle, and we frequently visit the road to watch cars pass by. Our latest accomplishment is opening and closing the gate while mounted bareback.
Since I have a hot horse I keep his sugar content down, I have patience with him in our training sessions. I often do groundwork before riding to get his focus. When I ride him we often do circles, serpentines, figure-8s, and poles to keep his focus on me. I also stay tuned in to how Blade feels and acts. If he seems sore, off, or ill I try to find the source and ease his pain. This is how I deal with my “crazy thoroughbred.” It keeps me diligent and attentive to his needs and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This has been another installment of Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. Thanks for visiting and following. Make sure to check out the other contributors as well!