June 3, 2020 – Ask Monty Newsletter

Question: Are you being fair to your horse?

While listening to the Live Ask Monty, I had a question about training my gelding. (It is long.)

Some background on my horse: I got him when he had just turned 12 and he has just now turned 15 a week ago. He’s an Anglo Arab (Thoroughbred-Arab cross) that has some distant history as a dressage horse and more recently was a lady’s endurance horse.

He lived mostly in a stall with small turnout. Now he lives out in a herd of 25 horses on two 60-acre pastures. When I purchased him, he did flex positive for arthritis in his hocks.

When I ride, I mostly ride out in the open fields and trails, and he loves it. He will NOT pick up his right lead for canter ever, including the round pen. He will do so when he’s running with his buddies in the pasture. He also hates, truly hates, ridden work in any arena at home. Away from home it’s different as he is usually too interested in the new surroundings. He is sluggish at the walk and trot. When asked to canter he balks, swishes his tail and throws up his head. If I get the canter, it’s for a few strides and he quits. I have recently purchased a Giddy Up rope but have not had the chance to use it in the arena yet.

My question is this: how do I understand the line between potential pain response from him and a learned behavior of getting his own way?

His previous owner was very indulgent when he didn’t want to do something. He’s extremely intelligent, brave and sensitive. I have learned more from this horse than any of my previous horses.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my question.

Chelsea Scriven and Blue

Monty’s Answer:

Dear Chelsea:

A few weeks ago I turned 85 years of age. It seems to me that it is time that everyone around me should understand that I have fully developed the way I want to live. They should realize that I have certain preferences and habits that they may find less than acceptable. Let me say to those people that my life has been established and whether I like it or not the decisions I have made over these past 85 years are, essentially, mine to live with. If my friends, relatives and individuals closest to me do not care for my choices, my message to them would be, “Get over it.” It is my choice to live this way, and it is not appropriate to try to change me at this point in time.

If Blue is 15 years of age, let’s use five times that to establish the age in human terms. This would make Blue 70 if he was human. I suggest that you accept Blue for what he has established is his chosen lifestyle. If it involves anything dangerous, then yes, use the Dually halter, control the danger and go on from there to get along with Blue in the best way you can. As far as the Giddy Up rope is concerned, that is an item to cause the horse to go forward more agreeably than without the Giddy Up rope. With a 15 year old, I’m not sure the Giddy Up rope is the piece of equipment I would suggest. The equipment needed is a human brain that will love a horse named Blue.

In no way do I want you to be unsafe. It is virtually impossible to think of the Giddy Up rope as a piece of equipment to cause a greater amount of safety for the horse or yourself. If Blue is ready for retirement and you are ready to retire him, then do it, but love him in retirement if you ever loved him at all. I remember retiring Johnny Tivio, with four world championships, he was a ‘go-getter.’ He would attempt to be the very best at conquering challenges which required speed and agility. When I retired him, I rode him often and I let him do what he wanted to do. It was fun to sit on his back and watch him make his choices. I loved him and wanted a good retirement for him.

At the time of retirement, Johnny Tivio was 11 years of age and had accomplished a most incredible list of achievements. He died 14 years later, on his exact birth date and his last 14 years were what I believed to be the most fun for him. He was a cutting and reined cow horse. I let him work cattle in those last years. During those years, I never scolded him for making a mistake, but I have to say during that time he was virtually perfect. I often laughed when he did what seemingly impossible. We would simply stop and I would stroke his neck telling him what a great horse he was. Begin to see life through Blue’s eyes, and let him know you appreciate him in retirement.


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