Monday, March 10, 2014

21 Days to Break a Habit...


There is this little theory out there that it takes 21 days to break a habit.  How legit that is, well I don't know, but knowing firsthand how hard habits are to break, I could be influenced to believe it.  As I get my muse on, contemplating this blog post, I began to wonder, does that apply to horses?  Especially race horses?

This weekend was a good one, absolutely BEAUTIFUL weather made for a happy Emily. Though, first, I had to deal with this:

After managing to get about 80% of it off him I went on a group trail ride with all of the riders at my barn.  All the horses but the ponies went. Poor lonely lil ponies! I got a whole of 10 yards from the gate of the farm before Cash lost his marbles and I opted to lead him instead. He fretted and fumed and pranced sideways while dragging me along for the majority of the 2 mile trek.  But, thoroughbredisms aside, he was SO BRAVE!!

We traversed 2 miles of completely uncharted territory for him.  We went on paths through really upscale lake-side estates with trampolines and barking dogs and bicycles and cars and a donkey, ha. We went over sidewalks (some were *gasp* red), through several narrow gates, past big scary ditches/culverts, by a golf course, along a very tall berm/lake dam with rather steep sides, and right by a BIG creaky moving oil well (with two pigeons running back and forth along the top as the arm went up and down--hilarious!).  He spooked at the sidewalks but that was about it.  Otherwise he led the entire gang of horses and never once did he need a lead.  We even splashes through some big puddles.  That's my event-horse-in-training.

Then, I came home to some good horse racing on TV and watched Game On Dude literally run the rest of the field off their feet in his third win of The Big 'Cap at Santa Anita. WOW.  Will Take Charge ran a gallant race but could not catch The Dude.  My favorite, Mucho Macho Man, ran a great race to start but tired coming out of the far turn, bummer.

Anyway... I got to thinking about how these thoroughbred horses really cling to their race training.  Granted, it's all they've known and it's what they are comfortable with... but even as you give them more training or teach them new things, it's their "backup" reaction when they meet something new and that's the hardest thing to train out.  It's just repetition.  That's where my 21 days to break a habit thought came into play. I can't wait till I get to actually ride Cash on a trail ride (what a novel idea), but I really do wonder how long that'll be.  I'm going to see how many rides it takes him to chill, maybe it's right at 21, hehe.  I sure hope it's not 21 times per each race he was in... because that would be 21 squared, and that's a lot.  Yikes.

So now, here's a new thought.... I'm thinking back over the various times Cash has gone nutso on me while riding him off the farm.  Which is like every time, but I digress.  The point I'm wanting to say is that the key thing that seems to trigger all of these "racehorse reactions" is that I've circled him or turned around and headed back another direction.

You're thinking "So what? You've really lost it this time Emily..."

Yeah maybe I have. But work with me a minute.

We've all (or at least, I hope we all) have watched the Kentucky Derby.  Think to the post parade, they lead all the horses, one by one, past the grandstands.  The announcer reads their names, gives their stats, yada yada yada.  This is all done at the walk (or sideways jig depending on the horse), but as the horses reach the far end of the grandstands they turn around and gallop to the starting gate for their warmup.  Ta-da!  Light bulb moment.  That's what Cash is thinking is happening when I turn him around and/or circle him while riding out on the roads.  Poor guy, no wonder he gets so pissed when I try and stop him.

One day, I think he will have that light bulb moment and it'll all click, when that'll happened, who knows.  It took Pie nearly 4 years with me to chill out (he was 13 when that magic moment happened), I sure hope it doesn't take Cash that long... but, until then, if all we do is hand-walking trail rides, well I'm ok with that.


I've always doubted the 21 days thing, but I should really do a controlled experiment because I'm curious.

It would be interesting to see if that's related--my guy is totally over the whole racing mindset, but he just doesn't know what his job is out on the roads. I'm ok putting him to work on the trails, but asphalt scares me.

So... that discussion is postponed to a later date, I think.

Oh boy, yeah, asphalt scares the bejebus outta me too. Thankfully, I have plenty of dirt roads to ride on around here... the only downside is that they look an awful lot like a racetrack... ha!

Post a Comment