Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Hamster has Fled the Cage!

My hamster-brained mare

I often joke that Casey has a hamster brain. Specifically, I think of her brain as being a big hamster cage with one of those really cute (but sometimes vicious - anybody else bit often by their pet hamster as a kid?) brown and white spotted hamsters in it. This hamster is mostly a good hamster that loves to funnel its energy by running on the wheel. When the hamster is running on the wheel, Casey is focused, driven, and on-task. However, hamster is not the smartest animal, and so can be very distractable. This shows up in Casey's behavior as well, "oh look at that saddle pad! Let's try to eat it!"

The moment the hamster has fled the cage

Sometimes though, external stimuli is just too much for tiny hamster. Hamster can't handle things like another horse cantering up from behind, or having a dog make a sudden movement, or even watching other horses play in the pasture. And so hamster abandons its cage and flees for the moment. These are the moments when Casey is just beyond any sort of reason, in complete and total meltdown mode. Most often hamster flees the cage when there's something that Casey finds really scary. For instance, in yesterday's ride, all was well in the world, it was a gorgeous sunny day, and Casey had been going around like a perfect unicorn. But then... in the midst of a very nice canter set, two horses in the far pasture decided to take off galloping & bucking, which then set off the other ridden horse in the arena, who panicked and took off at a very fast canter, and so Casey's poor little hamster couldn't handle it, threw itself out of the cage, and I was left with a bucking bronco.

Hamster freak-out mode

She took off with flying bucking leaps across the middle of the arena, I yelled at her, then we circled until she finally slowed her speed. Once we finally got a halt, Casey's little hamster sheepishly crawled back into its cage and all was good with the world again.

Post freak-out

Some of the lovely movement I was getting

Besides the whole hamster fleeing fiasco, our ride was actually lovely. We were working on trotting some "jumps" (really poles on the ground in between the jump standards). Casey was staying really soft and light in the bridle throughout the whole ride, which is like magic. She really was getting into the exercise and so would calmly trot up to the pole, then jump the thing (as if it were actually a 2' jump) and then get a lovely canter away.

How big exactly does she think these poles are?
Barn friend was good support

I felt like I was really able to stay with her motion and wasn't jumping ahead (which somehow has reappeared as a bad habit after not jumping for so long). I didn't let her canter any poles, but the canter that we were getting was so calm and uphill that I felt as though we could have cantered a whole course and she would have stayed relaxed. But, hamster brain and all, so instead I opted to stick to just a trot until we were actually practicing "jumping."

Really pleased with my improved jump position. The time off really made me pick up bad habits again...

Post-freak-out, we actually continued our really lovely ride. We resumed the canter both directions and Casey stayed well-behaved. Hamster decided to be good and run on its wheel again. I think that the better trained she becomes, the easier it is to get her brain back after a melt-down. We ended on a good note, with Casey very happy and very tired :)

Her lovely canter post freak-out

What do you imagine your horse's brain to be like? Anybody else have a hamster-brained creature?

Hamsters appearently are talented creatures

1 comment:

  1. I have definitely joked about my last horse having actual hamsters for brains lol