In which Fiddle pushes the broken crosswalk button a few more times

If the weather can just hold onto itself for another week, Fee and I will head down to Oregon for our last ride of the season. The Foothills of the Cascades ride is famous for beautiful trails and dreadful weather, and if heavy rain is forecast, we're staying home!
Every few years the ride features beautiful weather. We're hoping for one of those years, and if we get one, we're going!

Just in case we do get one of those years, Fiddle and I need a few more workouts in the hills to stay in shape. I'm not too worried about her, physically. However, we're still working through some of her "backsliding" behaviors....and that is going to take time and practice.

I remember that John Lyons described a horse's learning curve as being not an "uphill" shape, entirely. Rather, he said to expect good behavior, then a step back into not-so-good behavior, then a step forward into better behavior, then TWO steps backwards into worse behavior, and then two or three steps forward into increasingly good behavior.

Thus, Fiddle has (predictably, I guess) been improving steadily, but backslid during the weekend at the Elbe ride. She isn't finished with her backslide, either.

She has been trying out all the "bad tricks" in her repertoire: biting, kicking, and crowding. I have been correcting all these bad tricks as they appear, and they are gradually disappearing.

Here's another way that John Lyons explained about backsliding:

You know when you walk up to a crosswalk, you can hit the button and pretty soon the light changes and you can progress forward.

So, one day you walk up to the crosswalk the way you always have. You push the button because that's what has worked for you in the past. And you wait, right? Because that's what has worked. But you don't know that as of today, the button has been taken off-line by the city traffic engineers.

And...the light doesn't change.

Do you immediately figure, "Oh, it's broken, the circumstances have changed, I'll have to try something else to cross the street" ?

Or do you hit the button again? And then hit it a few more times?

Maybe you hit the button harder than you normally hit the button, to see if hitting it harder and faster will get you the result you want?

Fiddle is standing at the crosswalk.

She knows that biting, kicking, and crowding doesn't get her what she wants. Pulling back on the leadrope might work, right? (Note the broken buckle.) Now my task is to convince her that the button is permanently out-of-order, and that she needs to try different behavior instead.

It's a good thing I'm still young.

UPDATE: I bought two NEW leadropes, and tied Fiddle to the trailer with them when I got home. Then I gave her a bath. I'm thinking, "go ahead and pull back on that, punkin, and I'll not only spank your back end, I'll squirt you with the hose, too!"

And what did she do?

Not a dang thing.

She stood there on a limp line, looking at me with an expression that said very clearly, "I don't have any idea what all your fussing is about. I'm not going to pull back. Why, I never pull back!"



  1. She's a smarty! With the biting/kicking - is there any possibility of ulcers, or is it just the old dominance stuff?

  2. KATE: I always look for a physical symptom before deciding that her naughtiness is inspired by anything else.

    In this case, because she is trying out her bad behaviors in the original order she used them on me , I'm pretty sure it's crosswalk button-pushing. This behavior "worked" at some point earlier in her life, and she wants to see if it will work again.

    If she holds true to form, she will continue to try bad behaviors for a few more days. She hasn't tried FREEZE IN PLACE AND LOCK YOUR KNEES IN CEMENT recently, for example.

    Pretty soon, as long as I continue to extinguish the bad behavior as it appears, she will give up and be good...for a while.

  3. i like your attitude, you seem happy to have the challenge, and not worried about it.

    foothills was a bitch, if i remember, weatherwise, but mostly rock. it was my ovetime ride with mac, just an LD, but i just couldn't bring myself to trot on those rocks even with a fully shod horse.

    i hope you get to go, and under a pleasant mist, not rain.

    i also wanted to add that today we ordered two loads of rock - the heavy stuff we have been using, and another load of finer stuff for the top dressing, i guess you could call it. the bill for the *rest* of our gravel came to 240 Euros and i just wanted to cry, but...

    i couldn't get over the fact that they had a dot matrix printer in their office and i kept waiting for them to print something. J finally said "my wife wants to see that in action, she hasn't seen a printer like that since the 80s."

    i didn't mean to insult them! i was very nice after that. but never got to see it in action: (


  4. But don't turn your back to her for a minute. haha!
    What a stinker. And I see PURPLE! See? I think she figured it was time you bought a new lead rope and she knows how much you like purple.
    She's wondering now why you're not thanking her instead of giving her the evil eye. lol!


  5. Where do you even buy the perforated accordion paper to go in a dot matrix printer?!

    Sometimes we spend so much time going backwards that I forget we used to go forward. And then after I've given up hope, or gotten ready to Really Work On This, all of a sudden she's a perfect angel. Sigh!

  6. Keeping fingers crossed for good weather this coming weekend. My friend has generously offerred to let me ride her awesome TW gelding, because she is going to volunteer. Hope you guys make it!
    Karen W.

  7. How well I know....~E.G. (who re-trains with some regularity).

  8. I love your Fiddle stories :)

    I have a question for your librarian brain.

    About 5 or 6 years ago I read part of a book while at a friend of a friend's house, and I'm trying to track it down. It was a smallish, non-fiction paperback, and it was stories about children who were stolen by the Indians-- it had a lot of first-hand accounts from journals, etc, and it focused on how odd it was that these kids spent the first 8-9 years of their life in a white world, spent one or two years in an Indian camp, and when they were returned, they were Indian through and through. For all intensive purposes they had to relearn English and white customs, just as if they'd been born Indian. I am having the worst time trying to track this book down-- it *might* have had "stolen children" or "lost children" or something like that in the title. It was a fascinating read and I never got to finish it.

    Obviously, this isn't a high-priority, but it's driving me nuts because now that I can't find this stupid book, it's all I can think about reading, you know?

    If you can help me track down the name of this book, I'll.. I dunno. Send you a surprise package from California or something. C'mon, that's a worthy prize, right?

  9. Becky, I think I've found your book:
    The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier by Scott Zesch.

    here's the review from Booklist:

    On New Year's Day, 1870, Adolph Korn, the author's ancestor and son of German immigrants, was captured by three Apaches near his family's cabin in central Texas. Adolph was traded to a band of Quahada Comanches, with whom he lived until November 1872, when the Comanches traded their captives for those held by the U.S. Army. Adolph was irrevocably changed.... Drawing on his tenacious research and interviews with the captives' descendants, Zesch compiles a gripping account of the lives of these children as they lived and traveled with their Indian captors. He delves into the reasons for their "Indianization," which for most of them lasted the rest of their lives, and discusses why they couldn't adjust to white society. A fascinating, meticulously documented chronicle of the often-painful confrontations between whites and Indians during the final years of Indian Territory. Deborah Donovan
    Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

  10. That's amazingly impressive, Aarene. 50 minutes from comment to name of obscure book, wow.

  11. I think it's only impressive if I got the answer right. Becky?

  12. Aarene, I swear, you just made all the little hairs on my arms stand up. I'd say you have no idea how good it feels to see the title of that book, but you probably do. It's a lot like forgetting a word you ABSOLUTELY know the definition to, and then having it pop into your brain again. It's so satisfying.

    You ROCK, and Funder's right-- that was seriously impressive.

    If there was room on my my mantel I'd make a lopsided little clay statue of you and present it rare book titles and chocolate as offerings.

    Since my mantel's kind of crowded, if you want, I am MORE than happy to make good on my offer: email me ( a mailing address and I'll send you a random thank you package from SoCal :)

  13. Life's been busy, but I expect to mail off your package this weekend. I've had a lot of fun assembling it. :)

    On a side note, for horses that set back, there ain't NOTHING like the inner tube to a bike tire to break the habit. You loop that to whatever you want to tie your horse to, and voila. If they set back the tube streeeeeetches with them. Eventually they'll exhaust themselves without panicking (because it gives it keeps them from flipping out) and they'll give in. They'll never snap another lead rope again, and it's a lightweight enough fix that you can take it with you wherever you go. (Make sure it's not old and cracked or it will give way.)

    PS: WV = Strershi. I thought that seemed especially appropriate considering the advice I just gave :)

  14. I love how you interact with Fiddle. The broken crosswalk button is so apt, and um, HILARIOUS, because we all do it.

    (Right? We all get mad and smash the button. Oh. Okay. Um, well I never did it then either? )

    I think our horses know when we have a sense of perspective on their behavior (like you do here with Fiddle) and give up quicker when they realize we're just rolling our eyes and putting out the fire.

    I declare no rain for the ride!


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