A few too many frequent rides for about two weeks, Harley was throwing a temper tantrum. First, he was breaking from canter-left to trot, and I squeezed him up pretty hard and scolded him. His response was to dart to the inside, and start tossing his head. I have a hunch his hiney came up during that fit as well, as I came off. Slowly, and with all kinds of control. I hopped back on quickly, and we went right back to canter-left, with lots of leg and lots of kissing. No way he's getting away with that.
The second time, one of the neighbors fired off one rifle shot, way off in the distance. Harley stopped, turned to face me, and a second or so after that, tried to take off bucking and kicking on the line. I barked at him, and immediately put him back to work at the trot, stop & turn anytime he tried a wild canter or a head tossing. Note, I didn't go after him for an immediate fear spook to the gunfire. He waited 3-4 seconds after the gunshot to be a wild goofball.
A third time, it occurred when I started trying to get him to move his canter out. I lifted up to 2-point, came down the long side, and pushed him again. Temper tantrum, and off I went. Slid off carefully yet again. Hopped back on, and instead of pushing a canter, I asked for LOTS of long extended trot.
Harley rode about, puzzled, ears going every direction, and he continually asked to relax his trot stride. A couple times he tried to pop into a canter. In the arena corners, I could see the wrinkly, nervous eyes. "What on earth does she want?! She's asking like a canter, but I'm still trotting! How weird!" Finally, he settled and pushed in the nice trot. I shortened my reins, and, as long as he stayed settled, relaxed, and didn't throw his head around (or twist it to avoid the bit), I'd leave him in an easy light trot. The slightest bit of a fit, and we were right back at that long trot.
This seems to have made some good change in his attitude. I had already checked his back for pain (nope), he had a dental check earlier this year (didn't need float), and since it happened under saddle and on halter longe, it isn't rider-caused. I'll keep everybody updated.. I'm still hopeful to catch a fit on video, and see what's causing it.. If it's truly spooks (deer, bunnies, snakes, moles) moving around that he sees and I don't , or if he's just angry I'm forcing more out of him performance wise.
Last Sunday, I tested the recent training. Longed him a bit, then hopped on. A brand new cold front had burst into our region, and we were totally blessed with temperatures in the mid 50s and a nice breeze. Harley was relaxed, quite, and alert. In the ride, a gun went off at random probably 4 times, off in the distance. Harley flicked an ear, and tensed up, but did not take off, did not get silly. A neighbor was working on a tractor, and made some loud noises as well, but he didn't have a wild moment. Something in the trees blew hard, and while it got a reaction, it got a good one - he picked into a long trot, but stayed within my legs and hands. Finally, at the last gunshot, Harley turned to the middle of the circle I'd put him on, and slowed from a trot to a walk, ears on the gunfire direction. I praised him with each and every calm reaction to all the loud noises and startles going on around us. After the last gunshot reaction, I decided walk and trot was a good way to end the ride, leaving canter off the books that day. We trotted easy a bit more, on the bit (with very little head tossing), and I walked him out.
Here's hoping I've made the adjustment, and won't need it again anytime soon.