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Miles at Equivents

Ring Sour

Sometimes when I think about Miles, I see things in columns. Pros versus Cons, What I Got versus What I Wanted, Things I Compromised On versus Pleasant Surprises. I don’t know if that’s normal or not, but one thing has been really on the forefront of my mind lately. Miles is a grumpy horse, which I knew when I bought him… but he’s much more grumpy than I originally anticipated. It can be a really frustrating quality sometimes, but instead of dwelling on what’s going wrong, I’d rather figure out what I can actively do to make things better.

Miles in his Stall

My inspiration, who I’m looking up to for assistance in this process are two people who are really quite the opposite. One is my trainer, who you’d obviously suspect would have some great advice. She called Miles ‘ring sour’ the other day, and for some reason that really shocked me. I don’t know why, but I’ve never quite thought of Miles in those exact terms. I’ve called him grumpy, and lazy, but never ring sour. Which is odd… because he most certainly is the very definition of ring sour.Β He’s not so bad that he won’t go into the ring, or work in a ring at all. But he definitely gets sick of working on the same things in the same place all the time. Trainer’s advice was three-fold: (1) change it up and keep the exercises interesting so you’re never working on the same thing over and over with the same exercise, (2) give him ‘fun’ days so that every ride isn’t hard work and (3) get out of the ring.

Miles at Equivents

My second inspiration is one of the juniors I ride with. Her horse can have a grumpy attitude too, and while it’s not as bad as Miles, he can get pretty… pissy… about going forward. I don’t notice it as much because she does a lot of things that my trainer has suggested to get him out of this mood. She toodles sometimes, and does silly stuff with him (like pole bending and carrot races and… whatever she wants to), and she takes him out on the trails a lot. So basically, I kind of need to embrace my inner pre-teen.

With that in mind, last week we got caught in the indoor arena during a rain storm, so to cool out I stripped my tack, hopped on bareback and let Miles walk around wherever he wanted to go. I think he kind of enjoyed it, and I did too. The next ride I did, I never set foot in an arena. We walked around the pastures and the barns, down the big hill and out into the jump field (across a new to us BIG ditch, with water). We mostly walked, with a little bit of trotting, but it really seemed to improve Miles’s mood. I started with a pretty grumpy horse (it was quite hot out), and ended with a happier horse.

Miles grazing

And this is one of the Pros of Miles — one of his Pleasant Surprises. He hacks out alone, quiet as can be. He doesn’t spook on the trails, or get silly. He doesn’t even really get “up” at all. He gets a little hesitant about deep mud, standing water, and ditches, but all the work I’ve done getting him out this spring has paid off and now we are both confident enough to get out on our own and tackle some of these questions. So for all that Miles might have some faults and things that drive me crazy, I got pretty damn lucky in the trail riding department.


Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

16 thoughts on “Ring Sour

  1. This makes me so happy!! As the owner of another VERY ring sour equine, I have to say that mixing things up and getting out of the ring has been the magic bullet for Dino. I try not to do ring work (especially dressage) more than 2 days in a row, and ride him outside 90% of the time. More trail rides, fitness hacks, schooling outings, and fun rides where he gets to call the shots have made him much more fun to ride when it comes time to do ring work!

  2. That’s so awesome that he’s so good outside of the ring! My pony also gets tired of the ring if I never do anything else so I’ve been adding more days out of the ring. I hadn’t thought about doing a toodle day in the ring though, now I’m going to add that to my schedule πŸ™‚

  3. so glad that you are able to find ways to keep things interesting for him! my mare absolutely requires variety – which was tricky bc she would be at her best schooling after 2-3 days in a row… but she still needed that balance of getting a break and doing other things.

  4. Red gets super ring sour and stubborn and grumpy if I don’t do something different after a couple rides! I love how a good trail ride can cure the grumpiness for so many horses πŸ™‚

  5. That’s so great you found a way to lighten his mood! I should probably try that with Romey, but he’s been so… spinny. I don’t think my nervous little ammy brain can handle spinning outside the fence confines.

  6. Glad you have found a balance to keep both of you happy plus you got to expand your comfort zone in the process. I wish we lived closer, P and Miles would love to hack around together. We always tease that P is an old school pony. The girl who owned him for those years before I got him back was afraid to ride him outside of the ring, she said he took off with her before. She was also riding him in a kimberwick! Yikes!
    Anyways, he likes to pull the classic go faster when headed home and slower away and the walk as fast as he possible can back to the barn after a ride. For this reason (and because I love field rides!) I ride him in the ring as little as possible. Once we go outdoors I maybe ride him in the ring once ever few months and usually only when forced to by a horse show. I will say, his one exception for disliking the ring is for a lesson. He knows when it’s a lesson and he gets so amped which I think is about the cutest thing ever.

  7. Yay! I love getting out of the ring. I think I am a little like a ring sour horse myself. Too much time in the ring makes my head explode. I actually feel more comfortable in the great outdoors than I do in the ring – too much pressure in there sometimes.

    I love to embrace my pony-club-inner-child, and go for trail rides and bareback hacks. Some of my happiest rides were Boca and I alone, cantering through the woods.

  8. All our lesson horses get out on the trail or into the cross country field for lessons whenever they can, or they definitely get ring sour themselves. How awesome is it that you’re feeling confident enough to get him out there!!

  9. Funny thing, my mare really doesn’t sour to the ring, but I’m totally ring sour lately. That said we usually end lessons with a few of us hacking about the property a bit. You are lucky Miles is awesome alone in trail, I love hacking.

  10. Even though every horse has it’s quirks I feel like you’re doing such a great job working on Miles and finding ways to make the whole picture better πŸ™‚

  11. I wish you lived nearby and we could be trail buddies… all I did in July practically was ride on the trails, and Pearl was getting trail sour! Weird horse gets so happy when she gets to trot in circles, and was getting tired of just hacking around on the buckle. Mixing it up appears to be key.

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