The Wrigley Chronicles. Part 1

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 | Filed under Handy Tips

On July 11th, I saw the movie, BUCK and immediately wrote about it.

The whole movie motivated me… but one part in particular really moved me.  It was the sad part about the wayward 3 year-0ld colt.  I won’t go into the details because those of you who have seen the movie know EXACTLY what part I’m speaking about… and those of you who haven’t seen the movie need to go see it so I won’t tell you about it.

Anyway, after seeing that part of the movie, I wrote on July 12th that it was my responsibility to make the best citizen possible of all of my horses.  Especially the ones I bring into this world… which right now, is my Wrigley.

(You can read the original post here.)

Wrigley was born here... Big, red and bold...


Wrigley isn’t my favorite horse and I’ve certainly been avoiding training him for a long time…  Avoiding him wasn’t making our relationship any better, if you know what I mean.

I didn’t train him, he became more unruly, I liked him less and less so I didn’t want to train him.

It was a vicious cycle.

But, I made a promise to myself after seeing the movie, that I would step up and do this thing.

Yikes.  So, to motivate me to do this, I promised to all of you in my blog of July 12th, that I would work with him daily.

And, surprise surprise, I have….

THE REALITY – To Heck in a handbasket…

OK, so I rummaged through all the bookshelves to retrieve my training bibles which I skip-read through bits and pieces of the pertinent chapters.  Oy.  I had forgotten so much of the basics stuff.  It’s true, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

My gear looked like it had been living with the Munsters.  All my ropes and special training devices had so much dust and webs covering them that I had to pull out the pressure washer.

And, I came to realize, on my first day in the round pen, that my coordination SUCKS.

I had that Parelli rope twisted around my legs more than I had it swinging at himself.  Oh, and the carrot stick with the long rope… ahem, I may as well have been wrapping myself up as a present…  I was horrible at working the magic with those devices!  Thank Gawd no one was watching.

Wrigley didn’t know any better but I saw Gwen sniggering in the background…

"Can I help you with that?" Wrig watches closely as I try to unwind myself...


Day 2 was a bit better (I dispensed with the long ropes and carrot sticks until I could practice with one of my better trained volunteers).

I decided to keep it simple and just do some bonding and trust stuff.

This was a good idea with hilarious results.  Well, hilarious to some…

My grand idea was to sit with him while he ate.  I did this with most of my other horses and it created a food bond or something.  We’d just hang out and I’d pick through the hay to find the best bits and feed it to them.  It was sweet and peaceful and lovely.

Except not with Wrigley…  He just thought I was some sort of food vending machine and kept bumping me to give him more – faster.

Yup, that wasn’t working.  Fail.

This is him bowling me over to get treats. Fail. My bad.


I thought about how much I didn’t like his pushy behavior so I decided to create boundaries.  On this day, we went to the arena (me having to make him follow me – oh joy – one step forward, two steps back, dosey-doe and swing your partner…)  Once I finally circly-walked him up to the arena, I decided to do boundary exercises.

We did the ‘do what I do’ drill.

After about 30 horse-sized head bashes straight into my back, I got a little more loud in my corrections.  And, to be frank, he heard me.  We actually started to communicate about stopping and starting and … backing, which he hates.

Wrigley hates to back because it is so clearly a dominance thing when I ask him to back.  He didn’t want to yield to that.

So, I switched it up.  I had him follow me around while I scooped the remnant poops out of the arena.  I had the rope over my shoulder and he just had to watch where I was moving or he’d get stepped on – by me – as I was scooping and distributing.

After about 2 times of me scraping my boot along his leg, he figured out that I was moving and he’d better watch.

It worked.


DAY 4-7

We worked on him ‘doing what I do’ for a few days.  We went over rails and between rails, around barrels and we turned the water on and off – scooped more poop – basically, I did whatever I could to keep him learning how to watch me –  and for him to listen and pair the voice commands associated with each move.

We worked on me standing in front of him and asking for a ‘back’ or a ‘walk up’.

He did pretty well.  And, he was kinda cute.  Hmmmmmm.

I was beginning to like him.

"OK, this is weird but whatever..." He was beginning to trust.


Whatever gave me the idea to hide treats and go find them with Wrigley ought to be erased from my brain forever.

You see, previously, my other babies loved the game of finding the hidden treats!  They would follow me anywhere and then sniff out the goodie and then follow me to the next one.  It was fun and they loved the instant rewards.

Not Wrig.

He went treat-frenzied psychotic on me.  OMG.  It was like I was handing out horsey crack!

After the first hidden treat, he thought treats were behind every rock.  He thought treats grew out of thin air.  He wanted to plow over me to find the next one.  He didn’t understand any of that ‘follow the leader’ association with me leading him to the treats.


He was just going to FIND TREATS  like a crazy, 1000 lb cookie addict.

My bad.

I put him away and thought we’d start fresh the next day.

This is his flymask against the lens of my camera as he assaulted me for treats. Another Fail.


We were progressing rather slowly but well.  He was consistently giving up some of his dominance and I was being more consistent with my calm repetition and praise.  I didn’t get upset.  I reassured him often.

He was starting to grow on me – in a good way.

For example, he no longer barged forward when I was going into his pasture to get him.  He respected my space and he seemed happy to go do something with me.


Except he hated going around in a circle at the end of a rope.  He thinks this is ridiculous and I don’t really blame him.

I swear he has the perfect horsey look for, “Really?  Are you actually going to make me go around you in stoopid circles?”

We are still working on this.

I don't want to go in stoopid circles!



Right after that incident, we left for our family vacation.  So, Wrig had a week off to heal his wounded pride.

I did the same.


After a refreshing week, I was all motivated to start in again.

Wrig seemed happy to see me and not angry or upset about anything.  That was good.

We started in and … he had forgotten everything, almost.  Or else he was faking it well.  I’m not sure.

Anyway, we started all over and he did seem to suddenly remember once I brought out the long rope again – I had been practicing my rope/carrot stick mojo and I was becoming a Ninja.

I have forgotten everything you taught me...


Well, my good friend, Leslie Anne Webb, is an artist of renown.

But, what people don’t know is that she can sweet talk the rank out of a horse.  Not only that, she can get 18 hand draft horses to melt into a puddle when she whispers to them.

So, I called her in.

Sure!  She was very willing to help with “little” (compared to her big ol’ horses) Wrigley.

Leslie came and studied Wrig.  Wrig studied Leslie.  And then they started their dance.  One step forward, two steps back… da da dun dun dun, dadada daaa, dun dun dun da

I sat and watched.

I watched how he tried to size her up and challenge her.  I watched as she didn’t flinch and stood her ground.  I watched him test her without malice.  I watched her correct him without malice.

It was great for me to watch this.  I could see him from a different perspective.  Watching Leslie made me think about myself from another angle.

This was excellent!

Leslie said she’d come back every week to check up on our progress and to work with Wrig.  Gulp.  Another person to make sure I’m doing what I said I would do…

But do you know the best part?!  Wrigley thought her asking him to go in circles was equally as ridiculous as me asking him.


Alright already... OKOK...


So this week I have decided to work on the good cop/bad cop thing.  Leslie can be the bad cop.  Tee hee.

I have decided to go slowly and to play more fun games and oddball stuff with him.  I gave him a bath.  I brought him down the driveway to meet the Fed Ex guy.  I made him carry the mail back on his back.  I cleaned out the tack room with him in there so he had to move all around to get out of my way.  I taught him how to walk through the barn backwards.  I taught him how to go through the barn wheelbarrows backwards.  We sniffed the cat together (much to kitty’s chagrin) We continued to scoop poop together.  And, he is starting to really relax when we are in a training session.

This is Buff the Barnkitty. He was a good sport so I gave him extra rubs.


Today was the last day before this post, obviously.

We went to the arena and to warm up, I had him follow me around as I watered the plants and scooped the ever present youknowwhat.

As we began the regular training, I was a bit effusive with the compliments.  I had just watched the movie SECRETARIAT (it was playing in the background while I was working today) so I think I was overly emotional about big, red horses…

Anyway, we did the stop, back, follow.  We went backwards through poles.  I wrapped the rope around him and he turned when the rope tugged his halter.  He moved his hindquarters when I pointed to them.  His second to least favorite thing to do is move his shoulders over upon command… but he did it – both sides.

And yes, he did walk those stoopid circles around me.  Wrig made the “this is the stoopidest thing ever” face as he was going around.  And, he did try to stop every 3rd step, but he did it.

Atta boy, Wrig, atta boy.

And, for me, Atta Girl Momma, Atta Girl.

I cannot believe that I’m doing this and I cannot believe how my opinion of Wrigley has so vastly changed.


Lots of food for thought here.  As they say, train a horse and learn about yourself.


"Look how good I'm Whoaing!" He's starting to grow on me... He's pretty cute when he wants to be. ;)


HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!







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HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

4 comments have been posted...

  1. Annie

    I love the blog and it makes me giggle. There is so much more to training an animal than any one person can tell you. Thanks for making it fun!

  2. barbara

    Congrats! It’s hard to keep these commitments. I glad you and Wrigley are making progress. I have a very sweet 8yo who is great on the trail and riding but does not have any ground manners. I work him occasionaly, but then forget or get buzy then he forgets everything and I have to start over. You are motivating me to be more consistant. Tell Wrigley that my Pippin agrees with him about the whole “going in circles” thing.

  3. LVS

    Congrats on the progress! I so need to do this as well. You should be proud of Wrigley and yourself.

  4. Michael

    Wrigley is THE horse. Cool story. In many stories the unruly character ends up being the leader…lets keep an eye on this one.

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