Sunday, June 29, 2008

Time for Another New Tarp

It was a really busy weekend and I forgot to take pictures, so here is an old picture out of my files. My trailer loading attempts with Gabbrielle have been going backwards. She becomes increasingly resistant to loading despite having no problem in the past. When she was a yearling she self-loaded. I just keep trying different techniques, but she plants her feet on the ground and refuses to move forward as soon as we reach the back of the trailer. I decided to work on getting her to walk across a tarp to save me the trouble of hooking up the trailer to the truck and pulling it out from its parking spot.

Gabbrielle would let me drag the tarp beside her as we walked, she let me rub her with it, and she wore it, but she planted her feet when it came to walking on it. I rolled it up and forced her to jump it in the round pen. At first she evaded it by either turning or running around it, but I figured out how to position my body to block her so that her only choice was to jump it. Once she was comfortable with that, I flattened the tarp and worked on trying to get her to cross it.

The usual forward cues were useless, because she had made up her mind that she wasn't going to step on that tarp. I'm sure that it looks like a huge hole in the ground to her, and I appreciate her self-preservation, but I needed her to trust me. I walked over it, Lostine walked over it, and Bombay walked over it while she watched, but she was still convinced that it wouldn't be the same for her.

What I learned is that she is a horse who will not respond to negative reinforcement, nagging, worrying, or scaring. The only thing that made her take a step forward onto the tarp was food and positive reinforcement. She got semi-comfortable standing with her two front feet on the tarp, but she never crossed it. That was the same result I had with the trailer: She got two front feet in, stood there a bit, backed out, and refused to go in all the way.

I realized it was dinner time and I had a hungry family waiting in the house for me to fix some chow, so I left the tarp on the ground, hoping that Gabbrielle might sniff and paw at it a bit more until it didn't seem so threatening anymore. However, when I went back outside 45 minutes later, I found Bombay shredding my tarp with his hooves and teeth. I picked up all the pieces and threw them in the trash. That's not the first time he's done that, so my lousy memory was at fault for not remembering. Had I recalled Bombay's past behavior with tarps, I would have brought it in and stashed it in my spa.

I get so exhausted from all the ground work I do with Gabbrielle, and I have to force myself to ride the other horses so that I can get off my feet and enjoy the weekend. After fussing around with Gabbrielle and not getting the results I hoped for, I discovered that Bombay was refusing his new bit. I tried all the usual techniques that get a horse to lower his head, hold it still, and open his mouth for the bit, but he absolutely wasn't going to budge on his stance regarding his hatred toward that bit. I was desperate to ride as opposed to fight a horse, so I attached his old bit to the bridle and he happily opened wide for it.

We had a nice ride and afterwards my neighbor, who has raised, trained, and shown Arabian horses her entire life, came over to give me a riding tip. She said she was watching me out her window and saw that both the horse and I looked uncomfortable. I wasn't absorbing the bounce from the jog because I was sitting straight up and down. She said that I need to tuck my butt underneath myself so that I'm kind of sitting on my back pockets. I thanked her for the advice and said I'd give it a try.

She invited me to come over and watch her granddaughter get an equitation lesson this week from an equitation instructor who travels to people's homes and offers one-hour lessons. I got really excited about that. I thought I would have to trailer the horses all the way up to Reno for lessons. So, I'm going to catch the guy after he's done and see if he'll be willing to schedule a few lessons for me. He's coming all the way down here from Reno, so hopefully the gas prices won't deter him.

I washed Bombay, and then saddled up Lostine. She was loaded with energy and just wanted to canter non-stop. I love her canter, so I usually just let her go while she's got it in her. I feel bad asking a 20-year-old horse to canter on the really hot days when she's tired. I don't know if you are supposed to tuck your butt under during the canter too, but I did it, and when she slowed to a trot, then a jog, I sat on my back pockets, and it really did make a difference in my comfort level. I stayed in the saddle instead of bouncing out of it.

After riding Lostine I washed and groomed her. Then my son came out and asked if I would pay him to groom the horses. I said I would have to train him on how to do it first. I offered $2 per horse for a dry grooming, and $5 per horse for a full bath and spa treatment. He almost changed his mind when I told him he would have to wear a helmet when working around the horses. I don't know what the big deal is. He wears a helmet when he bicycles and skateboards.

Since Gabbrielle was the only horse who hadn't been bathed yet, I told him he'd have to learn on her. I needed to work her in the round pen to get the freshness out first. He wasn't interested in helping with that, but my daughter came out to help me ground drive Gabbrielle. I watched her struggle with the same issues I did when I first started. It's hard to coordinate those two ropes, give verbal cues at the same time that you give cues with the ropes, etc.

Both my son and Gabbrielle did a great job with the bathing and grooming. I don't have cross-ties or a bath rack, so we wash the horses while they are tied to a post, with the exception of Bombay who didn't need to be tied at all. He just stood for his bath. The mares tend to swing their butts from side to side to escape the spray, so I had my son rinse from a distance. It was nice to be able to sit in a chair and give instructions after being on my feet all weekend. Now I've got three clean horses, a son who is richer for it, and BONUS... I got to spend some time with both my kids and my horses simultaneously!


Rising Rainbow said...

That's a great trick when you can get the family involved with the horses.

onthebit said...

I am tired just reading your post! I have a thought for Gabbrielle's trailering issues, and it really is just a thought so take it with a grain of salt...have you thought about just giving her a break from trailer practice for a bit? Sometimes young horses just get burned out and it isn't a trust thing, more of a "I don't want to do this anymore" kind of thing. You know her best so you know what she is thinking, I just had to stick my 2 cents in because I am nosey and bossy and all. It is VERY cool that you got your kids involved with the horses. The barn I just moved Genny to has 4 college ages kids who aren't that into riding but are great helpers on the ground and with barn chorses. I hope your son keeps the interest up. or at least the need for money.

Twinville said...

Whew! No wonder you were tired. You accomplished alot! Good thing for kids that want to help and make a little money, too.

Gabbrielle seems to be giving you much of the same challenges that my neighbor's horse Annie was giving her.
Unfortunately Annie's not food motivated like your mare. My neighbor friend did realize that Annie needed two things: Direction and Forward Motion, but she needed a little help to put that plan of action into play.

She hired a trainer that accelerated her ideas and after weeks of trying to get Annie into the trailer, the trainer got her in within a couple hours.

And now, as long as my friend has someone in the front to direct Annie's head (without pulling, as she doesn't like that and will usually rear up) and someone at the rear to continually give light taps with the whip, Annie will hop right up there.

I hope you'll be able to teach Gabbrielle to trailer soon. I know it is frustrating to hit a hurdle and not be able to move past it quick and easy enough.