Saturday, August 2, 2008

Is He Puking, Belching or Blowing Raspberries?

This is how Bombay looked after I rode him today. He's actually yawning, though I wanted to puke after our ride. I did the visualization and positive thinking exercise most recently suggested by Mrs. Mom. As soon as I haltered Bombay, he started trembling all over. His legs were shaking so much that I thought he was going to collapse. My trainer told me he would eventually look forward to these outings. The reaction he had tonight was rather disturbing. I couldn't understand why he feared leaving home so much. I lunged him in my round pen to settle him down, and then walked him across the street to my neighbor's house.

I took him into a large arena on her property that backs to a llama farm, and walked him to the fence where the llamas were so that he could study his surroundings. I then walked him around the entire perimeter and lunged him a little bit, the whole time chanting to myself that I was going to have a stellar ride. He calmed down enough that I was able to ride him.

I had the honor of riding with a young middle schooler who has won 8 championships in Western Pleasure this year. She has been training with the same equitation instructor that I am using. It was a pleasure watching her perform. I mostly tried to stay out of her way.

Bombay did a great job walking and jogging and cantering. I think I only got half a lap with the posting trot before he broke into such a lovely lope that I sat down and went along with it. Then we changed direction and he acted like he lost his mind again. He spooked and I spanked him with the riding crop, which sent him into a bucking tizzy. I went around a few times and he bucked a bit here and there. I was just struggling to regain control when he flipped around 180 degrees and lifted his head high as it could go to stare off into the direction of my barn.

Gabbrielle was whinnying and racing back and forth along the fence. Bombay was worried about his girlfriend. I clucked, squeezed and kicked to keep him moving, and he just bucked to tell me to F off. I snapped him once on the rear and he bucked again. I started thinking, "Where's my riding instructor when I need him? This riding crop thing isn't working."

I looked at my riding partner, who had come to a stop and was just watching in horror. I said, "I've got to get off this horse before he bucks me off."

We both dismounted and called it a night. It turned out that my husband had been walking across the street to come see me ride, and that was what sent Gabbrielle into fits. My husband thinks she is jealous because I have been spending time with Bombay or Lostine each night, and haven't been working on ground driving or trailering her. I think that's a pretty good assessment of her state of mind. Unfortunately, her behavior ruined an otherwise decent ride. I'm not so sure that riding across the street from my horse's barn buddies is the best idea, but I'll view it was one more thing to push him through.

I started thinking back to what happened to me and my concentration when we changed direction. I remember my neighbor commenting that Bombay would make a good hunter horse. That upset me, because I want to ride him western. She explained that western training requires a lot more time and money. I'm really not that interested in showing, while breeding and showing are my neighbor's life. If I do ever show, it will be western, because I am not about to go out and buy all new tack and a uniform for a hunter class. I had to stop dwelling on her comments about horse showing, because that's not the culture I'm after. I'd just settle for a nice, relaxing trail ride every once in a while.

I will keep up the visualization and positive thinking. I do think it was working for a while there, but then I got distracted and Bombay followed suit. I hated to end that ride on a bad note, but that horse was wound up so tight that I knew his intentions were to launch me into the next hemisphere if I did one more thing to demand that his attention be returned to me. I'm sure he would have felt bad about it once he got his sanity back, but guilt doesn't help pay a hospital bill.


Twinville said...

Oh no! It always ends up being something that sets them off or goes wrong. Sheesh! At least it started off pretty good.
I'm sorry, my friend.

By the way I was reading Fugly's "VLC" blog and immediatly thought of you when I read the following post (copy and paste the link into your browser). I think you'll get a kick out of it and can totally relate.

Mrs Mom said...

To show or not to show---- NM, I have trail ridden some $250,000 horses. I have trail ridden $250 horses. Just because that horse "LOOK" like he might make a nice hunter/ wester pleasure/ yada yada yada... does not matter. As long as YOU love the horse, and as long as YOU TWO are happy, the rest of the world can go butter walnuts if they wish to.

Keep on with the visualization- and I promise you- it will all come together.

Now, there is one thing I neglected to mention here-- and that is BELIEVE. In order for this to work faster/ better/ stronger, you have got to believe in you, your horse, and the activity. If you BELIEVE that you can make this happen perfectly, then it will happen that much sooner.

See it, and BELIEVE it! ;)

You are doing well- just keep on with it! :)

IamRockinhorse said...

NM- I admire you for your spunk and determination and I wish you happy success.
I love Arabians for their intelligence and spirit. But they are often too much horse when young. Arabians do not age; they only settle down. I once sold my 17year old unregistered half Arabian mare to a friend who sold her 5 year old purebred Arabian gelding to get her. She got bucked off several times when she first purchased Shahreen and then she learned how to ride her. This was a 3rd level dressage trained horse that did everything from show ring to trails and had NEVER bucked with me. The last I heard from them, she was taking Shahreen on competitive trail rides well into her 20's.

I never lounge my horses before riding. It doesn't help. I do run them a bit to get some of the bucks out if they've been in for days or not ridden for a while but that really just warms them up. I prefer running them because lounging is "controlled" and I think they need to be "wild" before their ride so they are willing to be "controlled" during the ride. It's more of a game than a wear down.

I was reading Twinville's blog suggestion from VLC and she is totally right. The best way to control a fractious horse is long trotting at an accelerated pace AND my prior suggestion of working patterns, figure eights, circles, serpentines, point A to point B, down the center, etc. This softens them so much. They respond to cues so much faster because they concentrate on you, the rider and they repect that you are in control. They learn to depend on you to give them directions. Vary speeds but rely on that working trot and "work" them out positively. As I mentioned, I have a very "wired" mare that is actually a totally different horse on the trails. Surprisingly, she acts the way I want her to act, alert, interested and CALM. At 15, she is settling down, I think. I finally got to take her away from the barn this year because previously, I never wanted to ride her out by myself and there was no one to go with. I would have sworn she'd be a terror but she was such a joy to ride. I believe your friend K suspects this is the case with Bombay. Go with her on the trails. Having the opportunity to ride with someone is so important. I had a 4 year old Arab that spooked at everything on the trails only because he really didn't know better. If they are with a good trail horse they will learn from them not to be afraid.

One last suggestion- when rides go bad, don't be afraid, get mad. What I mean is, if you are going to spout emotion, don't send fear signals to your horse. By feeling anger, you can still show your horse that you are still somewhat in control. Although this isn't a good thing- it is preferable to giving the horse the message that NO ONE is in charge and he better take action to save himself.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Twinville - I read the other post and most of the comments. I definitely agree that you can't wear out or tire out an Arab. When I lunge I do it more to connect, so that I know the horse's attention is on me. However, I'm learning that I almost have to teach them something new while doing that, because otherwise they can still just go through the motions of the old commands while concentrating on everything around them, but me.

Mrs. Mom - You have the most charming phrases like "go butter walnuts." That got a chuckle out of me. I do belive, I just need a new brain so I can concentrate for more than ten seconds.

I was really tired while writing that post, and forgot to mention that the other thing that upset me was that my neighbor told me to be careful about riding at the Fairgrounds, because at a recent event, two horses broke their legs and two kids broke their arms due to the monster trucks not putting the footing in the arena back the way it was before their shows.

iamrockinhorse - The thing about a horse bucking with one person and not another tells you how much the rider has to do with it. In Bombay's case, he had one bucking incident as a green horse at the age of 4, but has been the perfect gentleman since. Then I started taking him off the property this month and he returned to bucking, probably because I as the rider have left my comfort zone.

During my first lesson with this new trainer, I was just going to mount without lungeing since he arrive early. He stopped me and will not let me ride until I lunge. There are so many different beliefs in the horse world.

I think my rides off the property on Lostine have been more productive, because I do get mad at her. In her case, when she does something bad it is because she's playing games and testing me. That's why I can get mad at her. Bombay just seems out of his mind with fear much of the time, which is why my reaction is to be afraid. It's like being on a carnival ride that broke off its foundation.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I very seldom lunge a horse before riding, but if you feel more comfortable doing it first by all means go ahead. It may calm you down and the horse will be calmer if you are more confident when you get in the saddle.
As for your neighbor I really would like to know where she gets her information about the cost of riding hunter vs. western? Having been in the hunter/jumper/equitation/hunter paces/dressage etc... for many years, I can personally tell you there is nothing cheap about it. Classes fees, trainers, trailering, clothing, tack etc...Any one who shows either western or english will tell you whether you own or lease a horse and show no matter where, there's a lot of money involved, you might as well put a match to it, that's how fast it goes.
It sounds like your ride was very eventful considering he was trying to buck you off. If I were you perhaps you might try not using the crop next time he spooks, it might just be setting him off more and escalating an already bad situation. I would definitely have a discussion with your trainer about it in the next lesson. Good luck, good riding.

OnTheBit said...

Hey I was thinking of you...I saw this thing on RFDtv and I know you have it now. I had it DV'Rd though so I don't know when it was actually played. It was on Julie Goodnight's show "horsemaster" and it was of an Arabian mare who was just constantly up before the ride and spooky. The owner had just been lounging the horse like you do with yours and it wasn't working so well. So instead of normal lounging she taught the woman to constantly change directions with the horse and only allow the horse to go around if its head was down and it was calm. I am sorry you had such a stinky ride...we all have them. Even my saintly X has moments now and again of naughty. Keep your eyes open for the Julie Goodnight show and maybe they will replay the one I saw. I really think you would like it. GOod luck and even with your less than stellar ride I am still proud of you for trying to ride though it!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Hang in there NM. The darkest hour is before dawn(so they say). Bombay may take a long time to settle down, but he will never get there if you give up.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting off before things get completely out of hand. Your safety should always be of the utmost importance. If you felt that things were escalating out of control and smacking Bombay was not working-then you did the right thing by ending the ride. Talk with your trainer, see if they will go with you to the neighbor's house when you have a lesson, so they can see the behavior firsthand and can give you good advice on what is going wrong.
Personally, I think you have made great progress-keep it up.

I couldn't tell your neighbor's tone-but maybe she was just observing Bombay and thought it would be a compliment that he could go as a hunter. But Mrs Mom is right-he is your horse and you have the right to go in the direction you wish with him. Perhaps you will find out down the road that he won't make the western horse you might have wished for, but there is absolutely no reason not to go that direction, if that is what you want. Only time and training will tell.

IamRockinHorse said...

yes, everybody has their own methods that work, lol.

I think connecting with the horse from the ground is great but then you still have to connect with the horse while riding. I want them to have their "fun" before I ride and be business-like when I'm on their back, which is why I prefer unschooled turn out and running to lunging. Besides, I love to watch them run!

Your trainer is probably wanting to build your confidence up with both the lunging and the riding so that you can be in control of your horse. When you feel confident you will pass confidence on to your mount. I just got the idea that you were trying to wear Bombay down and you can't wear an Arabian out.

IamRockinHorse said...

A good working trot is your best friend for training. That may be why your neighbor suggested hunter pleasure. Maybe Bombay has a very pretty working trot? I love hunt seat and western both. But you can't continuously train western pleasure (slow) to an Arabian. They're too hot. Work him with some speed at the trot and you'll be surprised how happy he'll be to slow jog when the time is right. Last weekend I went to a western pleasure clinic at the Arabian Youth Nationals and the lady giving the clinic was a Western Pleasure judge. That is exactly her advice- train with variation (speeds, directions, patterns) and then when it is time to show, the horse will sigh with relief, drop his head and perform like a true veteran because it will be so easy for him for a change to just take it easy. ;)

PS- looking over the various classes I actually made the comment that it would be cheaper to ride english than western. The clothes can be reworn, whereas the ladies western outfits must constantly be updated and they are pricey! The equipment too- check out my blog for prices on western appointments, very expensive!!

Callie said...

You're doing a great job. It's a big step to conquer nerves and get on a horse that is nervous himself! You were able to stay on! I think it was a bit more succesful than you think!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

grey horse - I definitely will avoid carrying a crop next time. I think my neighbor was just speaking from her own experience. She was able to get her horses trained for hunter fairly quickly, but western is taking a lot longer. She has also told me that it takes a long time to teach a horse to jog slowly. I think that Bombay has a beautiful jog. I hear you regarding every discipline being expensive. Even if you don't do anything with your horse it is expensive.

onthebit - I'll keep an eye out for that show. I do currently spend a lot of time having the horse change direction. I'm not just sending him in circles to tire him out. In fact, I think Bombay would make a good cutting horse because I can turn him to the point where he is only jumping back and forth on his front feet.

BEC - I do intend to talk with my trainer about Bombay's bucking, and I'll let you know what he says. Unfortunately, our next appointment is in two weeks, so I'll have to wait a while.

iamrockin - I'll have to start writing all this advice down so I can remember it when I actually ride. Thanks for everything.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

callie - Thanks for the encouragement. I do think we've come a long way. I've only been taking Bombay off the property consistently for two weeks now.

photogchic said...

Tough ride..hang in there girl. The only thing I would suggest is work on seeing Bombays "thresholds" ---the point at which he starts to get agitated. Do a lot of riding around the property doing approach and retreat...when he gets nervous head closer to Gab, then circle out again. The key is not crossing over a threshold, keep at it and build his confidence. Also, really work on not using "anthropomorphism" to understand Bombays behavior. We tend to try to equate their emotions and behaviors with ours and that is just not the way horses think. This was one of the hardest things for me change when working with Maddy. Once I started understanding horse psychology, I finally made some head way with my mare. I wish you the are working so hard on making your horses your partners and I really look forward to you reaping the benefits of all your hard work. Good luck girl.