Saturday, March 28, 2009

Getting Ready for the Mountain Bikers

Before taking your horses out on the trails, it helps to introduce them to a bicycle within the comfort zone of their home. The first step is to set a bicycle out so that your horses can approach and inspect it while it is not moving. Sniff those handlebars, Gabbrielle.

Sniff those tires.

Oh no! My horse is a bicycle seat sniffer!

Oh oh! Don't you do it, Gabbrielle!

Sigh. She did it. I don't think she liked the taste of it.

The next step is to ride the bicycle away from your horses. Gabbrielle actually chased me around the paddock at first. I was worried that she would canter past me and kick out to the side, so I started pedaling faster. Then I realized that I can't outrun a horse and I stopped. Gabbrielle rear-ended me.

I then worked on riding up from behind the horses since that is what will most likely spook them out on the trails. I was careful to stay out of kicking distance until I knew they were totally comfortable with it.

I rode up to them and talked to them and petted them.

I let them sniff some more and wiggled the front tire back and forth.

Gabbrielle was the most curious, obviously, since her mug is in the majority of the pictures. Bombay played with the bike a little bit, but eventually got bored and played with his Jolly Ball instead. Lostine kept her distance and remained wary. She stomped the ground once when I changed gears while riding past, but mostly stood in the corner. By the end of my ride, I was weaving in and out of the horses, and they were poking me with their noses as I passed. They got so comfortable with it that they rolled on the ground while I bicycled around them. That was the fastest desensitization exercise I've ever done. Now if only I can get them to let me rub a white plastic grocery bag all over their bodies.

17 comments:

Katharine Swan said...

That is REALLY cute. My favorite part was Gabbrielle rear-ending you. That's one curious horse! :o)

Flying Lily said...

Oh that is such great work! Your horses are lucky to have such a caring and knowledgeable owner to help them deal. So Many horses get their first bike sighting on the fly and then - who knows?? And is your son doing the photography? Awesome photos.

dp said...

Great idea! I'm going to try this too. There is lady in my neighborhood who ponies her horse off her bike, like a giant dog. He is young and not yet ready to ride, and he is her only horse so that's how he gets his exercise.

Grey Horse Matters said...

That's a good idea. We had one horse,Lifeguard, who was petrified of bikes or anything with wheels. Especially motorcycles, it was a real adventure being on him when a pack of those guys rode past.

Shirley said...

I got a good chuckle out of the image of Gabbrielle rear-ending you! Do you plan on taking them for a walk and having someone accompany you on a bike?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Katharine - It was pretty funny. She kind of bounced off the back tire.

Flying Lily - Actually, my son is busy these days attending Saturday track meets. He made the Varsity pole vaulting team and this is his first year! Anyway, I wrangled my husband Roger into taking the pictures of me on the bike today. He did a good job, didn't he?

Shirley - That's a good idea. I'll see if I can get my son to ride next to us on Sunday as I walk the horses.

But, DP, I don't think I'm ready to pony them off my bike. Hee hee. I slipped in the sand several times and almost wiped out. It's been a few years since I've ridden a bike. I think I'm better at riding horses.

Grey Horse - Lifeguard would probably have a nervous breakdown in my pasture. Hoards of motorcycles go past it every day.

Alex said...

i so need to do this! Or have one of the kids do it... i usually walk while they ride. but biking is good for core and balance right?! training horses and working out- now thats 2 birds with one stone i can get behind!

jmk said...

My guys are okay with bikes, but this is a great idea! Next you should try a jogging stroller with a doll hanging halfway out. Then a wagon with something very loud that rattles when it is pulled. I came across both of these scenarios on the trail. Wish I had been a little better prepared! :-)
Jill

OnceUponAnEquine said...

Great job! Your horses did really well with the bike. That Gabrielle is a character.

ranchette said...

This is a good reminder for me. There are more bicyclists this spring than I saw last year and I NEVER used to see them at the boarding barn's trails. Combines yes. Bicycles no. We had a triathalon in the park next to their pasture last year and they didn't bat an eyelash, but I need to check the Big Horse out especially before I'm surprised on the trail.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Ummmm....

I'm just trying to imagine what your nosy neighbors were thinking:

"Why is she riding a bicycle in there...and not riding the horses? That neighbor is nutty. Why not ride out on the street, where there's more room. Jeez"

LOL!!

Love the photos...especially of Gabbrielle chewing on the bike seat.
I can't wait to try this with Baby Doll. Any other tips?

~Lisa

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lisa - I made a point of riding the bike when no one was home next door, but you can see how my neighbor's house faces my paddock. I would need a 10-foot brick wall to block them from being able to watch me. Whoever designed this neighborhood was stupid, because they essentially made my backyard into my neighbor's front yard.

Usually, if I'm out doing something when they drive home, they sit in their car and stare at me through their car window for half and hour or so. It's really creepy. The woman did drive home right when I was circling Gabbrielle while she was taking a dirt bath. Gabbrielle lept up and shook herself off the second she saw my neighbor. Their timing is usually horrible when it comes to interrupting work I'm doing with the horses. They come and go so often (like every 5 minutes to half an hour) that I'd hate to have to pay for their gasoline bill. Half the time they can't find a single vehicle on their property that has gas, because they are so busy driving, but somehow never have time to stop at a gas station. I was tired, so I ended my ride before I could give my neighbor reason to gawk.

Callie said...

Wow! Wish I had thought of that before I brought my gelding out on a bike trail! Funny enough, though I had kept an eye out for the bikers and everytime one was coming from behind, I turned him to see it coming. The first couple of times, he spooked a little and with each passing bike, he began to realize they weren't monsters! Great job and well thought out!

Lulu said...

What a great idea! I never thought of riding a bike around in the horse lot!!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I have to say that this wasn't my idea. I got it out of the trail riding books I've been reading and reviewing lately.

Pony Girl said...

What a great idea *yours or not, you thought to implement it!) I love how you are so practical about this. Most people would just deal with it on the trail. Not the safest way. Desensitizing a horse before you hit the trail, now there is using your thinking cap! ;) I love those mountains in the back of your last photo...wow!

Suzie (Echo) said...

I need to do some of this with Echo - she's terrified of bicycles. Good idea!!