Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gabbrielle Under Saddle: Day 1

Memorial Day was a beautiful holiday here in Northern Nevada. I had made up my mind the evening before that I was going to ride 4-year-old Gabbrielle for the first time since she had done so well with her ground driving. The neighborhood was mostly quiet, save a dozen or so tourists who felt the need to honk repeatedly in short bursts out of the excitement of seeing someone riding a horse and every neighbor including us choosing Memorial Day morning to mow our lawns. The temperatures were perfect with no wind, no risk of dust devils sneaking up behind us, which has happened a lot lately. First I rode Lostine mainly to practice my own riding skills since Lostine is hyper-sensitive to every move I make in the saddle. Here's the view from her back...

While I was riding Lostine I sensed that someone was watching me. I looked over to see my neighbor standing on his doorstep staring at us. He looked like he wanted to do some construction out of his garage, but was hesitating since I was out riding. I contemplated asking him to give me one hour without any noise, so that I could train Gabbrielle under saddle.

The problem is that this man is mostly deaf, so it's very difficult to hold a conversation with him. He puttered about and opened his garage as if preparing to do some wood work. The horses are used to most of his activities and noises now, but there have been a few times where he dropped something heavy or set off the horn under the hood of his car, and even I jumped out of my skin. I didn't want anything happening to make Gabbrielle any more nervous than she'd be having a rider on her back for the first time.

After putting Lostine away I went in the house and told my husband I'd need him to hold Gabbrielle for me, so I could ride her, but first I had to tack her up, lunge her and ground-drive her. I told him I would come get him in 15 or 20 minutes. While I was tacking up Gabbrielle, my neighbor got in his truck and drove off, and I let out a sigh of relief. It's not easy training young horses when you live next door to a construction worker.

My husband came out right when I was still working on getting the bridle on Gabbrielle. I told him it would be a while, and he said he wanted to go to the ballpark with the kids. He decided to leave right then rather than to rush me with Gabbrielle's prep work, which I greatly appreciated. I did not want to have to mount a fresh horse that has never been ridden before without lunging her first.

While I was doing the ground work with Gabbrielle, the woman neighbor who eavesdrops and spies on me came out of her house to "walk" her dog behind my barn. All she does back there is let it pee on either my property or my friend's property and spy on me. She loitered back there a while and then moved onto her property and hid behind a car to watch me. I decided that when it came time to mount, I would ask her to either leave the vicinity or go back in her house. She could spy on me from her window all she wanted, but I didn't need her popping in and out of hiding places while I was trying to train Gabbrielle under saddle. Fortunately, she got bored and went back inside her house on her own accord. I've learned that if I stop talking to my horses while I work with them, then she doesn't have anything to eavesdrop on, and she eventually goes away.

I spent a while doing all the ground work I could think of, but my husband and kids still hadn't returned home from the ballpark. I got tired of waiting. I knew my horse breeder neighbor was home, probably watching me through her window, so I took a chance and swung myself into the saddle. Even though I sat down quietly, the extra weight shocked my horse a bit. She threw her head up and took a few steps forward. I said, "Whoa!" and she halted. I sat there a bit stroking her neck, patting her rump, wiggling the saddle, and then I dismounted. I made a point of keeping my weight over the center of her back and doing the world's slowest dismount. She held still for the entire process.

I got ready to mount a second time and something happened that spooked her. She jumped sideways while my foot was in the left stirrup, so I had to jump off the step stool and hop along next to her on the ground. That shook me up a bit, so I had to do some deep breathing exercises to get the extra adrenaline out of my system.

Some of you know that I have a neurological condition called an Essential Tremor, in which my head and hands shake all the time, even when I sleep. If I feel even slightly nervous, my entire body shakes uncontrollably. This is not a good condition to have when working with green horses, but working with horses is something I love to do, so I just try to push past it. My horses have to learn that I pretty much always have shaky nerves and it has nothing to do with them being in danger.

Just as I was about to make the third attempt at mounting, my husband and kids came home. My husband held the lead rope, which I kept tied around the saddle horn at the advice of a horse training book I am reading. The author says that if you tie the lead rope tight enough so that the hose can't get its head down to buck, but loose enough so that it can move freely in stride and to both sides, you can prevent the big bucks. Here comes the mount...




At first, I had my husband hold the lead rope, since we weren't sure how Gabbrielle would react to all that extra weight on her back while walking. I clucked my tongue and said "Walk!" without using my legs, and then my husband started walking and Gabbrielle followed. I then sat deep on my back pockets and said "Whoa!" while my husband stopped and Gabbrielle stopped. Soon Gabbrielle was responding before my husband, which was good. I wanted to train her -- not him.

When I'm riding, I would swear that my heels are lined up with my hips and shoulders, but when I see pictures of me riding, I realize that I need to become a contortionist...

Soon my husband released the lead rope and I took over the controls, but he still stayed within close range in case anything went wrong. When he first started walking Gabbrielle she tried to buck, but we both pulled her head up and let her know that was a no-no.

There were a couple of times when she started walking backwards despite me being light on the reins, so my husband grabbed the lead rope to stop her. He drove past the Mule Days Parade in Bishop, California on Saturday and saw some poor rider on a mule that was backing up, and the rider couldn't get it to stop. She was hollering at the people behind her to move out of the way, because she had no control of her mule.

We experienced three more spooks, but they were all spooks in place, which was nice. In one case, my husband started whistling to get my daughter's attention so that she would come outside to take pictures. Gabbrielle panicked a bit, not understanding what he wanted her to do, so she spooked and then started dancing around. In another case, I reached up to pat her on the side of the neck to praise her, and I guess my black gloved hand coming up from behind her scared her. In another case, I was adjusting the reins and one of them slapped her on the shoulder.

At one point, Gabbrielle stopped to poop. I stood and leaned forward in the stirrups even though you don't need to do that when they poop. On the next rotation she came to a complete stop in order to inspect the pile of manure. The lead rope caught her head and she started struggling. I tugged her head back up and urged her on. Here we are praising her for walking past the pile without stopping...

We only went as fast as a fast walk, because you have to give a young horse time to learn how to balance a rider on its back at the walk first. Carrying a rider at the trot is a whole different experience with the feeling of the rider bouncing and posting. I didn't want to overwhelm her.

While leading me around, my husband spotted the missing Chicago screw that fell off her halter a few days before. We decided to give Gabbrielle credit for finding it since she needed a lot of praise and encouragement.

Bombay kept unlatching the gate to the round pen and throwing it open with his nose, so we had to lock it. He did the same thing the night before when I was ground-driving Gabbrielle, and she actually tried to bust out the gate. I corrected her, and she decided to listen to me rather than to take part in Bombay's practical joke.

Here comes the dismount...


We were sure to reward her with plenty of carrots. I thought this day would never come. The gods were on my side, as all my neighbors stayed away, giving me the space and quiet I needed to get the job done. Whew!

Thanks goes out to my husband for keeping me safe, and to my daughter for taking the pictures.

25 comments:

Jessie said...

Congratulations on a successful first ride! I hope you have many more without the distractions of your neighbors.

Sydney said...

Good job. Thats a great first ride.

I'm re-working a filly I started last spring. She had a pretty bad accident and went a bit back in her training. Now shes 4 this year and we have started up again. You would swear she didn't forget a thing even though we only got through walk and trot. I am glad I gave her a year she has matured a lot more.

Kate said...

Gabbrielle is going to be a winner - despite the little bobbles you had, she looks calm and willing in the pictures, and you look great too! That was a lot to accomplish in your first mounted session - you both should be proud!

Cheryl Ann said...

Yeah! I was so nervous reading this, like I'll be my first time since last summer with Beauty! I get sweaty hands! Good for you and Gabby! I'm so glad you had a peaceful afternoon to ride her. I think I'll ask my hubby to do the "hubby thing" too...lead her around for me while in the arena.

The Mane Point said...

Nice pictorial entry.

I remember the first time I bridled our colt . . . then our filly.

Exciting times. ;-)

Have you heard about this?
HOBBY HORSE ROBBED

Laura said...

Congrats!! I'm so happy to hear that you were able to get on a ride for the very first time without any major problems! I think all of your groundwork has really paid off!

dtarca said...

Ahh...I love reading your blog about your horses. I'm new to horses and have an almost 4 year old gelding that I had in training earlier in the year. Both being green...we were BOTH in training :) Happy to hear you are making progress with your horse! Its fun to seeing the improvement and trust.

RiverBend Farm said...

Just came across your blog and wow, what a story..and with pictures! Gabrielle's head is beautiful. That's great what you did with her. I'll have to stay tuned.

Breathe said...

CONGRATULATIONS! How fantastic.

You're an inspiration. I like my horses old and tired. Not that I got that, but I did try. lol

I never heard of essential tremor - that seems quite an obstacle to overcome in working with horses. Making today all the more amazing.

Woo Hoo!

Paint Girl said...

How exciting! Gabbrielle looks like she was handling it pretty well!
I am so happy the neighbors and commotion in your neighborhood wasn't too bad during your first ride! That could have made things a lot worse!
I am also glad your husband was there to help out! Reminds me of when I first got Brandy, I couldn't get her to go down the road unless my OH was walking in front of us. That really helped her deal with a lot of her issues.
I can't wait to see and hear how your next lesson goes!

Shirley said...

Ahhh, wonderful, getting that first ride over with. Good job!Gabbrielle looked great, no major problems. I had my husband walk with me on my first 3 rides on Sassy, it really is comforting to know that someone is there to pick up the pieces if something goes haywire.

fernvalley01 said...

Congratulations !!! great first time ! I have to chastise you a little , please don't take a chance that your friend "might" be watching always have a spotter !

Reddunappy said...

congrats on a good first ride!

Your neighborhood should be a comedy like the Simpsons or something LOL

Katharine Swan said...

Congratulations! How exciting! I'm so happy for you, NM!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

AWESOME, NM! I'm so proud of you AND Gabrielle!! She looked willing and calm the entire time. And so did you! How exciting!
You looked good on her up there. She is a good size for you. Kudos to your hubby for being such a great rock of support, too.

I'm just so happy for you!
~Lisa

lytha said...

Oh what a beautiful sight - Gabbrielle carrying you!

I didn't expect that reaction to a simple photo, but what a wonder.

She's such a good girl.

~lytha

Leah Fry said...

Yay! I know you must be thrilled, and the extra surge of confidence is always a good thing. I always think I'm lined up too, but photos don't lie.

BTW, Poco is finally settling down in his tack. The shim seems to be working. Helps that he lost some weight too.

Alex said...

yhaooo + yipee! may it be the first of many great rides together! Congratulations

manker said...

way 2 go.. the greatest of all victories is to be victorious over yourself... thanx for inspiring me for my ride later;)

gp

Promise said...

Sounds like a great first ride! Good girl Gabbrielle!!

I don't know what I would do with your neighbors. My horse and I handle distractions pretty well, but wow...it sounds just plain zoo-ish at your place and I think I would hurt someone O:)

Lulu said...

Congrats!!!

HorseOfCourse said...

Toot-toot!
Congratulations, well done, both of you (or all three)!
It is a milestone, isn't it? And so nice to get through without any incidents. I am happy for you NM!

KD said...

Woo-Hoo !! Way to do !!

Jenn said...

Yay! Congrats! Isn't it exciting (and a bit scary!) to get on them for the first time! May all your rides on her only get easier from here on out.

Molly said...

That is simply awesome. You two make a great team.