Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gabbrielle's Progress

Gabbrielle's under saddle training came to a halt after her ear surgery to repair a torn tip. I needed to give her ear a chance to heal, and she became very head shy after the accident, so there was no chance of pulling a bridle over her ears. This is what her ear looks like today -- slightly shorter than the other and a more rounded shape.

I spent the past few weeks working my way into her graces until she allowed me to handle that ear again. Today I took a chance on putting a bridle on, and she cooperated. I lunged her in the saddle, but didn't want to mount without a helper since so much time had passed since I had last ridden her. I decided to be safe instead of sorry, assuming that we were starting from scratch.

My daughter held her with the lead rope while I mounted. I had to tighten the cinch half a dozen times, because each time I stepped into the stirrup, it started to slide down her side. Because she is still growing, she doesn't have as broad a back as a fully grown horse, so there isn't much mass there to hold the saddle in place.

My daughter led in response to my verbal cues. I'd say "Walk" and cluck my tongue, she'd start walking, and Gabbrielle would follow. I'd say "Whoa" and sit deep in the saddle, my daughter would stop walking, and Gabbrielle stopped walking. I started using my legs to squeeze for a walk. I then had my daughter remove the lead rope and stand in the center of the round pen. Gabbrielle started to follow her, so I steered her in the opposite direction to make it clear that she now had to listen to me.

She walked and turned for a little bit, and then came to a halt. No amount of tongue clucking, squeezing, or kicking could get her to move forward, so we had to go back to the lead rope. Gabbrielle began to show signs of feeling frustrated. It was 98 degrees and I had been working with her for well over an hour. I didn't want to push it, so I dismounted and called it a day.

A short time later I went out for a photo shoot. Gabbrielle got obsessed with my shoe.

Then she got obsessed with my jeans.

She kept licking them.

I had to chase her off when she started goosing me. I had hoped to go to the Fairgrounds once it got down below 80 degrees, but that never happened. Even after the sun had set, it was ridiculously hot. That's the problem with Nevada. The winters are freezing and icy, making it treacherous to ride horses, and the summers are close to, if not in, triple digits, making it cruel to ride horses. Winter goes right into summer which goes right into winter. There's not much of a spring or fall. In the summer you just have to learn to ride in the dark.


Paint Girl said...

I am glad to see Gabbrielle's ear healed up.
Your daughter was so sweet to go out and help you with her. I know the heat doesn't help matters any. It is totally miserable for horse and human when it's that hot out!

Leah Fry said...

Lived in Nevada myself for 6 years, so true dat!

RiverBend Farm said...

She sounds like she is such an affectionate horse. I'll bet she would do just fine with you on her back if you pushed her a little it but I certainly understand a little bit at a time. It's already in the triple digits here..way too hot.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

I'm so sorry about her little ear. Poor thing! What a freak accident to have happened!

Gabbrielle is doing really well! Every time you ride her there will be some more improvement, I'll bet. Having your daughter lead her is a good idea. Also, try using a long lunge rope; have your daughter stand in the middle and you walk around her. The hardest part of riding young horses for me has always been to get them to go forward in the very beginning.

Sometimes it takes a little more kicking or butt slapping then you want to use, to get them to go at first. Once they get the idea to move forward with a kick it gets easier. I hope you are squeezing your legs and/or kicking her when your daughter begins to lead her forward. Saying "walk" and "whoa" is really good too.

Gabbrielle will remember exactly what happened on the last ride. Horses are like books, where you end the ride is like the last page you read. When you ride them the next time they are usually right on the same page you left them. Often, it's the rider trying to catch up and remember what's happened.

I'll bet you feel really good riding her, huh? It's been such a long wait, hasn't it?

sue said...

could you PLEASE,PLEASE send us some of that sun and heat!!!! just a little bit... here in Maine we haven't had a full sunny day in weeks..... everyone is getting rather grouchy and the "Maine vacation land" is almost a lie... the tourist don't like this weather... we are riding/driving because the footing is too soft and mucky.......

fernvalley01 said...

Good idea , starting back slow.I hear you about the weather , we don't get so hot here ,but sometimes it is hard to catch a break

Breathe said...

Sounds like you ended on such a good note, and there she is, grooming you. What a good girl.


TCavanaugh said...

Glad to hear her ear healed so well. I know it is hard to start over, but going slow is the key. Hope you get her to the fairgrounds soon.

manker said...

yup those freak accidents .. here where it looks like i'll be renting a vehicle for a month... but i'm blessed by the best... i am relatively unscathed and able to read your blog, get out and ride... so there we have it

glad your horse is better too... must make you sleep better at night..


Andrea said...

Hooray for a good "first" ride. And it's so crazy how horses hurt themselves. I swear they get hurt in padded stalls!! I am glad her ear is all better and you are able to start over again. I think it's so funny how she licks you!!!

Lulu said...

KC had the same "stalling out" issues when we first got started. Just remember, once your "helper" is no longer there to guide Gabrielle, you are essentially starting from scratch. She has to learn how to walk forward without a guide...

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Aww...poor little tippy ear. She still has cute ears, though. I'm glad the first ride back turned out pretty good. She's becoming a good mount for you, it seems. It's great that your daughter is there to help you.

I can't even imagine living with triple digits normally. We had a few when we lived down in the valley near Albuquerque, but up here in the mountains, we rarely get above 90 during the summer and most of the time we stay in the lower 80's with nice cool breezes.

We've yet to turn on our evaporative cooler. I hope it'll be like last year. We only turned it on for a few days all summer. It really only gets hot in the house between 1-3pm. If we can just keep all our ceiling fans on and windows open for the cross breezes, and spend time outside under the porch during those hours, we'll be good.
What we do need is more rain, though.
When it does rain, we don't get a good enough soaking, just a few sprinkles and they move on.

Riding at night...aaah. Even though it can be a little spooky while out on the trail, I do enjoy it. Even just riding in the arena at night is fun. One day...some day.


Katharine Swan said...

Poor ear! But she's still gorgeous and I'm glad it healed up well, even if it is a bit rounder now. :o)

As for your ride... I've been reading this book by Pony Boy (as you might remember from a recent blog post) and watching the DVD that came with it. One thing he says is that different horses have different attention spans (just like kids), and that you'll be most successful if your training sessions stay in the horse's attention span. My guess is that Gabbrielle's attention span ran out, and she decided that stopping and refusing to move was the best way to end the session.

See, it's that gambling analogy again. It's so difficult to know when to quit!