Monday, March 22, 2010

First Ride in a While

On Sunday I was able to take a short ride on Bombay. The ground is still too slippery for the mares and when I lunge them they slip, flip onto their sides, and sometimes slip so hard that they roll up onto their backs with their legs flailing n the air. Obviously, had I been in the saddle when that happened, I'd probably be paralyzed or dead. The mares are fine, though. I gave them their sympathy and they learned to slow down when I say, "Easy" (with the help of natural consequences.)

The reason why I could ride Bombay despite the ground being slippery is because he's always careful where he places his feet, he rarely speeds up unless I ask him to, and he halts as soon as I give the cue. (And, trust me, it doesn't take much more than sitting back on your pockets to get him to stop, because he is one lazy horse.) I have more control over him than I do over the mares. Lostine has a mind of her own, because she thinks she's the alpha mare, and Gabbrielle hasn't been fully trained under saddle yet. She's still in kindergarten.

So, I felt I should be safe riding Bombay on slippery ground as long as nothing scared him bad enough that he'd bolt. If he spooked, he'd loose traction and go down with me in the saddle.

The day before my ride, the neighbor's parked a bunch of vehicles against my fence. I think they operate some kind of business where they rent long-term storage space on their land to people, because different vehicles, everything from trucks to trailers to boats, keep showing up and disappearing all the time. Most of them have California plates, which makes me think they belong to people who are just moving to this part of Nevada, perhaps into an apartment where they have limited parking. Of course, they had to put a tarp over this truck, and though they tried to tie it down, it still billowed up when a big gust came along, which sent my horse into a spook.

Fortunately, I was able to stop the bolt right away by pulling Bombay's head around to the right. When I haven't ridden him in a while, his spooks are bigger than usual. Eventually, his bolts turn into teleportations sideways, and those eventually turn into jumping straight up in the air and coming down on locked legs. When the spooking is at its best, he just flinches, but we don't usually get there until the end of summer after I've been riding him regularly every weekend and evening.

My neighbors have a lot of tarps around their property, which often blow loose and blow around their yard, so it's not much fun riding horses in my yard on windy days.


However, my horses have gotten use to the tarp on their own haystack blowing in the wind. It only took them several years and some intensive training to relax around it. Now I can walk them past it while the wind is flapping the tarp into them or whipping it around loudly, and the horses just look straight ahead and keep a steady pace without jumping into my lap. It's rather nice. I wouldn't mind some more of that sensible behavior from them.


This is why I'm not totally convinced that desensitization works with horses. Just because they get used to one tarp blowing in the wind doesn't mean they get used to every tarp blowing in the wind. Every time my neighbors move something around in their yard, it takes my horses days, weeks, sometimes even months before I can ride them past the "new" item without them spooking.

It must be hard being a prey animal that always thinks something is out to get it. All I know is that sometimes I just want to ride without the hassle of a spook, especially when I haven't ridden in a while and am too out-of-shape to hang on.

9 comments:

fernvalley01 said...

Bombay sounds like a good boy overall. Glad you got a ride in

Stephanie said...

Glad you were able to get in a little saddle time!
Very interesting post... I have often thought about how well desensitization training works myself. In my mind I think it does actually help but that I must be percieving things quite differently then the horses do. It makes me wonder how much worse they would be with the neighbors flying tarps (and they sure do have alot of them lying around!!) if they had not gotten used to the one covering your hay?

sending you thoughts of good weather :)

lytha said...

i was under baasha today trimming his feet when he flinched and snorted and i saved myself just in time as he spun around in a circle to see wth is going on in #72, the hippy lot. the lady had shown up and was rearranging the canvas sheets she is using as rain shelters for her parties. these are suspended from the trees above, and stretched over her "sweat lodge" too. just like your neighbor's random, moving tarps, this was challenging for us.

i thought your horses would be desensitized, but i guess they cannot be if the neighbors are always throwing something new at you!

~lytha

Maery Rose said...

Glad you were able to get out and ride some and it went fairly well. My ring is dry enough I just haven't been able to find any time.

I think desensitizing helps in that the spooks aren't quite as big. But when the stimulus changes, at least for my two, they will get wary about it. My dog has done her best to sack out my horses by running around them with a big white plastic bag that makes a lot of noise. Now they just look and must think, "Oh, it's just her." and then go back to their hay. But I imagine they will still find spooks in the woods on the first ride.

Katharine Swan said...

I think desensitization works -- to a point. Your example of the tarps is interesting. However, I suspect that the spooks would be worse if they weren't already desensitized to your tarp. I think what desensitization and training do is to help them to re-engage their brains faster after something scary happens -- I think that's why, after you've been working with Bombay a while, he just jumps instead of bolting. Even though he's initially scared, he's thinking about it before the flight instinct takes over. But desensitization is only half of it -- you also need regular work and training, which is I think why you have more problems this time of year.

Sydney said...

Good you got a ride in. Have you considered the tarps the horses are seeing are different colours? I wrote a blog post about buckets and colour but the colour can apply to anything a horse sees that he may not spook at when it's one colour but may at another. http://www.bitlesshorseblog.com/2010/03/science-vs-tradition-great-bucket.html

JeniQ said...

Saddle time! Love it!

Paint Girl said...

I also think desensitization works to a certain extent. I can do desensitization work with my horses at home, but once I hit the trail, nope, new area, new spooks. So in essence it works, but than again, it doesn't.
I would hate to have neighbor vehicles with tarps parked all over. What a pain. One of my neighbors is retired and he is always out doing something, on his tractor going through the bushes on the property line, even his grandson plays in a band in their shop so I have loud music and drums going all summer long. Thank goodness my horses don't care!
Glad you got to get a ride in!!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'm glad you got some riding time in....but were able to hold on. whew!

I agree about the densitization stuff. And it reminds me also of what Clinton Anderson said. "When you own one horse, you actually own two, in terms of training. Everything you do to the horse on one side, you must also do on the other side, too"

And this seems to apply to objects and sounds they are exposed to, too. If it's something you expose a horse to in the confines of your home, it doesn't mean that same object or sound, exposed to your horse in a different environment, will be aproached by your horse in the same way.
And even that same object or sound on your own property, sitting in place, can spook a horse, if it is moved....even if only 10 feet in a different location.

It would be interesting to see what your herd would do, if you took the tarps off the hay and set them up on top of your RV...or your car....or along the fence line. I bet it would be like a completely bran new scary monster....er...tarp.
lol!

You know.....my llamas never spook at anything. I mean nothing at all. I take them for walks everywhere...and if something looks weird, they want to walk right up to it and look at it. They don't bolt, teleport, or freak out.

Too bad llamas aren't really big or strong enough to be ridden. I've often thought it would be cool to have a camel to ride. They are very comfy...well at least until they start running, or so I've heard (from Mike Rowe's Dirty Job's Camel Farm Episode). lol!


~Lisa