Monday, April 19, 2010

Gabbrielle's First Ride of 2010

Between the weather and the neighbors, I thought it would never happen, but I finally got to restart Gabbrielle under saddle after many false starts last year thwarted by a series of injuries that put her on the bench for the season. The neighbors with the loud machinery finally shut it down and restored peace to the neighborhood on Sunday afternoon.

I found that she's developing a pissy attitude about having her cinch tightened, so I had to take that step extra slow. I even went so far as to hand her a peppermint to distract her each time I tightened it.

I lunged her in a saddle that had a horn bag attached, because I wanted her to get used to the rustling noise and the feeling of things shaking around in a bag on her back. She handled it really well. However, when I moved her up to the lope, the bag came untied on one side and started flying up into the air, so I stopped her to remove it.

I had asked my husband to come out to remove the step stool from the round pen once I mounted, because Gabbrielle thinks she has to stay by it so I can get off. When I mounted, Gabbrielle was a bit wiggy, so I asked my husband to just lead us around for a little bit.

She was being stubborn at first, refusing to move forward. Then she resorted to trying to bite my husband as he led her. I corrected her for that in my big bad no-no voice and she didn't try it again. Once I felt she was responding to walk and stop on the lead rope, I had my husband detach the lead rope and take the step stool out of the round pen.

At first she had no steering, but caught on to my leg and rein cues pretty quick. I had to break her of the habit of backing up when I squeezed my legs. I had inadvertently taught her to back up when I squeezed my legs, because I wanted to reward her for any movement at all by releasing my legs when I first started training her. Unfortunately, her first movements were always backwards, so I released my squeeze to say, "Good, you moved."

However, she was moving in the wrong direction, so I knew I had to fix that by continuing to squeeze until she moved forward. It worked. After each stop, she'd take less and less steps backwards before moving forwards.

I was also surprised to learn that she didn't understand whoa from the saddle. She is so good about stopping immediately when I say whoa from the ground. The word isn't any different from the saddle, but for some reason she ignored me when I said it from the saddle. I tried sitting back while saying whoa, but she still wouldn't stop, so I had to resort to tugging on the reins until she stopped, and then releasing them.

We just practiced stop and go forward, stop and go forward over and over. At one point I was squeezing her forward and she did a pirouette. I was a little scared and feeling off balance, but I knew I had to keep squeezing until I got the correct response, which is to move forward. We spun in a tight circle a couple of times and then she moved out and we both relaxed.

She only had one big spook, and that was my fault. When the horses spook, I react by sucking in a breath really fast and audibly. Of course, I'm spooking at their spook, not at anything outside of us, but it reinforces the horses' belief that something scary is going on. Unfortunately, I also suck in my breath really fast and audibly when I am about to voice my excitement about something. Gabbrielle had just done something really good and I inhaled to praise her. She bolted and nearly bowled my husband over. She didn't get far, but it is a bit intimidating that this horse can go from 0 to 60 in one second. The G-forces are incredible, so I have to be conscious of squeezing with my thighs and knees to hang on at all times.

Here she is shaking it off after our ride.

I thanked her for not doing this while I was on her back this time. In the picture below you can see that she managed to shake her saddle sideways, because one stirrup is hanging a lot lower than the other. She's in a stage of growth in which her back is very round, so it doesn't hold a saddle well. I also didn't want to tighten the cinch too much, because that would only add to her anxiety.

I just wish I could get more than a couple of days off from work, so that I can keep up her training on a daily basis instead of just on the weekends.


Sydney said...

Most horses respond to your body language when you say woah, or they are watching your body language and associate it with the word woah. Had the same thing with the two year old I am training right now to drive.

Dreaming said...

Oh, how exciting! I know you must be thrilled to finally have everything just right for a ride.
It sounds like you made great small steps forward. Hooray!

fernvalley01 said...

Yay for you and GAbrielle! sounds like she is remembering most of what you taught her.

Maery Rose said...

Good for you for getting out on Gabrielle. It is so tough to keep going consistently when you have one of those darn job thingamajigs. I hope you're able to pull it off. I think the biggest thing is overcoming the mindset that you always have to do a full training session every time you get the horse out. Even just 15 minutes every other day doing something just on a lead line during the week is better than only doing one big session on the weekend.

Grey Horse Matters said...

It's so nice to get out for a ride finally. I'm sure with more consistent work she'll be a superstar!

Mikey said...

Awesome!!! She is such a pretty horse. I hear ya about not having enough time to do the daily work. It's hard to find time!! And with your neighbors, quiet time, lol.

Stephanie said...

I bet it felt so good to finally get on and work with her! She really is very cute :)

I can relate to the spook thing, I try so hard not to make any reaction whatsoever but in the end it never really works unless I see the spook coming...

Cheryl Ann said...

Oh, I'm so glad you got to ride her! I only with with my horses on the weekends, too! That makes it hard.

Paint Girl said...

How exciting! I am so glad you were able to get out and work with Gabrielle! She is so pretty.
I have Chance trained very well to whoa. The minute I say it, she stops and doesn't move, even if she is freaking out about something. I sure hope that transfers to when I saddle break her!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Yay! I'm so glad you were able to fit in some saddle time with Gabbrielle. It sounds like it went well, except for the spook, but at least you stayed on and you know why she did it. She seems like one smart girl, and she's really grown up a lot, too.