Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Just Me and Gabbrielle

Since Sunday turned out to be much hotter than the forecasters predicted at a whopping 81 degrees in mid-April, I did not blanket the horses during the night. I left their blankets hanging on their stall walls.

On Monday, the third day of my vacation, I was all alone at home while my son was in school and my husband was at the office. I went outside to let the horses out of their stalls for breakfast, and this is what I found in Gabbrielle's stall...

She ripped her blanket off the wall and tore the strap and D-ring that I hang it from. Bombay did that once when he got his leg caught in a strap of the blanket, so I examined Gabbrielle for injuries, but there were none. I think she just got cold during the night and tried to put the blanket on herself. So, for now on, I have to go the extra mile and either put the blankets on the horses or remove them from their stalls.

While the horses ate their breakfast, I steam vac-ed the carpet and mopped the kitchen and dining room floors -- not exactly how I want to spend my vacation, but my job doesn't leave me much time to clean house, so I have to do some cleaning when I get time off.

When the horses finished breakfast, I hosed off and scrubbed down their blankets. Just when I was about to catch Gabbrielle for some ground work, my neighbor came out of his house, opened his garage and started his noisy routine of loading up his truck. I went inside to take care of a few more tasks, and when I went back outside, both of my neighbors were gone. Woo-hoo! That means I can work with Gabbrielle without spooks, without her being distracted, and without me feeling creeped out.

I saddled her up, spending more time on getting her past her cinchiness - another word for bitchiness when you tighten the cinch. I also spent quite a bit of time on getting her to lower her head for the bridle. I lunged her and worked on all the gaits, as well as whoa. I knew I shouldn't ride her with no one home. She doesn't even have 10-days under saddle and anything can happen, but my neighbors weren't home and I had to take advantage of it.

As soon as I put my foot in the stirrup, BLAM BLAM BLAM! My neighbor came up the street in his rickety old truck hitting every pothole along the way. "ARGH!" I said. "This man has the worst timing on earth!"

He did his usual routine of sitting in his truck for 15-minutes staring at me instead of going into his house. I really did not want to climb into the saddle only to find out that he's about to pull out his power tools or knock the aluminum ladder off the roof of his truck. I can handle Bombay and Lostine's spooks, but Gabbrielle bolts from 0 to 60 MPH in 1 second flat, and no one was home to scrape me off the dirt.

So, I took her for a walk and led her around, staying behind the barn as much as possible so that my neighbor couldn't see us. He finally lost interest and went in his house, so I led Gabbrielle through the gate of the round pen, and Bombay -- ever the perfect gentleman -- closed the gate behind us. I thanked him and latched it, and before I could have any second thoughts, I was in the saddle.

By now a wind was blowing in, announcing Tuesday's storm. This was my last chance to get some training in under saddle. Gabbrielle held still for the mount and waited for her cue to move forward. She did move forward without taking any steps back and I was ecstatic. That's really an exciting development in her training.

However, once we got moving, I was really disappointed in her steering. I'd be turning her to the left and she'd be turning to the right and vice versa. I had only spent two years ground driving this horse, so that the steering aspect would translate to the saddle. I had to lower my expectations and just be happy that she was now moving forward when I clucked my tongue and squeezed my legs and stopping when I sat back and said whoa. I didn't have to pull on the reins anymore to get a stop out of her like the day before.

Then we started having problems with the dreaded step stool again. She knows I use it to get on, so she thinks she has to stay near it so that I can get off. Not true. I never dismount onto a stool. I always dismount onto the ground, but she doesn't have enough experience under saddle yet to know that. I hate it when she straddles the stool, because a step in any direction will result in her knocking it over and possibly getting her feet tangled in the metal parts. It's a fold-up step stool. I really should get myself a solid mounting block.

So, I had to work on pushing her to the outside of the round pen with my inside leg, and holding the outside rein out to the side to open the door. As soon as she moved over to the rail, I sat deep and she halted, and got to rest. I thought I hadn't been working with her very long, but it turned out an hour and a half had passed. You should really only ride a green horse for 20 or 30-minutes at a time.

What made me dismount was the lunch hour. Around noon every day these UPS and FedEx trucks come barreling up our dirt road making a racket and totally ignoring my 10 MPH signs. I saw the FedEx truck stop at a house down the highway, and I know that one of my neighbors gets deliveries every day, so I dismounted before the truck could startle my horses.

I'm just happy that I was able to ride Gabbrielle with no major incidents, because you know that if she chose that day to buck me off, my husband would probably never let me ride alone at home again. Overall, Gabbrielle is a pretty sweet mare. I don't think she would intentionally hurt me, but she is emotional and not shy about expressing her needs. Her speed is also a bit gut-wrenching. She'll make a fantastic endurance horse some day. That's the sport she was bred for. But right now I've just got to get a routine going with her and keep the lines of communication open in both directions.


fernvalley01 said...

What a good girl, she is progressing well. I wondered about a stool or block in the pen, I am getting to the point where I need one and I guess it is a good training tool itself , but quite a distraction as well

lytha said...

oh gabbrielle is so lovely. her eyes, her muzzle are so sweet. her markings are exquisite.

i am so annoyed that you cannot have privacy in your own place. i really feel for you.

we started baasha with long lining and that translated to saddle really well, i'm wonder why she's confused about it.

do you think someday you'll do endurance? cuz it is really honestly the very best thing there is! and the horses think so too!


Paint Girl said...

I am so happy that you are getting this time to work with Gabrielle. Sounds like she is coming along nicely!
It is so hard to train a horse when there isn't much time or consistency. I can only get out once a week and work with mine. I am hoping that I will have the energy to ride/train after work. Chance really needs to be worked with more then once a week. Well, they all do really, but it is so hard!

Katharine Swan said...

It's funny to me that your horses are so focused on staying near the step stool. Panama actually would rather not go near it at all -- it concerns him that it's always in a different place. But I usually mount from the ground (one of the advantages of having a shorter horse, I suppose), so he probably doesn't associate it with mounting unless I'm riding bareback.

Lulu said...

I've been riding my youngster too, and the rule is for me not to ride when no one else is home. Yes, I break that rule often! If I had to wait for someone to be home while I have time to ride, I would never get to ride!!!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I love what Lytha said about doing Endurance. That would be so awesome if you could get one or all of your horses out to ride Endurance rides. Arabians are made perfectly for it. And you'd be able to ride with other like-minded folks, too.

Gabbrielle is gorgeous and she's coming along so nicely the more you work with her and ride her. Way to go.


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lytha and Lisa - I am more interested in endurance than in any other activities I can do with the horses, but I have to get out of my job first. At 4:00 PM on most Fridays I am given an assignment that is due by Monday, so I rarely get a free weekend. I can't make any plans because of my job. The one time I tried entering a horse in a show, my mother broke her leg, so I had to drop out to take care of her. Your life has to run smoothly and be fairly predictable to participate in such activities, and my life is just too insane. I hate to pay for something and lose the money, because some emergency at work or home popped up and I had to cancel. Plus you have to have a lot of free time to get yourself and your horse conditioned for endurance. It's really a sport for people who have someone who financially supports them. Right now I'm just struggling to be able to get a lunch hour, so that I can work out on the treadmill once a week.

lytha said...

it's true your job is way beyond hectic, but i worked 40 hour weeks and did endurance, it's possible, but not ideal. ideally you ride more than just weekends. but i managed it and basically rode almost every weekend all year long. there are lots of people who work fulltime and do endurance. it does cost a bit - i budgeted $200 per ride. half of that was gas.

now would be the perfect time for me, since i'm still unemployed. but alas, no horse, no truck, no trailer, and endurance is not the same here.

but you live in the perfect region for endurance, and have the perfect horses for it.

i hope you can find another job that gives you your freedom back.

once you try endurance, it will change your life!