Monday, May 31, 2010

Swingin' From the Rafters

Lisa posted about taking Apache through a "vine simulator" obstacle, which is basically a bunch of hanging twine, with the purpose of desensitizing your horse to approaching strange objects and moving through them without being concerned about all those strings touching its body. That's one exercise I've been meaning to do for years. Not only did I need to make more room in my tack room by getting rid of oodles of twine, but I was curious as to how my horses would react.

I hung the twine from the barn overhang rafter while the horses were busy eating lunch, otherwise they would try to knock down the ladder while I'm on it. Hanging fly traps every summer takes two -- one to hang the fly traps and one to distract the horses so that they don't try to knock down the ladder and the person hanging the fly traps. They are such characters.

When I finished hanging the vines, I went inside the house and got busy with the next series of chores. When I came out later to start the desensitization lesson, I found the horses eating the hanging vines as if they were spaghetti. Not good. One of the first things my mentor taught me was to always clean your twine up off the ground, because if the horses swallow it, twine will do a number on their intestines. You may even find yourself paying out your life savings for surgery to save your horse's life.

So, I knew I had to do the desensitization exercise, take some pictures, and tear it down as soon as I'm done. I haltered Bombay first, led him right at the hanging twine, pulled some aside for him for pass through, and he walked right through. Going in the other direction, I cracked a whip behind him to encourage in to push through it on his own, and he did. We walked through together several more times, and since he seemed so unconcerned about it, I released him.

Next I caught Gabbrielle. She was a little nervous, but did everything I asked. By the end of her session I could tell she was having fun. She's always up for new games.

Lostine did not want to do this exercise at all. I spent more time chasing her down with the halter than actually leading her back and forth through the twine. Unfortunately, she had a bad experience on her second attempt. Two pieces of twine got caught around her neck, and when she pushed forward to break free, the twine broke and snapped up hitting the roof and making a big bang. I ended up having to pass her through several more times until she relaxed and trusted that it wasn't a strangler. I suspected something like that might happen because I put the twine so close together.

Gabbrielle got obsessed with the hanging vines and started experimenting with various ways to play with them. I got some hysterically funny shots of her antics that I will post later under my humor label with silly captions. Eventually, the horses started walking through the vines on their own without any encouragement from me. It was like they were saying, "I'm braver than you. Check me out."

Each time I brought out my camera, Bombay and Gabbrielle competed for my attention. When I was photographing Gabbrielle, Bombay came up from behind me, bit the waist of my jacket and pulled it up over my head! I had better not let him get a hold of my underwear.

While I was photographing Bombay while sitting on the salt block, Gabbrielle started licking my jeans as if I were part of the salt lick. Eventually, she found it and started licking the salt block as I sat on it taking pictures of Bombay. I just sat there hoping she wouldn't bite my butt.

My photography sessions had to be broken up throughout the afternoon, because each time I went outside, my annoying neighbors came out and started doing something to distract the horses. The little boy who has been staying with them all weekend kept coming out and riding his scooter or running the dog back and forth behind my barn, and the horses would all run over to the fence to greet him. I figured his grandmother sent him out to do her dirty deed of spying and eavesdropping. They had visitors coming and going all afternoon. It was really frustrating tying to keep the horses attention on the hanging vines with cars and people showing up every few minutes.

These photos were taken with a telephoto lens so that I didn't have to move in so close as to disturb them during their horseplay. Even though I didn't get to ride on Monday, I had a lot of fun photographing the horses' shenanigans.



Breathe said...

I'm impressed how much fun you can have with string!

They did so well, it's time to book that trip to the amazon. :)

Vaquerogirl said...

What a great idea! Those were some of the most interesting pictures I've seen ! Loved them! I wonder what else would work for vines?

fernvalley01 said...

Looks like they had fun . That Gabrielle has the sweetest face! And Bombay! But I am partial to red heads ,and I love the elegant Lostine

Laura said...

Cool! What a funny bunch you have. Always posing for pictures. :-)

Your pictures are always good, but I have noticed a huge improvement lately... Must be that course!!! The pics today were fantastic!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

That looks like fun! I should try it. I have tons and tons of haystrings.

JeniQ said...

Great fun!!! I've made similar type obstacles but with pool noodle thingies. They are thicker and heavier and sway back and forth.

I love your multi-coloured twine. Our twin is boring brown or bright orange.

Dreaming said...

What a fabulous idea. Too bad they wanted to eat it. I bet it would make a good fly swisher!
I bet if I tried it Pippin would be trying to eat it. He chewed up a plastic bag that I tied on the paddock railing. Luckily he spit it least most of it!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You know I meant to tell you and others that the day after I worked with her in the pasture, I went up there in the morning, and Apache purposefully walked through the vine simulator towards me, when she could have easily gone around either of the trees that I tied it to. It was as if she was showing off, like, "See Mom, no biggie" lol!

I plan on keeping up my vines for a long while, though, so we can ride through them and work our way through all the obstacles I have planned. She doesn't bother with them or try to eat them, though. Probably because she has so many other interesting things to explore in her almost 2 acre pasture area.
You took some amazing photos, and I really mean it. Your photography shows a patience and a good eye that only comes from experience and passion for good lighting, angles and subject matter.

Really really nice, NM.


Cheryl Ann said...

What a great idea and fun! I need to do that with mine. Beautiful pics!