Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gabbrielle's Progress

I admit it. Last night I was thumbing through a newspaper for horse lovers, reading all the ads for horse trainers and considering shipping Gabbrielle off for professional training. It's not that I don't think I can do it myself. Training a horse under saddle from scratch is my dream. It's just that I've been so discouraged between my work schedule, the weather and the neighbors... especially the neighbors.

Gabbrielle really needs to be ridden every day, not once every few weeks on a Sunday morning when the annoying neighbors are at church, the weather is good, and I don't have to put in overtime at the office. This morning I kept walking outside for an under saddle lesson with Gabbrielle, and the neighbors were out there standing against my fence with a guest staring into the back of a trailer for two-hours straight. The little boy was also playing against my fence line. I started praying that they would leave for church. (I know, ironic, isn't it?) They finally left, though later than normal.

I went outside and started saddling up Gabbrielle only to hear a loud noise behind me that spooked the horse. I turned to find that even though my neighbors left for church, their guest was still on their property, and he was moving junk from the trailer to a jeep. The thought of shipping my horse off for professional training creeped back into my mind. If I lose these Sunday mornings for training a green horse...

I know that everyone says that all these noises and distractions are good for desensitizing the horses, and I agree wholeheartedly. However, it's hard enough training a young horse from scratch without the spooks and distractions. I need to be able to concentrate, the horse needs to be able to concentrate, and I really do not want broken bones or a concussion this early on in the riding season. If I get hurt, she won't get trained. Period. All my money will go into hospital bills and I won't be able to afford a trainer.

I'd rather play it safe and just not try to train a green horse under saddle with loud crashes going on around us and a young child running around yelling. As soon as that kid comes out of the house, Gabbrielle starts galloping around snorting with her head up in the air and her tail over her back. I don't want to ride a horse who is in a wild state of mind. Gabbrielle is a kid who feeds off the energy of kids. So, you can see why I am not happy about a kid moving in next door. (By the way, I heard the kid call the couple Grandma and Grandpa, so apparently he is a family member and they are not opening a foster home.)

As far as the two older horses go, I'm always desensitizing them. It's just that I need some time to gain a solid seat after not riding all winter before trying out some of the more hardcore spooks.

So, I lunged Gabbrielle while I waited for the man to finish moving his junk between trailer and jeep. He finally started up his jeep and I rejoiced in his leaving, but all he did was drive over to another vehicle and start transferring junk out of it. Although, I have to say that Gabbrielle did a way better job of focusing on me than Lostine did the day before at the Fairgrounds.

When the man finally left, I mounted with the intention of trotting her under saddle for the first time, but discovered that she was still quite confused about steering. She's a pro at walk and whoa, but trying to get her to walk in a straight line, stay to the outside on the railing, and turn on command was a nightmare. I'd pull the rein to the right and she'd throw her head around and spin in a tight circle to the left. I could see that she was going to harden her own mouth by fighting the reins so much, so I knew I had to figure out a different way of steering her and only use the reins as backup.

When she came off the railing, I bumped her back over to it with my heel. She understood that. Each time she moved in the direction I wanted, I released the pressure and stroked her neck. If I wanted to turn her, I laid my inside leg against her in the direction I wanted her to turn, and I just held the inside rein steady. She understood that. I didn't want to push her up to the trot until we worked out a clear style of communication regarding steering.

I believe that a horse will tell you how she wants to be steered and Gabbrielle was clearly preferring my leg cues over my reins cues. That's fine. I don't care how we get there as long as we get there. In order to prepare for the trot, I posted at the walk to get her used to my seat coming up out of the saddle. I suspect that her trot will be very uncomfortable looking at the way she moves from the ground, and it will be necessary for me to post. However, I don't want to move her up to the trot and just start pumping myself up and down and take her by surprise.

All was going well until a couple of kids came along on ATVs, riding illegally on road in front of my house with traffic. Sure enough, they turned up my street to get away from all those cars despite my PRIVATE DRIVE signs. Folks, if you let your kids ride the highways on their ATVs, first check to make sure it is legal, teach them the rules of the road, teach them about safety, and please tell them to stay away from people riding horses. Not every horse grew up on a farm with ATVs. Gabbrielle started getting fidgety so I called it a day. She was doing so well that I wanted to end the lesson on a positive note before those kids on ATVs caused a wreck.

Overall, Gabbrielle did a fantastic job, going from not understanding a thing about steering to being a really good listener and providing me with the appropriate responses to my leg cues. I actually feel more comfortable riding this 5-year-old greenie than I do riding my 22-year-old mare Lostine.

Afterward, Gabbrielle got her carrots and a bath. Would you just look at that clean mane? Isn't it the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?

Ahhhhh, I can just smell the cleanliness.

Gabbrielle felt like a fashion model with her hair blowing in the wind.

On another note, my son and I went out looking for a letterbox left by someone from Washington state who found my letterbox and left one behind for me to find. We did find it and had to stop for gas on our way back home. I took this picture out the car window...

It's a d... er, no, it's a hoof.


Leah Fry said...

Good job communicating with Gabbrielle. I could really relate to this, because that's what we're working on with Poco at Heather's. More after my blog-cation. Don't forget to comment for the 300th post giveaway - maybe lightning will strike twice in the same place!

Paint Girl said...

I get frustrated too with distractions while working with Chance. My OH wanted to weed eat while I brought Chance out and lunged her. I said no way! It is hard enough getting their attention, especially at that young age and I didn't want any other distractions. Although I don't mind the distractions with my other 2 horses, it is good for them. They have learned to concentrate on me and not the noises.
That is great that Gabbrielle started to understand what you were asking of her. Her mane looks very pretty all clean!!

Katharine Swan said...

Well, my comment about the noise at the fairgrounds is (in my mind) a completely different thing than noise at home. Some noise at home is unavoidable, but honestly, it sounds like your neighbors are over the top -- and I would say that whether or not horses were involved. I get annoyed when kids ride those little motorized scooter/skateboard things down our street, so I would be PISSED about the ATVs -- whether or not I was trying to ride at the time. It's just plain rude.

I believe in riding through things and not waiting for it to be "perfect," but I also believe that neighbors ought to be respectful. That doesn't mean perfect silence, but your neighbors are beyond any reasonable amount of noise and intrusiveness. You shouldn't have had to go to the fairgrounds to escape them -- I forgot to take that into account when I wrote that comment. If I made you feel bad, I'm sorry -- I honestly did not mean to.

Dreaming said...

Ohhh, your thoughts are so in line with mine that it's scary! I don't have the distractions, but I sometimes feel that I am so out of shape that I am totally messing Pippin up. I haven't been trotting him much, so now, when I ask he ducks to one side, I wobble, which then causes him to be unbalanced. So, I've had the same trainer thoughts. I could have, and did, train a horse years and years ago...but maybe I need to call in aIt sounds like even with the distractions you did get some things sorted out.

Breathe said...

I think it's challenging to focus on your task - let alone have a predator tuned horse focus. The level of distraction you have to deal with is way over the top.

That said, congratulations on all you accomplished with Gabrielle. I think you should stick with it, because what you REALLY want is to start her yourself anyway. The fact that it'll take longer due to the challenges is just part of the road you're on.. Just one woman's humble opinion. :)

I bet Mr. Dickerhoof had a lovely time in middle school.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Leah - Thanks for reminding me.

Paint Girl - Yeah, the one time Gabbrielle bolted with me on her back, it was caused by my own husband starting up the lawn mower in the back yard.

Katharine - Your comment was the most recent along those lines, but a lot of people have commented that I should just view all the activity as an opportunity for training and desensitization. I'm very happy to accept all the desensitization opportunities, but sometimes prefer for them to not happen while I'm on the horse's back. I felt it was time to address where I draw my lines.

I have a good sense for what kind of activities cause my horses to spook and which ones don't. For instance, my son can dribble a basketball and shoot hoops, banging the basketball against the backboard, and the horses totally tune it out. Anything rhythmic is not a problem. Like once the lawnmower is going, it's not a problem, but if the horse doesn't know you are about to start up the lawnmower, it's taken by surprise. It's the sudden noises, the predatory behavior of people sneaking around, children running, trucks roaring up from behind us, engines changing pitch, air brakes, dogs bounding up from behind a horse to nip at their heels...

Dreaming - Yeah, I guess the one positive thing about so much time passing between my training sessions is that it gives me time to really think about what worked and what didn't work, and then make a game plan to fix it. I don't think things are ever going to go smoothly when training your own horse, and trainers can make just as many mistakes. I think if you recognize the problems, you are one step ahead of the game.

Breathe - That's a good point of view. I'll try to remember that. Yes, I still have some juvenile humor. I wish Mr. Dickerhoof were a farrier instead of a Realtor, because then I could say to him, "Stop dickering around with that hoof."

Katharine Swan said...

Well, on one hand, yes, those things do help with desensitization. However, they are 1) getting on YOUR nerves, and 2) out of your control. Desensitization works much better when you have some control over the situation initially, so that you can introduce your horse to it SLOWLY. Going to the fairgrounds would be a great way to desensitize if that's why you were actually going, rather than going to get AWAY from your crazy neighbors and neighborhood! Like I said, I forgot to take into account that you don't have an ideal riding environment at home, and thought about the fairgrounds how I would handle it -- but it's different for me, because I can choose to go somewhere with the intention of desensitizing him, which puts my expectations in a very different light.

I do have to say, though, that I think desensitization work is never complete until its done with the horse being ridden. I think horses tend to me more scared of stuff when they have a rider; my theory is that it's because they know they don't have as much control over the situation (such as the ability to flee).

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Funny sign!

Sounds like a breakthrough with Gabbrielle. But don't feel bad about considering sending Gabbrielle to be finished under saddle by a professional trainer.
Only you know what you're able and capable of accomplishing and you won't do Gabbrielle any favors if you're too busy, too stressed, and both of you are too distracted.
Just do what you feel is right for pressures.

Either way, you do know now what Gabbrielle responds well to, so that you can work with her while communicating more clearly.
Good for you!


fernvalley01 said...

Good work with Gabrielle. I am not sure what to say about the constant distractions , I have had my own husband or dad pull some unique stunts when I am riding /schooling a greenie includinf slamming the hood down on an old "67 ford 1 ton (big boom!) or come flyingf up to me on the quad. Honestly the horse did fine (i nearly had a stroke )but I found my irritation realy impacted the horse. The problem with that is I would be wildy irritated by all you have to deal with and we all know how horses feed of us . So all things considered I think you are doing well

Rebecca said...

You can try ground driving her to teach steering. That is really what worked for my youngin'. Once I taught it from the ground, he had no problem picking it up from the saddle. :)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Rebecca - That was one point I meant to make, but forgot. I've been ground driving her for three years, so you'd think she'd pick up on it right away from the saddle, but for some reason it didn't translate.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

It sounds like Gabbrielle is already more level headed than Lostine. Age is not a guarantee that a horse will settle down. Some never do. Some are always quiet. All horses are different. It sounds like you've got Gabbrielle working well so you should be proud of that. Don't feel bad if you decide to send her to a trainer, there are a lot of good reasons for that decision- neighbors, time, etc. However, if you can be satisfied with slower progress, it sounds like you are making the right moves. I sometimes wonder what I've got myself in for with a yearling, at my age- AND three other horses! I do believe I am insane, or will be soon, if not maimed or dead. lol.

I love that sign!!

Rebecca said...

LOL Glad to hear you too ground drive. :) I'm sure you will find what works for her! Good luck, especially with those neighbors!