Monday, June 14, 2010

Oh Weekend Glorious Weekend

I got to go outside in my pajamas this weekend to feed the horses first thing each morning, I got to train Gabbrielle without distractions, I got to talk to the horses and be silly with them, and I got to ride them all I wanted on my property. Why? My nosy, annoying neighbors left town for a vacation! In all the years they've lived next door to me, they've only taken a vacation once that I am aware of.

Usually, they won't leave their house for more than 10 minutes at a time, with the exception of Sunday mornings. Sometimes I wonder if they worry that their house might be robbed if they leave it for too long. I have never figured out where they could go and be back within 10 minutes, because the nearest set of businesses are a 10 minute drive one way. Then if you consider the amount of time it takes to wait in line and drive back home, they should be gone for at least half an hour. I've always suspected they might be driving to someone else's house to let their dog out to do its business, since I am adamant about giving them the stink eye each time they start to walk their dog over to my place.

It was rather strange, because I was re-wrapping Bombay's leg when I heard my friend calling out to me and saw her standing in my annoying neighbors' yard with their dog on a leash. I had to do a double-take. I walked over to the fence to greet her, and she said she was taking care of their dog while they are away. I found out from her when they would be back and I immediately began plotting my "sick day" so that I could make the best of their absence by training Gabbrielle.

I mentioned to my friend that now I can finally really start training Gabbrielle under saddle with them away on vacation. I told her how every time I saddle her up, the man comes outside and starts up some construction project and the woman comes out and starts slamming doors. She let out a sigh of exasperation and said she can hear the racket all the way over at her place too. She offered to let me train Gabbrielle over there when the annoying neighbors are getting under my skin.

Saturday's lesson with Gabbrielle was rough. I worked with her so much on steering from the ground that she quit moving forward. Each time I clucked and squeezed my legs, she'd spin fairly quickly and so tight that she'd get off balance. I had to stop clucking and release my legs so we wouldn't fall. Unfortunately, by releasing the pressure, I was telling her that she was making the right move, so she just kept spinning every time I urged her forward.

She's trying really hard, but she always takes the last thing I taught her and generalizes it to every cue. She hadn't figured out yet that each movement has a different cue.

While I was riding Gabbrielle, Bombay got himself cornered. He was trying to figure out how to get out, so he stepped backwards into a food trough. He put a second hoof in, then a third. I was thinking, "Oh no. Once he figures out that he's in that slippery food trough, he's going to explode. Hopefully, Gabbrielle won't follow suit."

Bombay took a flying leap out of the food trough, knocking the rocks I use to hold it down all over the place and causing a big crash, and then he took off running. Fortunately, Gabbrielle remembered that I was on her back and didn't get excited about the incident. I think all the work I've done over the past couple of years to separate the horses from time to time has helped cut down on that herd mentality of fleeing together. Now if only I can get my dogs to stop barking together. Monty has gone completely senile and just sits on the back patio barking at nothing, which sets Midge off.

Sunday's lesson with Gabbrielle involved the rearing incident I previously wrote about. Monday we had a big breakthrough. First, I lunged her to limber her up. She does appear to be stiff when I first work with her. Then I ground drove her with the bit in her mouth, and explained to her that it's no different from when I use the reins from the saddle. She gave me her sweet, doughy-eyed look like she understood.

I mounted while my son removed the step stool from the round pen. She was steering to the right, but not to the left. I started thinking about how when I ground drive her, the long reins are lower than the short reins when I pull on them. So, I tried lowering the left rein and pulling it back down by her wither, and she finally started turning left without a fight. In a few minutes we were putting it all together: Walk, turn right, turn left, and whoa.

Lostine and I got into a bit of a brawl. Two redheads in a fight is a merciless and stubborn thing. I was trying to saddle her up for a ride around the property, but because I had pulled the trailer out, she assumed I was going to load her in the trailer and drag her out to the dreadful Fairgrounds. So, she kept throwing her shoulder and hip into me, trying to knock me down. She kept trying to step on my feet. Each time she did that I'd step on hers and beat her to the punch. When she threw her hip into me, it connected with my right hook or a girly slap. I was just saying the other day that I don't beat my horses, but if they try to beat me up, I will defend myself.

It took a while, but I eventually got her tacked up. Then we had to go through the rigmarole of her stepping back or away each time I tried to mount. I must have worked with her for half and hour just trying to get her to hold still. Once I was on her back, everything was fine. We had a blast chasing Bombay and Gabbrielle around each time they tried to tip over my step stool or run off with my lead rope. Despite her intense aversion to leaving the property and being ridden, Lostine would make a great ranching horse, because she can assist in opening and closing gates, repairing fences and herding animals around. You would just need to silently lower her rider into the saddle with crane before she realizes what is happening and can start a fuss.

Bombay had some bed rest after his trailer accident. He was really good about not trying to tear off his leg dressings. However, when I cleaned his wound, he got fussy. At one point I walked behind him carrying a bucket of soap and water, and he very deliberately lifted a hind leg to kick me. I yelled, "NO!" the second I realized his intentions, so he just kept the hoof poised in the air but didn't strike out. Speaking of strikes, he has two strikes against him now, because he also bucked and kicked out at me while I was lunging him in the round pen, because he didn't want to go on the trail ride. It's tough changing the horses' routine. They get spoiled being at home all winter and put up quite a fight once the weather clears up and I want to take them out somewhere.

I hope they get over their reluctance to leave the property and start learning to enjoy these outings. They were good about going out by the end of last summer. It just takes a lot of work and body armor to get them off the property in the spring and at the beginning of summer.


fernvalley01 said...

Great breakthrough with Gabrielle! She sounds like a doll. Lostine sounds so similar to an old mare I knew as a kid . Maybe its a "redhead thing " Satin was a chestnut as well. Glad you got to sneak in a good weekend away from the crazy neighbors

Sydney_bitless said...

Wooo hoo! Finally on vacation.

Indigo had some spring fever and attitude. Then I made my stone boat a couple weeks ago and put her big spotty arse to work. Shes seriously the smartest. She figured out, now on day two that when I say woah shes gotta stop cause walking and stand stock still until I say so because walking involves pulling the stone boat with 200+ pounds of rocks on it. Standing is a lot easier. It takes most horses weeks, months, years, NEVER to learn that. She learned it in two days of hard work. Smarty pants I tell ya.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Yay, you're neighbors are gone!

Enjoy every wonderful, blissful second!

Maybe those creepy people were burglars and were planning on breaking into your neighbor's house while they were away??

Yay for the breakthrough with Gabbrielle, too!


word verification: steed

Gabbrielle is going to be your trusty steed one day.

Breathe said...

A WHOLE WEEK? OMG. I believe we should have a blog party or something.

I'm thrilled that you are getting some quality time in with Gabrielle, I'll bet things will come together as you get a few days in a row working...

To some degree we all have a tough time getting out of our routines, don't we? I imagine it's even more hardwired with horses...