Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturday Ride at Anywhere But Home

I knew I wanted to ride Lostine, because she's been the most neglected lately. She put up her annual first-trailer-ride-out-of-the-year fight. She's really good about trailering. She just won't let me catch her and get her boots on. That's an hour-long process in itself.

I had planned to go on a trail ride at the canyon, but my riding partner had to cancel, so I opted to go to the Fairgrounds. When I arrived, there were a few horse trailers scattered about, so I asked a lady if there was going to be a show. She said they were just finishing up a barrel race. This was at 9:30 in the morning. I gotta hand it to those barrel racers. They are tough. I can only imagine how early they had to be out there to be done with the event by 9:30 AM.

Anyway, I checked to make sure I wouldn't be in anyone's way if I used the arena, and she said not at all and to help myself. There was a motocross race going on across the street and it was fairly loud. I got there toward the beginning when a lot of motorcyclists seemed to be tuning up their engines by revving them. There were also people flying model airplanes over us. Lostine was mesmerized by all the buzzing and roaring coming from the other side of the road and overhead.

I lunged her while she got used to her surroundings. There were volunteers from the animal shelter walking dogs past us and barrel racers still riding their horses around us. Trucks hauling horse trailers were driving past. It was a lot to take in for her, especially on the first ride out of the year.

I was shocked to find a couple of ticks crawling on her. We hadn't walked past any bushes, so I have no idea where they came from. I sprayed them before they could dig in and start sucking her blood, and they fell off her.

Mounting was a pain. First she wouldn't let me catch her, then she wouldn't let me put her boots on, then she wouldn't let me put the saddle on, and finally she refused to let me mount. Each time I put my foot in the stirrup, she moved off, ignoring all of my rein pressure. So, I had to lunge her some more to get her to respect me. Each time I got her set up to mount, some big truck would roar past us and she'd scoot away from me, acting like she was scared of the truck, but really just trying to get out of work.

A bunch of people were sitting at picnic tables on each side of my arena watching me, and they must have thought I was the biggest chicken because it was taking me so dang long to mount. I do feel jealous of people who own push-button horses that just cooperate with everything. A little girl was trotting around bareback on a horse while I was struggling to simply keep my foot in the stirrup while Lostine did a dance. But then I have to remind myself that it is all these struggles that make me a better horsewoman. I can't learn without the challenges.

Lostine was all keyed up with no place to go, so when I finally did swing into the saddle, she took off, totally ignoring my cues to stop. Usually, we put pressure on a horse by making it go, and then we release the pressure by allowing it to stop and rest. However, in this case, Lostine had so much energy that the reward was to go and the pressure involved forcing her to walk or stop and stand still. So, I let her go and hung on while she ran around like a nutcase.

Then I put pressure on her to walk, stop, back up, turn. She was reacting to every little noise in the environment. If the noise was behind her, she bolted, so I had to turn her to face it before it happened. I had to keep an eye out for people slamming trailer doors shut, and turn her before the noise reached her. As long as she saw what was making the noise, she was okay.

Bombay's nemesis, the dreaded water truck, kept racing up and down the road beside us doing its duty between the barrel racing arena and the motocross track. I had just pulled out my video camera to film myself riding when the water truck made another pass. I swung the camera toward it while turning Lostine to face it. Right then a big truck hauling a huge horse trailer started up its engine and started moving out behind us, so I had to spin her around that way to face it. We were going in circles so she could keep an eye on both trucks.

I spent a little bit of time attempting some dressage, and found it really difficult to keep her moving in a straight line. She kept running sideways to get away from certain noises. I just worked on keeping her mind on the tasks at hand, but the distractions were winning. The wind started picking up (as you can tell by the video) and Lostine was starting to view me as a pesky fly on her back, swishing her tail angrily and stomping her feet, so I decided 2 hours was enough. I took her home and gave her a bath....

...which she also hated. Note how much of our mountains of D.G. have been spread.

In a couple more weeks I should have my RV lane back, so I can park my trailer in its old spot. The way I keep the horses clean is by feeding them immediately after washing them. They won't walk away from their food to take a dirt bath. By the time they are done eating, they're dry and they can roll all they want.

While I was washing Lostine, my nosy neighbor came out of his house and tried to spy on me through the leaves of a tree. He stood there behind that tree for a good ten minutes, and then pulled up a chair and sat down facing me to watch the show. The woman had taken the kid somewhere, so at least I didn't have to deal with him. It really doesn't matter. If anyone at all is home next door, they are outside and in my business within seconds of my arrival in my yard. It's like anyone who enters that house is infected with the desire to observe my every move as closely as possible. I'm thinking of buying them either a telescope or a pair of binoculars so that they can watch me more closely from inside their house. At least then I can work with my horses without them being distracted. On the other hand, are my neighbors really any worse than all the distractions at the Fairgrounds? I'm thinking a trail ride would have been more relaxing for both Lostine and me.


Breathe said...

I hear you, we had our share on the trail too - riding lawn mowers, charging dogs, people under the hood of their trucks...

Good for you sticking it out! I've come to believe every ride makes a difference. Even the ones that aren't as peaceful as you'd hoped.

How far are the fairgrounds?

Katharine Swan said...

You know, I think you may be putting too much emphasis on the "perfect" riding environment. You're never going to have perfect silence while you ride, and wanting it all the time only makes you frustrated. Besides, seeing/hearing trucks and other loud sounds is something your horses will need to be used to no matter where you ride.

Rather than expecting Lostine to freak, and turning her to face all the sounds, I think you ought to expect her to keep working and keep her attention on you. My trainer always tells me to tighten up the inside rein if I think he's going to shy away from something on the rail -- it prevents him from being able to bolt through that rein. Speaking from experience, working through distractions is a difficult skill and will take some time to achieve, but one day they'll just get it and it'll be like riding a different horse!

I love the video from Lostine's back, by the way. You are braver than I! Dropping the camera is a major fear of mine -- I worry that Panama will spook while I have only one hand on the reins. LOL

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I wish I could take you out to Cedar Hill Farm with me when I ride. Since it's private land, it's always quiet, peaceful without trucks, ATVs, bikes, loose dogs, wierdos (well, unless you count me and my riding pals. lol!), and we just have a great time out there.
The 400+ acres is varied terrain, so there is always something to challenge you and your horse's skills, and there's an eventing field for jumping and even more skills to be tested.

I agree with you, though, that your backyard and the fairgrounds are probably not what you are really wanting.

On your days off, you want to enjoy yourself...and how fun is it to feel like a spectacle with strangers watching and judging you. And all those unnatural sounds and sights aren't fun for you or your horse.

We're you able to just release Lostine in that arena and let her run and chase her around before you rode her? I bet she would enjoy that and it would also serve as a great distraction for her to refocus back on you instead.

Apache dislikes working in an arena and round pen. I can feel that she is bored, annoyed and disinterested. (Just like me) But out on the trail, she is alive and willing and her attitude is so positive(Just like me, too). Which as you probably remember is so much different than Baby Doll. She didn't like the trails and would rather be back at the barn or in an arena or round pen.

You already know that your horses enjoy going out on the trails and being out in nature. You've had a few enjoyable trail rides with them. I hope you are able to figure out a way to make that work for you again soon.