Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day: When Horses Make Humans Work

This Labor Day I tried to talk my son into going to "Guinea Pig Island" on Topaz Lake to look for a freshly planted letterbox, but he said it was too cold to swim and I may as well go on a trail ride. Fine. I know when my company is not wanted. Surely Lostine will be my buddy. Wrong. Lostine refused to get in the trailer. She balked worse than Bombay.

I was like, "What is it with this trailer that freaks you horses out?"

I ran my hand along all the edges to see if there were any hidden wasp nests, but couldn't find anything about the trailer that should suddenly make the horses feel different about it. They've been trailered everywhere in this same horse trailer for nine years now. Why would it suddenly become scary to them?

After about 45 minutes of trying every technique I know, I started seeing advertisements flash before my eyes: "Three Arabian horses for sale. One trailers great, but is lame. Two won't go in the trailer. Have fun riding."

Just when I had that thought, Lostine jumped right in and we were on our way, an hour late. I was fretting over possibly not being able to find a parking spot that late in the morning, but amazingly, I was the only horseback rider there. I had the whole trailer side of the parking lot to myself.

We took our usual route and ran into two dogs on each side of us at the intersection of three paths. Lostine froze up and refused to budge. The dog owners were stepping off to the side for us since horses have the right of way, but I couldn't get Lostine to move in any direction except backwards. One dog owner was asking which way I was trying to go. I told him, but explained that she wouldn't budge. The other dog owner tried to pass Lostine, but her Beagle was terrified of Lostine. She had to pick up the dog and carry it past us. Finally, the other dog owner passed us as well, and naughty Lostine tried to turn and follow him back down the mountain.

I said, "No, no! We're going up the mountain." Lostine spun in circles, crow-hopped, fussed, threw her head around, ran backward, everything except going up the trail I wanted to go. We finally compromised by taking a trail the did not go either up or down the mountain. But this trail led to a creek, which of course, she refused to cross, so we just had to turn around and go back to the intersection, where she still refused to turn up the hill.

I gave up and let her go down, knowing there was another path we could take to get up, but when we reached that path, she threw another hissy fit and refused to go up the trail. She started moving backwards down the trail as fast as she could go in reverse. I was just sitting there going "Ho hum, I hope you don't crash into a tree or some poor hiker, Lostine."

I just let her go, because I found riding a horse backward to be quite entertaining. After a few hundred feet I turned her around because I really didn't want her mowing someone down. She won. She got to go down the hill after all. I'm never sure how hard to push in those types of situations. All my equitation lessons have helped me maintain a solid seat in every situation, but they didn't really teach me when to honor my horse's requests and when to deny them. I mean, maybe she smelled a bear up ahead. In that case she was right to refuse to go up either trail. On the other hand, I don't want to teach her that she can make the calls as to which trails we do and don't take. That's a bad habit to let form with a horse.

She did make me proud by taking the long route back to the trailer, which kind of told me that her refusal to go up the mountain did not have anything to do with the desire to go home. We reached an intersection of two trails where we usually turn right to head down the mountain because I thought horses weren't allowed to go straight. However, I recently spoke with someone who hikes those trails and he said horses are allowed there. Sure enough, there were hoof prints in the sand, so we went straight.

That second tree has red paint sprayed around it's trunk. When we walked past it, there was a sign that read, "Bearing Tree". At first I got scared, thinking it was a tree that bears use to sharpen their claws, but then I realized how stupid that would be. Bears sharpen their claws wherever the hell they want. We can't allocate trees for them. I looked it up on the Internet and a bearing tree is a marker for land surveying.

Lostine did a good job pussy-footing through a tunnel of black branches that felt like a Halloween haunted house. We rode up over a rise that offered new views. There's the parking lot...

It was quite a climb, so I gave Lostine a lot of rein and leaned forward keeping my butt out of the saddle. When we reached another intersection of trails, I realized that was the point where horses were no longer allowed. We had to either turn back the way we came or turn right to get back to the parking lot. I chose to turn right just so we could explore another new trail.

Lostine was doing well until we reached a huge boulder between some bushes. She spun on me, and I kept spinning her back to face it and she kept spinning away from it, and we were both about the throw up from all the spinning. I took the riding crop to her to push her past it, and she hunched her back up and crow hopped to try to launch me off her back. We fought for a while longer and then I just got tired and gave up. I let her go back the way we came. Stubborn horse.

I thought for sure there would be no more major spooks since we were now only taking trails she was familiar with, however she spotted a boulder on the right side of the trail she hadn't seen before and jumped off the trail over a sagebrush bush and started running down the side of the mountain. I cranked her head around and forced her to go back up to the trail.

We reached our second chance to head for the trailer and took it. However, she balked at this same spot where she always balks. The trail gets narrow and windy, and I think she gets confused over where to go. She tried spinning and crow hopping and running backwards again, and I decided I had enough. I whacked her hard on the rump with the riding crop, she bucked, and then took off trotting forward down the trail. I won, FINALLY!

Here's a picture of my dream farm...

It is fully fenced with vinyl fencing, which horses can't destroy, it has two barns, several riding arenas, a hay field, and a lake. Best of all, it has no neighbors. Yeehaw! Does anyone have a few million I can borrow?

Getting down the last leg of the mountain, I had to pump my legs to keep Lostine's legs moving. She was such a great trail riding horse earlier this summer. I don't know what has gotten into her. I guess she realized that I was enjoying our rides too much, which meant I would keep taking her on rides, and if she didn't want to go on rides then she had better take the fun out of them for me.

Despite all the trouble she caused, I realized that I didn't get nervous once. I took every sudden movement, every bolt, every spin cycle in stride.

When I got home there was an extra special treat for me. I mentioned to my husband that at some point we have to get a urine sample from Scrappy to make sure there is no more blood in his urine now that he is off his antibiotics. So, when I got home from the trail ride, my husband said, "We have some urine in the fridge for you."

I never thought I'd be so happy to hear that.


Stacey said...

LOL @ the Bearing Tree!!!!

Man Lostine sure does have an opinion doesn't she?!

Breathe said...

Sometimes it seems like horses just have an off day, maybe that's all it was. A way, way off day.

Hasn't it been a while since your last trail outting? She was doing so well when you were getting out there regularly.

Trail rider would tell you never to let a horse win, ever. I think there are many times where that's tough. I wonder if you'd have whacked her at the start if she'd have been more willing to head down trails or if it would have gotten worse.

Great that you stayed calm through it all.

achieve1dream said...

Goodness! Sounds like Lostine was being a pill!! I hope you enjoyed parts of the ride at least lol. Have you thought of anything that could have caused her attitude problems? I was thinking maybe pain from equipment, but it couldn't be that because she was doing it before you ever got her in the trailer. Maybe she's in heat? Dunno, but sounds like you got a workout. Congrats on not getting nervous!

Trust me if I had a few million to spare I'd help you buy that place. It looks incredible! There is a place like it around here that I would love to have. :)

Paint Girl said...

All that bad behavior must be an Arab thing, Brandy does stuff like that too. I have been taking a crop on the trails with me to get her to move forward. She isn't as bad as she used to be, but she does love to spin, crow hop and jig still.
That farm looks very nice, I'd love a place like that!
I am glad you got to get out on a trail ride. Even though Lostine was being bad, you got out and you handled some tough situations with her. Good for you.

Maery Rose said...

Sounds like you had quite a ride. I would say that not getting nervous throughout the ride is a big accomplishment. It is such a confidence builder when you can manage those kinds of rides.

When I'm riding alone, I will only fight so hard. If Luke is actually afraid, I will take a different path and try to work back past whatever he wouldn't pass before. Usually the second time goes fine. I will even get off and walk him a distance if we need to go a certain direction and he is refusing, then get back on him again. And if he backs up, I ask for him to back up more. Backing up is work and he generally doesn't want to do it anymore if I'm the one asking for it. But it all depends on the horse what works and what doesn't and it sounds like you are doing just fine with figuring that out.

fernvalley01 said...

Lostine sounds like she had a little P&V today. Though the adamant refusal to go up the mountain might have been a real concern.My old mare went anywhere and did it all. Iwas catching up with the crew we were riding with and she WOULD NOt cross the river at one spot , a spot that 10 min before we had crossed just fine. I gave up and headed upstream and she crossed fine . Came in from the pack trip 4 days later to find out a grizzly had been tearing apart a campsite across the river where she refused. All that and a bottle of freshly chilled urine huh? wow what a day!

Anonymous said...

"vinyl fencing, which horses can't destroy" LOL, my neighbor would have lots to tell you about that!

MMMM, urine in the fridge - one of the reasons we have 2 fridges! I was faced with obtaining a urine sample from our watchdog. She was 9 years old at the time, born right here, and I had not ever even seen the dog urinate! They sent us outside (in town, where she spins around constantly trying to keep an eye on everything at once) with a tech with a crinkly plastic tray on a stick. The dog was really aggravated with that crinkly plastic being shoved at her; she finally grabbed the stick in her teeth! They had to sedate her and stick a needle through her belly and draw the urine out with a syringe. See, Scrappy is trying to cooperate!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I actually was using the riding crop the first few times Lostine refused to move forward. The thing is that I prefer to use it as a guide or an extension of my arm as opposed to a tool of punishment. My equitation instructor made me punish my horses for spooking by whacking them with the crop. Lostine just ignored the crop. The only difference was that the final time I used it for punishment. Sometimes it works, but it's not worth it if it is at the expense of your relationship with the horse. I also don't want to attach a bad experience to the trail rides, because then it will just make it that much more difficult to get her to go on them.

Sydney_bitless said...

We had a mare that had issues with the trailer. It turned out to be the way we were driving. A few bad breaks and some semi fast corners almost ruined the horse for the trailer. Then again thats back when we had a small trailer with confining dividers. Once you get a stock trailer, you never go back. Driving really carefully cured the mare of her trailering issues. She would balk but get on after 10 minutes. Now she just loads herself.

LOL getting a urine sample from a dog is hard I bet.

Once Upon an Equine said...

LOL! "Urine in the fridge for you."'s certainly a unique gift, if not romantic.

Lostine sure made you work for your ride. Maybe she thinks Labor Day is her day off of work too. Good for you for not being nervous while you worked through her antics. I sure hope I can reach that point someday soon. I still get nervous easily.

Your dream farm is beautiful.

Crystal said...

That farm is beautiful, and so close to where you trail ride, of course you may not need to go there anymore if you have a place to ride on the farm.
That ride sounds like it was a lot of work, not a relaxing ride, but good you never got nervous, I think I woulda been after all that.

Lulu said...

Vinyl fencing is very easy to break and shatter in cold temperatures. I know a boarding stable that used this fence for their dry lots, and it did not hold up at all. Now, for a pasture fence, I think it would work great; but no in a small area.

Was Lostine in heat? It sure sounds like she was having an off day!

JennyB said...

I wouldn't have been nervous with all that bouncing around in the least because at some point I'd have fallen off and broken my neck! lol Yay for you for staying on and calm!!

~~ JennyB, Horsefeathers

Oldqueen44 said...

I have a mare that thinks she gets to decide when it is time to head the other direction. We ride along a canal full of water so I have to be careful how much I fight with her. I get so mad when I have to let her turn around because she is getting too close to the edge. I always turn her back to the direction I am choosing once I get her away from the edge but even that little victory she feels encourages her to do it again. Yea for crops.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Yikes! You're so brave. I had to go on so many rides like that with Baby Doll....which eventually ended in serious injury. I just don't have the confidence for stuff like that anymore.

Small balks...ok...large crowhops, spins, temper tantrums, way.

Please be careful, ok?

Hopefully it really was just because she smelled some kind of hazard up higher on the trail. She's been so good for you so far, I'd like to think positive, and believe she was just protecting the both of you.

Good for you remaining calm through it all, though. You do carry a cell phone ON YOUR BODY, right?

You also might want to check out All Horse Stuff (Kacy's blog) and read about her recent horse accident. She's planning on making a special ID tag for her mare's saddle in case Wa gets away again after she falls off. On it will have her phone #, name, vet's information, and address.

I plan on doing this for Apache, too.
You just never know....
Things can go south very quickly.


ps I just gotta know how in the world your hubby collected fresh urine from Scrappy....