Friday, July 15, 2011

On the Bit with Princess G

Here's a short video clip of Gabbrielle's trainer riding her on the bit at the trot...

I didn't get a chance to take any still shots, because I needed to use my flash and got there a little late, so there wasn't time to desensitize Gabbrielle to the flash. The trainer was already riding her. There was also another horse in the arena that I didn't know. K said Gabbrielle might have issues because this was her first time in the indoor arena with another horse. Sure enough, Gabbrielle kept backing up to try to get closer to the other horse, so K kept working her shoulders to unlock the legs and get her moving forward again.

I'm really pleased with the way she moves up into the bit. I didn't expect her to be this far along in her training. She's also moving without a limp, but K did say she felt the stiffness in the right shoulder that I was telling her about. She thinks it is due to Gabbrielle spooking sideways when she sees things out of her left eye. That side of my horse needs more desensitization than the right side. She thinks she's literally hurting herself when she spooks and causing that stiffness in her shoulder.

On this day the equestrian center was bustling with people and horses preparing for a show. There was a dressage class going on in one outdoor arena, groomers bathing horses in all the bathing locations, people just watching, and Gabbrielle had two helpers in addition to the trainer. K and her father showed me various things they've been doing to desensitize Gabbrielle. One was slamming a feed door shut over and over next to her. K's dad said he had to do it until his arm hurt, but eventually she learned to tune it out. You'd think with all the door slamming my neighbors do next door, Gabbrielle would be used to it by now.

K said she cantered her all over the farm yesterday and tried a few obstacles, such as crossing water. G refused to cross, so K tricked her by backing her into the water crossing. I thought that was brilliant! I'll have to try that with Lostine.

I've never been one to kick my horses. I prefer to get forward movement through squeezing my calves and clucking, but K kept G moving by constantly bumping her with her heels. She said that G takes the heel jabs and taps from the riding crop really well. She had never blown up over it. She also said that when G gets scared or confused, she tends to stop and lock up or back up, which is a lot better than taking off and bolting.

K is really big on keeping horses soft in the mouth, so she doesn't train them the stop by pulling back on the reins.  She trains them to stop when she takes a deep breath.  Isn't that cool?  I always thought a horse had to be fairly seasoned to learn to be that sensitive.  

After today I'm under the impression that they probably did not work with G much during the first two weeks, but more than made up for it in the last two weeks. They said they noticed that she's scared of the water, so K has had her groomers bathing her every day by spraying her hard with the water and also spraying things that make noises when the water hits them. All of my horses squirm when I bathe them, but I thought Gabbrielle was actually pretty good with her baths. I guess it's all relative when you are used to working with big warmbloods.

Normally, clients are charged extra for grooming and baths, but I guess because I didn't specifically ask for it, and that they decided it would be a good part of her desensitization training, they are just including it in my flat monthly rate.  I did notice that G had a couple of healing circular cuts on her side.  K said they were bites from the other horses, but they've been keeping an eye on it, and the aggression level hasn't reached the danger zone.  They consider it a normal part of the herd dynamic, and she says the other horses are good about not taking it too far.  I'm a bit nervous about that, because my herd never leaves a mark on another horse.  They push each other away with body language and air bucks that don't connect.

The horses in the barn were HUGE. Gabbrielle looked like a puppy next to them. I think it is great that K is willing to work with horses of all different breeds, because I suspect that Gabbrielle is getting better training and exposure at K's barn than she would get at an all Arabian training barn. Since I don't show my horses, it's not important to me that they get training specific for Arabian horse showing. I just want my horses to be level-headed and confident on the trails. K is training Gabbrielle for the trail and endurance, since endurance was what she was bred for.

Since I was so happy with how far along Gabbrielle has come in a month, I did go ahead and pay for another month. I really can't afford this, but I'm taking the financial risk because I trust that some day my mother's estate will be settled and I will be reimbursed for all the money I've been losing this year. I just didn't want Gabbrielle to lose another year standing around in the paddock while I'm out running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

K said that cars have been coming and going all day, but when I drove up, Gabbrielle put her ears forward and nickered.  That surprised me, because I was driving a car that G has never seen me drive before.  I guess we just have that spiritual connection and she sensed it was me, despite me being in a different vehicle?


Katharine Swan said...

Oh, how wonderful! She looks GREAT in this video, NM! You should be a very proud mom -- and I think it's wonderful that you're keeping her there another month. She obviously is really benefiting from it!

Reddunappy said...

She is looking pretty good!
I had to back Emma into an arena one time because she refused to go through the gate forwards!(When she was a 4 year old green baby.)LOL The look on their face after they figure out where they are is priceless!! LOL LOL
I didnt get to start training Emma under saddle, until she was 4 because I was hit by a drunk driver in '02 and had to recover from that.

achieve1dream said...

I'm so happy they finally got their butts in gear and are making great progress with her. She looks so good! I'm glad you went with another month. I hope the house sells really soon so you won't have to worry so much about money.

I don't know how she knew it was you in the different car. That's really weird and so cool!

The exhaling to halt the horse is common in Dressage. It's not really the level of the horse's experience that makes this work, it's how lightly you train them in the first place. If you train a horse to stop by yanking on the reins they aren't going to stop to a deep exhale, but if you train them from the very beginning to stop for a deep exhale then they will be listening and feeling for that and respond to it. A lot of trainers don't start with light enough cues so the horse never becomes as responsive as it could be. :) That's how I understand it anyway. I'm not an expert so I could be wrong, but it seems logical.

I'm not really fond of that kind of desensitizing, but that's how it's been done for years so I guess it works. To me it seems like if you just do something that startles the horse until it gives up and ignores it that you'll just have to do it again the next day because they'll be fresh again. However if you start small, like making a swooshing sound with the door and praise them for being calm that it works much better. Then you could slowly escalate it until it's slamming. Then the horse learns there is nothing to be afraid of without ever being scared and "flooded" (which makes it difficult for them to think and learn). That's how clicker training works anyway. :D

The kicking instead of squeezing with the calves is another example of using a strong cue right off the bat instead of starting with really light cues. I'd rather have a horse that moved off of a squeeze instead of requiring a bump too. That's something you can work with her on later if you want. I'd have to go back to look at the video, but sometimes in the sitting trot if the rider has a really relaxed lower leg it looks like they are bumping them with every stride when they aren't. Not sure if that's what she was doing or not.

After looking at the video it does look like she's kicking her every stride. That would be soooo annoying! When you kick them constantly to keep them moving you're desensitizing them to the cue! Anyway it's up to you to decide if you want to say something or just work on it later.

Anyway I'm happy she's doing so well. :D Thanks for the update. I really enjoyed it.

Paint Girl said...

Looks like Gabrielle is doing great! She looks like she would make a great dressage/sport horse too!! And she's gonna make you a fine trail horse!!

Breathe said...

Sounds like she's doing great! I'm so relieved the trainer is doing a good job with her.

Mary said...

Gabbrielle is such a pretty horse! I am glad that you are a bit more comfortable with her there. (one less worry right?)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oooh! Such positive news! I know you needed it, too. Gabbrielle moves beautifully in that video. She has such a pretty trot, too.
And I bet she did know that was you in a different car. My mare will stop what she's doing and stare right at me, even when I'm in someone else's car who is dropping me off. I can almost feel our eyes and spirits connecting, even if she is over an acre away. It's uncanny.
We're you able to enjoy a hug with your girl?


fernvalley01 said...

She is really a lovely mare! and So glad that it is going so well with her! You deserve some good news. Training techiques vary, and if it is working and you are pleased that is all I have to say

Cheryl Ann said...

Gabbrielle looks so beautiful in your video! I'm glad she is progressing so nicely.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

How exciting to see your baby at school!! She looks really, really good too. I do wonder if K could ride with her feet a little quieter though.

Mikey said...

She has a nice lil floaty trot in there when she quits fussing. I see it anyway. Looks good, looks like she's working her good and that was needed.
Glad you went for the extra month too, I think that will good!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I'm glad she's progressing and doing so well. She'll be a different horse when you get her back for sure.

Tammy said...

Looking good! Nice to see such good forward movement. Yes, take the extra month if you can. Looks like she is well on her way.

Linda said...

She's gorgeous. Thanks for sharing the video. I love to watch horses being trained.

Once Upon an Equine said...

Garbrielle looks beautiful. I'm happy for you that her training is going so well. I was taking riding lessons from an instructor (before Misty's tooth ordeal) who taught us to stop our horses when we exhale and relax. Amazing how it worked.