Thursday, June 7, 2012


Despite me not doing much with the horses beyond grooming them and occasionally exercising them at their boarding facility, I'm finding that their stay there is worth every penny.  Just having them in a different environment is a form of training.  They become stronger, smarter, more confident, and calmer with each new experience.

The other day I was mongering a hug from Bombay when someone started up a motorcycle just a few yards away from us.  I was taken off guard and startled by the sound, while Bombay and my other horses didn't even bat an eye.  Perhaps they were more observant than me and saw the man climbing onto the machine that makes a loud noise after he sits on it, so they knew the sound was coming.  I'm sure it is a part of the routine at the ranch.  The horses have been there for seven weeks and are more familiar than I am with what kind of activities to expect.

There have been several times when I was grooming or hugging a horse and another horse let out a loud whinny right in my ear, which made me jump ten-feet in the air, but had no effect on my horses.  This morning I hugged Gabbrielle, and the ranch-hand dumped a bunch of manure of out his wheelbarrow into a waste bin right behind us.  Again, the sudden noise scared me, but Gabbrielle didn't flinch a muscle or even bother to look toward the sound.  She knew what was going on.

Then while I was hugging on the horses again, a woman driving down the street stopped her truck, exited while leaving her engine running, ducked down under the fence and ran across the paddock behind and beside us to a horse that was lying down.  In my old neighborhood, if someone ran up from behind my horses, my horses would have bolted and kicked out the second one of them spotted that quick movement.  But this time they just stood still and glanced over to watch the woman encourage the horse to stand up.  I think it was just resting and the woman wanted to make sure it wasn't colicking.

Then while I was hugging Lostine, I heard the hiss of a snake behind me and jumped.  Lostine just looked at me as if saying, "What's your problem now?"

I knew it couldn't have been a snake, because Lostine was always the first to alert me to snakes on trail rides by running backwards.  I turned around and realized that was the sound of Gabbrielle's automatic waterer refilling as she drank from it.  I wondered how long my horses went without drinking when they first arrived before finally succumbing to their thirst and tolerating that hissing sound.

I think they are calmer at this boarding facility because everyone there is a horse person.  The horses are getting exceptional care.  Each time I visit them I see evidence of someone going above and beyond to keep my horses comfortable and clean.  Their daily routine includes observing people handling other horses and seeing how these other horses are calm and respectful toward the people.

They don't have to contend with non-horse neighbors doing stupid things and sneaking around them like predators.  Everyone acts natural and normal at this boarding facility.  Gabbrielle doesn't have all that pressure on her like she did at the training facility she was at last summer.  Though she does enjoy learning, she definitely gets frustrated easily when she doesn't understand what is expected of her, and I witnessed a lot of that frustration when her trainer rode her.  So, I think it's nice that she can just enjoy being exposed to a boarding facility with her buddies beside her, other people and other horses without getting stressed out by regimented dressage training and being separated from her herd.

The only stress I put her under was retraining her to hold still for the fly spray.  At first, she kept spinning away from the spray and turning her butt toward me, which I disapprove of.  Even if she wasn't actively threatening to kick me, it was disrespectful and an evasion technique.  So, then I sprayed her with the help of a halter and lead rope a couple of times and praised her each time she held still for a squirt.  Then this morning I tried again without the halter and lead rope.  She spun as her initial reaction, but held still after that, so she got peppermints and more hugs.

My new home feels like it is in a big town, but I had proof that it's a small world yesterday.  My kids and I went to the market to do some grocery shopping and when I was pushing the empty cart to the drop off location, a woman stopped in front of me and looked at me.  I was in my own little world and didn't really look at her other than to wonder if she wanted my cart.  Then she said my name, and I realized it was Lilyrose, the reader of this blog who invited me over to her home to see her horse facility.  She's the only person I know who lives in the same town I do, so what are the chances I'd run into her in the supermarket parking lot?  She had found some Arizona Law equestrian signs regarding liability and told me about them.  Her friend was advised by her lawyer to post them around her property since riders frequent her land as well.  I hope I can get out and pick up some before my trip and post them around my property.


Cut-N-Jump said...

Try being all the way across town to run into someone who lives in the same neighborhood. Or up north in another sorta small town (Payson), to run into someone you went to school with, works with your brother and now lives right down the street from your mom. I have had those things happen a lot.

It might be a bigger city, but it is a small world we live in. We frequently run into people we know in the strangest of places.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Oh and the signs- if you can't get them at the feed stores, (B&B, Superstition, Shoppers, Adens, Higley or Pet Club) you can find them online. I think Stateline Tack has them. Let me know and I can find out where we got ours.

appydoesdressage said...

Congrats! I am glad your horses are becoming so much more desensitized, it will make things much safer for you. Now if only you could desensitize yourself right lol

How cool is it to be known by someone in a strange place. When I first moved to MI I remember feeling so anonymous until one day the parents of one of my students bumped into me at the store. It was a cool feeling.

Allenspark Lodge said...

Horses being around horse people makes a HUGE difference. The riding livery across the street from us used to be run by "non-horse" people. When the horses would escape from the fence, they would HEAD FOR THE HILLS!

Now, with horse people running it, if a horse gets out, it stands, eating grass, until someone comes and takes it home. Very quiet now...


Katharine Swan said...

I like Panama being in the front corral at my barn, where he sees the cows and dogs and other horses and all the traffic in and out every day, because I think it makes him less likely to spook at those sorts of things while I'm with him. I'm sure that all of the things you describe are commonplace -- things that just come with a busy barn -- and therefore the horses are used to the commotion now. Like you said, this is good for them -- AND for you, if you can get to a place where you can relax and stop expecting your horses to spook at everything!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

My jumping is the result of a hypersensitivity to loud noises. Even when I'm not around my horses, if someone digs through the pot and pan drawer in the kitchen, I'll fly off the couch, and a burst of adrenaline will fill my body so that I'll be shaking all over and my heart will be racing. That's why when people invite met to loud or overcrowded places, I decline. That's why I enjoy the peace and quiet of a trail ride.

Tara said...

Horse will aclimate to just about horses have been boarded on an AF base near the runway....they didn't bat an eye at the sounds of planes taking off or landing. On occasion the planes came across the boarding barn area...Here, we are not on base, but near. Here we get the Army's helicoptor's going over...again I never notice the horses to get upset by them. Heck, one of our trail rides, the Army coptor took off from the ground while we were trailriding. Horse's didn't look.
Rider fear/being jumpy will make the horse jumpy...they pick up on that...(which comes in to play with me and my horses sometimes, sigh)

Reddunappy said...

Sounds like the horses are doing great!

Washington has the liability law about horses too. They dont cover everything, but they do put trespassers on notice. Do still put the beware of dog signs up too.
Negligence laws are hard to get around, so if the dogs spook a horse or someone jumps a log, that you didnt move on your property, and falls off....well, you know where I am going with that. That is assuming Arizonas law is similar to Wa.

lilyrose said...

It sounds like your horses have settled in nicely. I know that having to board them isn't always ideal (I've had to do that in the past), but it seems like it has had a positive outcome in their behavior. I know you must miss them terribly-but hopefully, they will soon be in your own backyard!
I thought it was you hiding behind those sunglasses! lol Really, I rarely forget a face-just don't ask me to remember people's names. sigh.
If you are still looking for those signs- you can find them at Crazy Horse saddle shop on the trail-just east of Ironwood. I think they were around $8 each.
If you are looking for someplace fun to go-try driving east out highway 88 to Tortilla Flats. They have fabulous prickly pear ice cream there. (caution-the road is full of switchbacks so go the speed limit).

achieve1dream said...

Yikes! What causes the hypersensitivity to noise? That must suck. I'm jumpy sometimes around people I don't know. I don't like people sneaking up on me.

I'm glad your horses are doing so well. :D That's awesome!!!