Saturday, November 24, 2012

One Pissy Mare

Thanksgiving was great.  It went very smooth thanks to each person chipping in.  My husband cooked the turkey, I made the side dishes, we all set the table, my daughter washed the dishes, my son carved the remainder of the turkey for leftovers and wiped down the table.  I didn't have to ask anyone to do anything.  They just did it.  I have a really awesome family, and am thankful that we all could spend Thanksgiving together.  College out of state and the high cost of airfare has put a crimp in that in the past, but now we are living within driving distance of each other.

Going into Thanksgiving week I didn't have much planned for the long weekend, but that changed fast.  Friday night we went out to dinner with the neighbors, Saturday we were supposed to go hiking, Sunday Cut-N-Jump is coming over and bringing a horse for a play date.  I've been looking forward to hiking the Superstitions since we knew we were going to move to Arizona.  We planned one day for a hike last spring, but something happened.  It was either the time I sprained my ankle or broke my toe or something dumb like that, and I was unable to go.  Wouldn't you know it, the day before our second attempt at a hike, the side effect to my surgery that my doctor warned me about hit.  So, I sat on my porch and watched through binoculars and a telescope while my husband and kids hiked to the cave.

When I thought I saw people in the cave, I called my husband on his mobile phone, and sure enough it was them along with several other hikers.  They waved to me while I looked through the telescope.  One of these days, I'm going to get to go on a hike.  Apparently, it's just not in the cards for me at the moment.

I wanted to do something productive today, so I went outside in my riding boots to work with the horses without any plan in mind.  Most of the time the horses tell me what they want to do.  Sure enough, Lostine started whinnying at me repeatedly while standing by the gate.  Since it wasn't anywhere near feeding time, I knew this meant she wanted me to take her for a walk.  I find it so humorous that she begs for walks, getting just as excited about them as a dog when you grab its leash, but once I lead her out of sight of the other horses, she becomes a nervous wreck.  Ugh.  There's only so many times I can walk her around our four acres without both of us getting totally bored.

I wasn't up to another battle with her out in the desert, so I put a saddle on her.  She was very cinchy and tried biting me.  Bad horse.  We go through this every time we return to riding after a seasonal break.  I have to re-train her in manners and gain her trust that I won't just yank the cinch tight on the first try.  It has been so long since I've ridden her that I couldn't remember which bridle was hers.  I guessed, and she let me know it was the wrong one.  The bit was for a teacup muzzle.  Oops.  That was Gabbrielle's bridle.  I got the right tack on and lunged her.

I mainly wanted to see if she could carry the heaviest saddle without getting gimpy from her arthritis, and she seemed fine.  She handled all paces without limping.  So, I stood on the mounting block to mount, and she began gnawing the bit nervously.  I don't want my horses to anticipate me mounting as being their worst nightmare.  I know I weigh a lot, but it really shouldn't be a traumatizing experience for them, so I decided to try some behavior modification to adjust her attitude.

I simply stood on the step until she stopped chewing the bit, and then I got down and stroked her neck.  She relaxed and her ears went forward.  I stepped up and repeated the process.  When she was more relaxed than before, I put my foot in the stirrup and began shifting my weight to mount, and she pinned her ears back, bucked and trotted off.  The buck knocked my foot out of the stirrup, thankfully.  So, we returned to lunging, then started the process of mounting again.

I increased each challenge in increments:  First, just stand on stool until she relaxes, then put foot in stirrup until she relaxes, then jump up and down with foot in stirrup until she relaxes, then put weight across saddle until she relaxes.  Each time she stopped chewing the bit and stopping pinning her ears, I stopped my behavior, got down and petted her.   When I finally tried to mount, the saddle slipped down her side and I had to abort the mount in mid-air.

That would have been fine if she didn't walk off.  This time my foot did not get ejected from the stirrup, so I was hopping alongside her as she was walking with the saddle sliding down.  The whole time I was thinking, "Geez, this is a total amateur mistake, and now I'm going to pay for it."

I had tightened the cinch several times during lunging, but totally forgot just how extreme this mare's belly bloating can be.  Somehow in the process of getting my foot out of the stirrup, I cut my arm on something.  Probably my fingernail.  I also tweaked my shoulder.  Another amateur mistake.  Always stretch your muscles before working with horses or they will stretch them for you.

Since she walked off during the mount, I had to return her to lunging, keeping her feet moving and working hard so that standing there quietly would be a reward.  I know a lot of trainers just hold the reins really tight and tip the horse's nose toward them while mounting, but Lostine handles that by swinging her butt away from me and backing up.

I had really hoped I could at least get in the saddle before ending the lesson, but Lostine's attitude just wasn't improving much.  Each time I put my weight on the saddle, she hunched her back up and pinned her ears, ready to throw me if I dared get all the way up there.  I'm looking forward to riding Bombay tomorrow, so I decided not to risk getting hurt today so I can ride him tomorrow.

It's possible that Lostine could have some arthritis in her spine, but she doesn't flinch when I put pressure on it and pinch it.  The saddle doesn't fit as well as it used to, so I will probably try these same exercises with a different saddle next time and see if she does any better.


fernvalley01 said...

Sorry you tweaked your shoulder, weird that she seems so unsettled , she was kind of your "go to horse " for a while wasn't she?Oh well enjoy riding tomorrow

sydney K said...

The symptoms Lostine exhibits is very similar to those of a horse with ulcers. Try the ulcer test

Caitlin said...

I also use the standing still is a reward rather than tipping the nose because Rose does the same but swinging move. I've gotten it where she's stand stock still for the swing up but the second my butt hits the saddle she's moving. Working on that still...

Sounds like the seasonal mare issues are going around. Hopefully your ride tomorrow will go better and whatever's up with Lostine will pass soon.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

sydney - Thanks. I did the palpitation exercises on all of my horses and they didn't flinch, so I think they are okay. Lostine is a pissy mare. When I took riding lessons on her, I couldn't do anything without the instructor yelling at me to stop because I was doing something that was pissing her off and he could see that she was about to throw me. She even got so mad at him that she charged him and tried to trample the poor guy. She's just an ornery old horse when it comes to riding, but sweet as ever as long as I keep my butt off her back.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'm sorry you weren't able to ride Lostine. I remember when you would always choose her to take on trail rides. The two of you seemed to have a good relationship and bond, too.
But I'm glad you were able to get your foot of the stirrup and didn't end up hurt when she walked away. That's one of my biggest worries about riding...a horse that won't stand still and will move off before you're ready.
Thankfully, Apache stands still for me while mounting and won't move a muscle until I ask. I tend to get in the saddle, adjust my seat, fiddle with my saddle bags, or whatever. I never ask her to move off as soon as I mount. And just before I ask her to move off, I always give her a cookie. :)


achieve1dream said...

Wow, I'm glad you're okay! I hate when stuff like that happens! Have you thought about trying clicker training with her by the mounting block? Clicker training is great for changing negative associations into good ones. :) Could she have been in heat? The pinned ears and bucking makes it sound like her back was sore from being in heat, but if she's always been that way maybe not lol. I was working on the mounting block with Faran the exact same way you did only I used clicker training because he's so wary that petting isn't much of a reward in his opinion. He isn't cuddly at all, he just tolerates it. I hate that someone abused him like that but we will get through it eventually. :)