Saturday, January 12, 2013

And I Thought I Was Just Going to Practice

Today was a weird day in that it was icy cold, yet there was still a lot of activity in the neighborhood.  I had to chase off some boys who were waiting for me to leave, so that they could ride their dirt bikes down the bluff into the arroyo in my back yard.  The horses were more uppity than usual, so my morning walk with Bombay did not result in any progress even with a rope halter.  He was still looking all over the place nervously, spooking and pulling.  I must have brought his head back to me fifty times, and he still looked away as soon as I offered a release, so I'll have to talk to my trainer about a more effective way of keeping his attention on me.  I can only yank, back and lunge him so many times with there being no improvement, until I just give up and say, "To hell with it.  I want to take my walk even if my horse is being a jerk."

I rode him in the afternoon after doing all the ground exercises my trainer taught me, and Bombay was being stubborn, even with the rope halter.  I got the thinnest one I could find with gnarly knots, and he just seems to be rebelling against it.  I also brought out a different step stool.  I looked at real mounting blocks at the feed store, but they want $90 for them.  My husband and I both saw the price at the same time and said, "Sheesh!"  So, I'm just using a sturdier plastic folding step stool that doesn't have any metal, and has less places for a horse to get its legs caught.

You see, the trainer wants me to flex my horses' head to each side several times after mounting, but before moving off.  I told her about the time Gabbrielle moved into the metal step stool, knocked it over, and somehow got it caught on her leg during the process.  She reared up several times trying to shake the stool off while I tried to hang on despite losing my stirrups.  The trainer wouldn't let that bad experience get me out of flexing before we move off.  She said if I want to move the horse away from the stool before flexing, we have to either side pass or go backwards -- anything but forward.

Since Bombay isn't good at backing up straight yet, or I'm not good in guiding him back straight, I didn't want to try that, and it's been a long time since we've worked on side passing.  So, I decided to just flex him next to the stool, but not the metal collapsing stool.  Of course, as soon as I brought out the new stool, Bombay and Gabbrielle got all snorty about it.  I had to desensitize both of them to it.  Bombay accepted having me mount him from the new stool, and I relied on any residual fears he had of it to keep him from moving into it when I flexed him.  It worked.  He held perfectly still while I flexed his head from side to side.  With that done, we could move off.

We practiced cruising, but he was doing so well that I didn't need to correct him.  Just one time he got too close to the fence, so I turned him into it.  He rubbed his face along the fence, but made that tight turn.  He also learned his lesson and didn't try to rub me off on the fence after that.

My neighbor showed up in his vehicle and was opening his gate to drive down his alley next to my arena.  He does this every weekend, so I couldn't think of any reason why Bombay should get agitated or spook.  I waved to him and continued our cruising lesson.  He drove past and all was cool until one of my neighbor's horses spotted the hay in the back of his vehicle.  It whinnied, and then Gabbrielle whinnied and took off at a full-on gallop up and down the fence line.

"Oh shoot!" I thought.  I had considered locking up the mares in their stalls like I do during my lessons, but they had been locked up all night and they weren't bothering me.  I never considered that something like this would happen.  Bombay took off at a gallop, at first he was spooked by Gabbrielle's thundering hooves coming up from behind him, but them he ran toward her to gallop alongside her.  My immediate reaction was to pull back evenly on both reins, and of course that resulted in him throwing his head around, hunching his back up and getting ready to buck while running.

Then I thought, "What the heck am I doing?  I've had all this training on pulling his head around when he speeds up, and then when I get into a real life dangerous situation, I instantly forget everything!"

Part of the danger was that while Gabbrielle was running, she was kicking out and bucking, so I didn't want Bombay getting near her.  I released one rein so that it was loose and reached down to grab the other rein and pull his head around.  He spun and spun and spun, and I just held on the best I could until he stopped.  When he did stop, I was afraid to let go of his head, so I held it there while I yelled at Gabbrielle to settle down.  I turned my attention back to Bombay, and released his head.  He stood still and watched Gabbrielle running until I squeezed and clucked to return to our cruising lesson.  Then he took off again, and I had to pull his head around again.

I couldn't see how I could go on with the lesson safely under the circumstances, because now my neighbor's horses were running around too, so I pulled his head around and dismounted.  I was frustrated that I didn't get to ride for more than half an hour, but I knew that ultimately a real-life-save-my-butt experience is probably the best training I can get.  I'm one step closer to remembering what to do in situations where it feels like I have no control... and I thought I was just going to practice what to do to prepare for those situations.  I didn't expect to get into one of those situations in the arena.


ellie k said...

I am glad you are getting to ride some, at least more then last year. Hang in there, it is getting better.

redhorse said...

I think you did the best thing you could. If you keep riding when you don't feel safe, you can run into real problems, and make your next ride feel good too. I also have a problem remembering what I'm supposed to do in a crisis. I'm sure you'll get some good pointers in your next lesson. She sounds like a good trainer.

Crystal said...

I would say it is progress, you got him stopped by remembering what to do while in a scary situation.

fernvalley01 said...

I agree with Crystal it is progress and good , you had a blip but you remembered what to do quickly and corrected, the more you do the more it will become habit ,an then you wont maybe even need to do it much as you both improve

Cindy D. said...

I'm going to go with "Muscle Memory". Two reins back is the muscle memory that you (and I) are used too. Teaching our muscles new memories is challenging, but you are certainly on the right track. I have to catch myself almost every single time. But each time it is a shorter period of time.
I think your decision to choose safety over continuing on, was a smart one, especially since you were riding alone.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Sometimes rather than asking them to stop- pull them around in a large circle and push them on. You wanted to run- let's do it! Suddenly they want to stop, but don't let them. No, you wanted to run, let's run. I know it isn't always an option, but if you have the room? Why not! Next time it might not be such a good idea to them to run.

achieve1dream said...

You did awesome!!! You got the situation under control and no one got hurt. :D I'm proud of you! I did think of one thing though, remember when your trainer had you doing the cruising lesson and if he sped up you flex him to a stop? Technically bolting is speeding up, so you could just keep flexing him each time. If you're comfortable and don't feel in danger (like if the mares are locked up) you can just keep flexing him to a stop until he realizes it's easier to just go the speed you set, basically it's just building on the cruising lesson. Regardless I'm proud of you for handling the situation and there is nothing wrong with getting off when it doesn't feel safe. When he's acting like a nutso do you ever tie him up? I don't know what you did with him when you got off, but I would tie him up and make him stand saddled a while so he doesn't think bolting got him out of working. Tying also teaches them patience. Just a thought. Keep up the awesome work!!!!