Thursday, January 3, 2013

Soon the Horses Will Have Double Duty

One thing I love about Arizona is that there is no shortage of cowboys and cowgirls.  You can find a trainer or a farrier who fits your philosophy, you can find someone to scoop poop for you, you can even find someone to remove or bury a horse that has passed.  I remember when I was in Nevada, I kept asking people what I should do if a horse dies, and some said, "You better rent a tractor."  My vet said, "You better get the sick horse over to our clinic before it dies, so we can cremate it there."  Well, what if I can't?  What if my horse isn't sick, but I wake up one morning and it has passed?  Do I really have to learn how to operate a tractor myself and drive it through town to get it to my house and then dig a hole on my property?  There has to be a better way.

It just seemed that we were always lacking in services for horse owners in my neighborhood in Nevada.  I had one friend tell me that she moved from California to Nevada because she wanted to be in a horse community.  However, when she got there, she found that the equestrian trails were overrun by quads and motorcycles, so she sold her horse and got herself a motorcycle.  It was really difficult to find trails devoted solely to equestrian hobbyists.

Another problem I had was getting a vet out when I needed one.  Half the time they told me I had to trailer my horse to their clinic, where we stood in line for hours waiting our turn.  Also, I could never rely on getting hay when I needed it.  The farmers were either all out of hay or they had some kind of excuse for why they couldn't deliver.  Then I had to scramble and find a time when my husband and son could help go get the hay.  I often had to call several farmers before I even found one who would return my calls.  The farmers were also bad about testing out your level of desperation and jacking up the price if they knew you'd been hunting hay for a while.  The feed stores rarely had what I wanted in stock, but at least would order it so that I could have it by the next week.  Reliable horse trainers and farriers were also hard to come by.  I had to sort through my share of alcoholics and flakes.

I hired one trainer to start my gelding under saddle, and she quit after a few months.  I'm not sure why.  She just said she wasn't getting any younger, which gave me the impression that Bombay was too much for her to handle.  Then I hired another trainer who did a fine job with him and gave me riding lessons, but she got busy with her show schedule.  So, I hired a third trainer, who only worked my horses a couple of times and then said they didn't need any training.  I said, "Then perhaps I'm the one who needs training, so how about if your train me?"  She agreed, but never showed up to our appointment.  I guess she didn't like me.

Then I took equitation lessons and learned a lot, but I had some difficulties with the instructor, who yelled at me angrily and was constantly commenting on my weight.  He was skinny because his job involved walking in circles all day.  I was fat because I sat at a desk 80 hours a week.  Up until that point, all the trainers I worked with specialized in the Arabian breed.  Then I just started attending clinics and reading books.  I met and watched well known trainers like Clinton Anderson, Chris Cox, Pat and Linda Parelli, Stacy Westfall, John Lyons, and Gawani Pony Boy.

Eventually, I sent Gabbrielle off to a dressage trainer who had worked with all breeds of horses.  I was unable to make the time to take riding lessons with her, so after she spent a couple of months working with Gabbrielle, I found that I was not able to ride her, mainly because she had been trained with so much emphasis on moving forward that she didn't have any brakes.  I realized that the art of dressage required advanced horsemanship skills, and I simply wanted to enjoy a nice, quiet trail ride without fearing for my life.  Then my life got crazy and I did nothing consistent with the horses for two years.

So, for the past few months I've questioned everyone who has horses if they have any trainers they would recommend.  I compiled a list and researched them the best I could.  I really wanted someone who could come to my place, re-train Gabbrielle under saddle with the goal of trail riding in mind, work with me on not just my riding skills, but my horse training skills, and actually ride with me out on the trails and help me get out of some of these sticky situations I keep getting into.  So far I've ridden out rears, bucks, spins, bolts, balks, and jigs, and I survived, but that doesn't mean I want to keep doing it.  I want to start seeing some progress in getting these horses to settle down.

So, I found a lady who will teach natural horsemanship at my place, and she focuses on helping the horse and rider to gain confidence and trust in each other.  That is exactly what I need.  I don't trust any of  my horses after some of the B.S. they've put me through.  They are sweet as sweet can be as long as I'm not riding them.

I chatted with this trainer on the phone and she said that I need to get the horses focused back on me.  I told her what I've done so far, and she said I was on the right track.  I guess I just need more patience, but now that I've got someone who can come out and work with the horses besides myself, perhaps everything will progress faster.  I just want one good, long relaxed trail ride before summer arrives, and I'll be happy, but at the rate things are going, I'm not confident that will happen without me getting regular help.

Bombay is improving at a snail's pace overall, and I really do not want to even attempt to ride Gabbrielle until a professional has tested her out under saddle.  It's just been too long since she's been ridden, and she only has maybe 30 actual days under saddle between me starting her and the dressage trainer working with her a couple of days a week for two months.  Lostine is very low on my priority list because of her pedal osetitis and arthritis. She did her job as a show horse, a broodmare, and a trail horse, so I'm not going to push it at her age.

What I liked about this trainer was that her suggestions in training Bombay were very similar to what Mikey taught me.  The horse wants to run home?  Then run, but do it in figure 8's so that the horse realizes it's a lot of work getting home and it's better to just walk in straight line since the only way he's getting home is if he walks.  The horse walks off when you try to mount?  Then let her move, but make her move backwards until she realizes that it's easier to just stand still and let you mount. (That one's for you, Lostine.)

My farrier was saying that since my horses are so herd-bound, I should try returning to the barn when the horse I'm riding puts up a fuss, but keep his feet moving in circles and backwards and whatnot so that he can't rest, and then move him out onto the trails and let him stand there for a while.  He'll learn that it's easier to be out on the trails than at the barn.  Mikey had us circling bushes as soon as Bombay got agitated when we moved away from the barn and his buddies.

I know both the horses and I will eventually improve with practice, but I keep getting sick, and life keeps getting in the way, and it will be nice to know that even if I'm down for the count, there will be someone training my horses so that they don't go wild on me after being put out to pasture while I recover from my latest ailment or sort non-horsey things out.  My latest fun has been raging headaches.

I put some time in with each of the horses today.  I'm trying to get the horses to volunteer to exercise, instead of putting on a sour expression and walking away when they see me with the halter.  I carried all my equipment out right past the horses to the center of the paddock and stood there holding the halter waiting to see if any horse would come forward.  Lostine spotted my fanny pack of treats and trotted right up to me.  She'll work hard for food.

Despite her bone and joint issues, she has a lot of energy and will gallop on flat ground until her heart gives out.  After doing ground work, practicing being respectful on the lead rope, and not being grabby with the treats, I waited for Bombay or Gabbrielle to volunteer, but they were huddled in a corner.

I haltered Bombay and he was being lazy during lunging.  It took me about 3 minutes to get a lope out of him and even that was lazy.  I sure wish he'd move with that level of energy out on the trails.

Please, no comments about how loose the line is.  You try lunging a horse in a square paddock with the sun in your eyes while taking pictures and trying not to trip over stuff at your feet while turning in circles.  The great thing about my horses is that they can get ropes wrapped around their legs and they know enough to immediately stop so that I can't untangle them.  They aren't skittish about having anything touch their legs.

Gabbrielle worked well for food too.  She's a very "hot" horse, always snorting and flagging her tail while being exercised.  The trick with her is to slow her down.  She definitely looks like a chunky monkey in this shot.

While I was taking pictures of Gabbrielle,  Bombay got a hold of my long whip.  He was chewing on the tassel.  I hollered at him, because I just paid for that whip and did not want him to destroy it.  He took off at a gallop with the tassel still in his mouth dragging the entire whip under his belly and between his legs as he went.  I yelled, "DROP IT!" and he did.

Thankfully, he didn't step on the stiff rod and break it.  He's responsible for breaking all of my whips by stomping on them for fun.  Once I knew the whip survived, I laughed heartily.  He is such a clown.  I think sometimes when I tell stories about his antics, people think I'm exaggerating because most horses don't exhibit a sense of humor, but I would swear that Bombay purposefully does bad things to get my attention because he enjoys getting into trouble.  Getting a rouse out of me brings him great pleasure.  The way in which he carries himself, and that devious twinkle he has in his eye always cracks me up, so I can't stay mad at him for long.


fernvalley01 said...

Glad you have found someone to help, and that she will work with you at your place is very cool

fernvalley01 said...

that was weird I had to sign in to comment I was already signed in I thought

Katharine Swan said...

Good luck with the trainer! I think she sounds like exactly what you need. I know you've been frustrated with your lack of time to spend with the horses, and their crazy antics lately.

I love hearing about Bombay's antics, and it's no stretch of the imagination for me! I am surrounded by animals with senses of humor. My mother-in-law has a horse who is very much like Bombay, and likes to run off with things -- he has dragged hoses, lead lines, you name it, off into the pasture to amuse himself, and his brother (her friend's old horse) used to like to turn on and off the lights in the barn, steal the barn radio, move things like lawn chairs and buckets around, and unlock his buddies' stall doors. I think mischief runs in the family. ;o) Panama has a clever streak, too, and enjoys pulling my ponytail or stealing my hats on occasion. I think horses tend to be more curious and playful when they have owners who have a good sense of humor, too!

aurora said...

Glad you found a trainer that will work with both you & your horse as a team!

Breathe said...

Horses definitely have a sense of humor. I've seen too many mischievous acts for it to be anything else. I'm glad you are getting a trainer out, I hope to hear about your adventures on the trail soon!

Paint Girl said...

This trainer sounds good and I am sure she can help you. When I hired my trainer 6 years ago, she came to my house and we did training trail rides where she rode my horse and worked through any issues. We also did trail rides where I would ride my own horse and she would help me work out the issue as it was happening. It helped so much and now I can have mostly relaxing rides on Brandy, with only a few anxiety issues. It really helped. It took a lot of trail rides, but it was well worth it in the end!!
Looking forward to hearing how it all goes!!

Cheryl Ann said...

Nuzz, you have some of the same problems I do. I work full time, and my weekends are "horse time"...NOT! By Saturday I'm too tired to even get out of my pajamas! I have a trainer who comes once a week and works with the herd (I'm now down to 4 horses since Cali colicked and died)...Here in California, one has to call a firm that hauls off your horse (a renderer)...Fortunately, our vet comes to the ranch with his pickup truck that has all kinds of boxes under his back hood...I LOVE him! Down here in the valley, however, there is a vet who WILL drive out to ranches, but usually you have to trailer your horse to his clinic and he's VERY $$$$. I also took horsemanship lessons last summer, but then school started and I don't have the energy for ANY of that right now...sigh...

Cindy D. said...

I think many of us can relate to not getting enough horse time, for various different reasons. Mine, like Cheryl Ann's, is work. It is so frustrating sometimes. I am glad to hear that you have found what sounds like a good match for a trainer. Sometimes just having a different perspective while the issue is happening, can make a huge difference.

achieve1dream said...

Yay this trainer sounds great!! I can't wait to hear how it goes. :D

I love the pictures of them longeing! I have no idea how you got such awesome shots by yourself while turning in circles lol. Good job!