Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Wait for It...

I have my horse training lessons set up for twice a week, but this week one of the lessons was scratched thanks to a dental appointment and a series of the usual health problems I've been battling for the past couple of years.  When my trainer left last Wednesday I had the full intention of working with my horses every day, but one thing after another kept getting in the way.

So, here we are on Tuesday and I was determined to ride Bombay.  I felt embarrassed that I was only able to get in one half-hour ride during the entire week.  I marched outside with the intention to ride this morning and at the exact same time a septic pumping truck drove up to my neighbor's house.  The truck driver kept the engine roaring and rumbling the whole time he was pumping the tank, and the horses were a snorting mess.  I decided to do barn chores until he left, but he wouldn't leave.  Then a big wind came up and blew the tarp all over the place and that just got the horses even more riled up.

I said, "To heck with it.  It's always going to be something.  I'm going to ride."

I headed over to grab the halter, and this arctic wind came up from behind me and stabbed an ice pick in each of my ears.  I doubled over in pain, and whimpered, "Okay.  I give up.  I won't ride."

I went back in the nice, warm, toasty house.

Later, when the wind settled down, I went out and the horses were still wild about something.  I grabbed the lunge whip and chased them around while taking pictures.

But I couldn't ride when we finished our photo shoot, because it was lunch time for all of us.

In the afternoon I marched outside as soon as the horses finished eating their lunch, again with the intention of riding.  Right then a dump truck showed up at a neighbor's house and began dumping and letting the tail gate bang shut.  The horses were a snorting mess again.  Then a trash truck showed up and it's not even trash day.  I expect trash trucks to come on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, but the neighborhood is usually quiet on Tuesdays and Fridays.  We have trash pick up twice a week, and recycling pick up once every other week, but other neighbors have different companies who pick up their trash and recycling, so on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays we have three different trucks coming and going.  I learn to listen for them before mounting a horse to ride or crossing the street.  This Tuesday truck took me by surprise.

No sooner did the trucks leave, and a pilot showed up in his little plane and decided to do tricks over my horse paddock.  Awesome.  If I were at an air show, I'd appreciate it, but I'd like to ride my horse, please.  It's kind of like trying not to wake a baby.  I just wanted all the motorized vehicles to go away so that my horses would settle down and I could ride.  I've noticed that when I work with my horses in my paddock, pilots in airplanes and helicopters often circle overhead or do dive-bombing loops.  It's like they spot me and say, "Hey, look!  There's a lady with some horses.  Let's watch her for a while."


No. No. No.

Notice to all pilots out there:  Leave the horseback riders alone.  Give them their space.  And stop buzzing the residential neighborhoods.  If you have to fly through, fly through, but keep going.  You're causing noise pollution, and when you hover in one spot you just drag out the torture to those of us who enjoy our peace, quiet and privacy.

I decided a ride just wasn't in the cards for me.  So, I started doing barn chores.  When I finished picking up manure I suddenly realized it was quiet.  I quickly locked up the mares, caught Bombay and tied him to the trailer.  While I was picking out his feet and brushing him, the mares were screaming, because they couldn't see him.  He was all pumped up and nervous.  I looked at him and my heart sank.  I thought, "I can't ride this horse.  He's all hyped up and I'm at home alone.  I haven't had a good riding experience on him yet.  Why risk it?  I'll just let the trainer ride him until he's safe.  I'm too old for this."

But, I could at least do ground work with him.  And since I had him tied to the trailer, I may as well tack him up and do ground work with the tack on.  So, that's what I did.  I found that he knew his new routine of flexing and bending and moving off the hindquarters.  He knew about lunging in half circles.  He knew about backing.  But he wasn't paying any attention to me.  He was just going through the motions, but his attention was focused on the bluff.  He felt vulnerable being out in the paddock with the mares in the barn, because, by God, something could show up on that bluff and jump on his back.

The things I was doing were supposed to help keep his attention on me, but they weren't working.  He wouldn't even give me an eye or an ear.  So, I gave up and led him around the perimeter of the paddock thinking that perhaps I should just take him for a walk out in the desert so that I could at least feel like I accomplished something.  I was pondering what other move I could make to get his attention on me, when I picked up a rock and tossed it over the fence.  I do this all the time around the horses, have been doing it for years, picking up rocks and throwing them while leading the horses, but this time Bombay wasn't paying attention to me, so when the rock hit another rock behind him, he bolted.

I yanked him back to me when he hit the end of the lead rope, and I chased him in half circles, yelling at him to pay attention to me, and I backed him all the way down the fence line.  When I finished with my little tantrum, Bombay was breathing hard, dripping snot out his nose and looking directly at me with surprise. Then he lowered his head and walked beside me politely, keeping an ear and and eye on me.  He looked so obedient, that I climbed into the saddle.

We did all our exercises without any interruptions.  He was still nervous about what might come down from the bluff or up from the arroyo, so each time I saw both ears pin themselves forward, I pulled his nose around to my foot and put his attention back on me.  I rode him toward and away from his scary spot, and then rode him alongside it in both directions until he relaxed.  Then we totted for a while and practiced halting immediately and keeping his head set, then backing up, then pivoting around the front leg, then moving right up into a trot again.

All the while these little microbursts of wind kept hitting the tarp and blowing it around, so I worked him closer and closer to the tarp.   Then some kids came home from school and were jumping in and out of bushes, and I worked on keeping his focus on me.  I called it a day while we were ahead.  I'm tired of dismounting and ending the ride because he gets out of control, so it was nice being able to end a ride while he was focused on me and in control.

I didn't think I would ever get my ride in, but I learned that it pays to just hang in there and eventually it will happen.  And I know, everyone is going to say I should have just ridden when those trucks and that plane were around, but I have to relearn how to ride first.  I just need a few quiet days where my horse is relaxed so that I can concentrate on my balance and remember what I learned from my equitation lessons years ago. There is so much that both Bombay and I need to re-learn before either of us can have confidence in ourselves or each other.  Even though we have years of experience together, just because we didn't do anything for a couple of years, now it is like we are a green horse / green rider team.  A dangerous combo.  I can't wait for my next lesson so that I can have some new tools to help my horses acknowledge my existence.

Now I just have to get caught up on all the other things I was supposed to be doing when I was out at the barn all day trying to ride.


Katharine Swan said...

Actually, I think what happened was exactly what needed to happen. Because of all the trucks and everything else that was distracting Bombay, you got fed up with him and MADE him pay attention to you. And in return, he took you more seriously. Good for you!

fernvalley01 said...

not going to say you should have or shouldn't have ridden with all the distractions and issues earlier. Going to be cryptic instead and ask you what changed? in your mindset and focus that allowed you to overcome all the issues and have a good ride?
Not picking on you here, I feel like you made a breakthrough of sorts you just need to see it

Reddunappy said...

I applaud your perseverance!!

sydney K said...

Sounds like Bombay needed a little but whooping. Indigo used to have days where everything would distract her. Usually once I had enough and a) rattled her cage enough that she was going "holy crap where did that come from? Maybe I should pay more attention before she does it again" or b) made her work. Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. I remember lunging her for what seemed like forever, hard, fast, changes of direction every time her attention went off me. Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. She remembers these lessons today. Acting up and not paying attention to me gets her more work, she remembers that.

Marissa said...

The comment about its like trying to not wake a baby made me laugh, I'm a nanny, and for some reason there are constantly UPS, delivery, repair, or whatever other people ringing the doorbell. I honestly dive for the door and throw it open to keep them from ringing the dang doorbell when the little one is asleep.

Isn't it funny that horses will let you know how harsh you need to be with them? Obviously you were doing all the things right, but he was telling you that he didn't care, and he needed more from you. Guess he just needed a good screaming at!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Whoohooo! Bombay certainly DOES acknowledge your existence. He learned he'd better stop playing spook and worry about everything else and focus on you instead. Because you are a much more scary thing to worry about. lol!

It is kind of weird that your horses get worked up over service trucks and airplanes when they are in your neighborhood every week.

I also think it's weird that you have trash trucks coming by in the afternoons. Our trash trucks are here and gone before 10am.

But we do get propane trucks and delivery trucks at all hours of the day. Thankfully none of the horses in our neighborhood care about any of them, and Val and I both ride our horses when those trucks drive through.

Our neighborhood is also on the direct path for Kirtland AFB in ABQ, so we get military jets and helicopters flying over our house at least once a day...sometimes several times a day...and some of those helicopters fly so low and are so loud and even vibrate our house!
I'm actually surprised they don't make any of our horses nervous, because sometimes they make me feel kind of jumpy when there are a formation of 3-6 of those huge helicopters flying right over our property when I'm on my horse's back. I just sit there and wait it out, and my horse just closes her eyes, like 'whatever'. lol!

But anyway, I'm proud of you for hanging in there and not giving up. You did it!


appydoesdressage said...

Congrats on getting mad enough to force him to listen to you and to being able to ride!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Ad I forgot to add that I love the photos of your herd running around the arena. They look gorgeous! Great action shots of them :)


achieve1dream said...

I LOVE those pictures! Your horses are gorgeous!

I think your guys just look for excuses to goof off lol! They are Arabians, they have endless energy and endurance. They have to burn it somehow! :D I think you did a great job and I'm glad you finally got your ride. Keep up the great work. It will get easier and easier. :)