Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Flunkin' Her Way Back to Kindergarten
Here is her advice: Approach the horse directly with the halter. Don't try to sneak up on her. As soon as she runs off, throw the entire halter and lead rope at her. When she stops, approach her again. Rinse and repeat until she stops and faces you, and then approach her, pet her, and walk off. Continue that, but then start brushing the halter and lead rope on her neck. That usually makes her run off again, so throw the halter at her. Keep working it that way until the horse holds still while you rub the halter on her, then toss the rope over her neck. If she tries to run off, keep the rope around her neck and pull her head toward you until she stops her feet. Pet some more, and then halter her. Eventually, she'll supposedly stop running away all together and just let you halter her from the get go.
Another thing I learned is to slip my hand under the saddle pad to make sure it is sitting behind her shoulder before mounting. Because Lostine bloats her belly and it takes a while to tighten the cinch, lunging her causes the saddle to ride up onto her shoulders. So, I shouldn't just keep tightening the cinch, but should push the saddle back, then tighten the cinch. It's hard for a horse to move its front legs and shoulders if the saddle is riding on them.
Our original plans were for me to ride her on the trails while the trainer led Gabbrielle, but Lostine was being such a turd in the arena that the trainer didn't think she was ready to leave an enclosed area. It took us half an hour just to get her to walk the entire perimeter of the arena without busting into a trot. Each time she raced off without a cue, I had to circle her, but we discovered that circling didn't have any effect on Lostine. She was more than happy to do circles. She wanted to keep moving her feet.
So, we stopped the circling and started doing one-rein stops -- only she wouldn't stop. She just kept spinning in circles and I just sat up there yawning and sighing, waiting for her to make the right choice to stop moving her feet. I'm getting so good at staying still and upright in the saddle during tight spins that I don't think anything could knock me off a horse. Okay, maybe a mountain lion or a train, but definitely not a spook or buck.
Anyway, even when she did come to a stop and I released her head, she still moved off without waiting for her cue, so I had to immediately do a one-rein stop again. Then while she stood there, I had to flex her from side to side to side to side until she gave up on all forward movement. When she finally walked all the way around the perimeter, the trainer wanted me to ask her to trot and then transition her down to a walk.
Guess what? She trotted several yards before even attempting to slow down, even when I had her nose pinned to her chest. So, we worked on trotting for just two strides and shutting it down before she could get her energy beneath her. This went on for another hour.
I feel bad for my trainer, because she schedules an hour lesson with me, but usually ends up staying at least an hour and a half, and in the case of today, two hours just to try to end on a good note. There wasn't really any good note today. Lostine just got more and more head-strong and ornery as the lesson progressed. I was getting a cramp in my right knee and feeling listless from pulling my horse's head around, so we called it a day.
The trainer said that what I'm experiencing with my 24-year-old alpha mare is what she goes through when she trains babies under saddle. I said that Gabbrielle, who is much younger and has a lot less experience under saddle, would probably do much better than Lostine. She said the good news is that by the time I've got Lostine to the point where I only have to barely pick up on the reins to slow her down and stop her, I'll be so experienced at breaking a horse that my other two will seem easy. She said that Bombay is a really laid back horse compared to Lostine. I definitely appreciate him more after dealing with my stubborn and temperamental redhead. (I can say that because I'm a redhead myself.)
The trainer tried coming up with some positive results to point out, but I was so tired by then that I couldn't even hear what she was saying anymore. I think she knew that this was the first lesson I've had where it ended with me feeling down. Usually, I feel energized and inspired because we accomplished so much, but today was just exhausting. I'm not discouraged, because I know horses have their good days and their bad days. I'm just ready for a glass of wine and a long night's sleep. All I can hope for is that my horse is more tired than I am.