Friday, February 22, 2013

Gabbrielle Gets Her Week

I've been sick for the past week and unable to ride, so I encouraged my horse trainer to re-start Gabbrielle under saddle.  She's a high energy horse and can be crabby.  If she doesn't understand what you are trying to get her to do, she'll pitch a fit.  So, I forewarned my trainer of all my horse's quirks and told her to take her time and do whatever she needs to feel safe.

On Tuesday she did various exercises from the ground to test Gabbrielle's understanding of them as well as her sensitivity to them.  When the trainer first raised her whip to send Gabbrielle off on the lunge line, Gabbrielle got scared and dragged her halfway across the arena.  I thought that was odd considering that I've been lunging her since she was a yearling, but I guess my trainer's body language was different and my horse didn't know her, so she thought the trainer was going to hit her.  I forgot to mention to the trainer that she's got to keep her energy low or Gabbrielle will overreact.

The other exercise that Gabbrielle blew up over was having her hind legs confined by the rope.  Nobody has ever done that to her before.  Obviously, people pick up her feet, and I've thrown ropes around her legs and all over her body, but I've never pulled her leg up off the ground with the rope and see-sawed it back and forth.  Gabbrielle hopped in circles and the trainer had to run in circles with her, because she couldn't let Gabbrielle put her own foot down.  She had to wait for her to stop spinning, hold her feet still, balance on three legs, and then the trainer would release the leg.  The trainer was struggling to keep up, because she was using my equipment and the rope wasn't long enough.  But eventually, Gabbrielle stopped and understood the point of the exercise, which is that if she ever gets something wrapped around her feet or legs, she needs to hold still and wait for a person to help her.

Beyond that, the trainer reported that she passed all the other tests.  She wanted to try out her steering by ground driving Gabbrielle, but wanted to wait until she had her own long reins, so on Thursday she brought some of her own equipment.  I had been using braided cotton lunge lines when I drove Gabbrielle, and the trainer prefers to use flat lines because they are less bulky and don't get caught on the surcingle rings, allowing the horse to develop lightness on the bit.

She reviewed the ground work and didn't like the effort Gabbrielle was putting into backing up, but otherwise she was fine.  She ground dove her and was satisfied with her steering, so she told me to get the saddle, pad and bridle.  She said that she was going to just run some tests and probably won't ride her that day.

Gabbrielle hasn't had a saddle on her in two years.  I trained her under a western saddle and then another trainer trained her under a dressage saddle, but she doesn't have a whole lot of experience with being ridden.  My guess is between what I did and what the other trainer did, taking into consideration that she had her for 60 days, but only rode her twice a week after the first couple of weeks, Gabbrielle probably only has 20 to 25 days under saddle.  I used to say she had at least 60 days under saddle, but realized that was a high estimate since the dressage trainer had so many other horses she was training at the time.  In reality, Gabbrielle spent most of her time out at pasture.

I made that mistake when I told Bombay's second trainer that the first trainer worked with him for nearly a year.  My second trainer contacted my first trainer, and the first trainer said she only worked with him once every other week for half an hour during that year and he probably had a grand total of 15 days under saddle in trainer's speak.  I could have put that second trainer in danger by giving her the impression that he'd been ridden regularly over a year, so now I tend to low-ball my estimates for trainers.  I'd rather they be safe than sorry.

Gabbrielle started to bite the trainer when she first attached the girth, so I told her the story of how Gabbrielle's dressage trainer didn't believe in lunging a horse and slowly tightening the cinch as the horse relaxes and the saddle settles where it wants to sit.  She liked to save time by pulling that cinch as tight as it would go and hopping on.  That made my horse crabby about being saddled.  So, my new trainer slowly tightened the cinch while doing ground exercises and Gabbrielle became more trusting of her.

Gabbrielle stood still while the trainer put her weight in the stirrup and did half mounts and dismounts.  The trainer felt comfortable enough to mount.  She kept my horse's head pulled around to one side so that she couldn't take off, and then flexed her head from side to side in one sweeping motion.  She said that with the young colts and inexperienced horses, sometimes a short pause when their head is straight is enough of an opening for them to take off or buck you off.  Sitting on Gabbrielle's back was the first time I've seen my trainer wear a helmet.  She's rode both Bombay and Lostine without a helmet, but she considers Gabbrielle to be the equivalent of an untrained horse.

She then tried backing her, and Gabbrielle did not do well with that.  She threw her head around, crashed into the railing and almost started heading down the barn alley.  I got up to go rescue the trainer by grabbing the lead rope, but she got control of her quickly and started moving forward in figure 8's to get her away from the barn where her buddies were stabled.  As Gabbrielle showed that she could be trusted with the forward movement, the trainer gave her a little more rein, and just kept her nose tipped in one direction or the other.  She rode her at the trot and tried out the one-rein stop, which no one has ever used on Gabbrielle, and she spun for about two minutes before finally stopping her feet.  I praised her big time, because I know that she was frustrated, and she responds well to praise.  Then next one-rein stop had less spinning, and the third one was much more responsive.

The saddle was slipping down while they were spinning, so I might put that new cinch on Gabbrielle's saddle and see if it grips better.  Right now I have it attached to Lostine's saddle.  The trainer did ride Gabbrielle in the new French link full cheek snaffle.  She said she prefers not to use keepers.  Gabbrielle also wore the new black splint boots.

The trainer was pretty happy with her overall.  She thinks next week Gabbrielle will be ready for the cruising lesson where she is held responsible for maintaining her own speed.  That's something we have always had problems with.  In a split second something can switch off in this horse's brain and she'll just outright decide she wants to run.  I think she just starts feeling good and has all this energy she doesn't know what to do with.  If this trainer can get her to not change speeds until the rider gives a cue, then I'll be willing to give her a spin myself.

If I were any younger I'd probably be riding her by now.  At the time I picked Gabbrielle out to be my project horse, I was in good health, but now I get hurt over the slightest mishaps and that makes me not want to take chances.  My trainer is five years older than I am, but she's got the figure, health and strength of a 20-year-old.  Though at times she too has expressed hesitation over taking chances due to her age.

Staying strong and in good health as one grows older is a form a freedom.  My kids understand that, so they view their exercise routines as a must do activity, kind of the way my generation viewed brushing one's teeth twice a day.  People get smarter with each generation.  My grandparents had to have all their teeth pulled and replaced with dentures.  My parents had most of their teeth, but were breaking bones and tearing muscles with one little misstep.  I know I'll have all my teeth when I'm 80, if I live to be that long, but I'll probably have to still watch my step.  My kids will probably be swinging from chandeliers when they are 80, but some new health challenge will probably come along that my generation's grandchildren will have to work on.  And so it goes.


achieve1dream said...

Go Gabrielle! It sounds like she is getting along with this trainer a lot better. :D I'm glad you finally found someone to help you work with the horses.

Cut-N-Jump said...

I don't know how close we are in age but yes, I am a bit hesitant too about getting on young horses. I may have been fearless and go for it in my youth, now I like to think I have gained wisdom with age and I am hopefully smarter about it. We sure don't 'bounce' like we used to anymore.