Monday, March 11, 2013

Oh, Lostine!

That's all I have to say... Oh, Lostine!

No, you know I have to tell a story to go along with it.  This is one story I wish I didn't have to tell.  Some days I feel like my horses are hopeless.  This is one of them.

So, it's been raining since my last horse training session, mostly on Friday, some on Saturday, and this Sunday was just muddy and gross.  Today the sun is out and the ground is starting to dry up, so I saddled Lostine for a trail ride.  I didn't do any preparatory work beyond having her help me bring in the trash can and hand-walking her around the property while I tightened the cinch a little at a time.  I did test out her steering by flexing from side to side with the lead rope, and then with the reins once mounted.  She was fine.

We rode up the driveway and a neighbor walking up the street popped out from behind a bush.  Lostine stopped and pointed her out to me.  I nodded and urged her forward.  I turned her right at our driveway, but she didn't like the woman walking behind her, and she kept balking.  It was like she was saying, "Don't you see her?  Don't you see her?  Why aren't you concerned about her?"

I pushed and pushed and when I finally got Lostine to the other end of our driveway, we met up with the walking neighbor and I stopped to talk with her.  When done, we crossed the street and got out on the trails.    The last couple of trail rides I had on her were really good, so I felt like I didn't have to be so strategic in choosing a trail.  I was confident that she would go anywhere I asked without putting up a fuss.

I picked the widest trail that rode along the street by the houses mainly because everything further out was blocked by huge mud puddles that suck you in like quicksand.  This was the trail she gave me the most trouble on in the past, because she can see the house and hear the other horses calling out to her, but it was also the trail that offered the most escape routes from the mud pits.  There was always some way around them.

As we approached the first mud puddle, Lostine automatically started looking for an escape route and began crossing over to another trail.  That's normally what I do, but this time I wanted to stop in front of the puddle and get a picture for the blog.  My plan was to take a picture, and then go around it.  As soon as I unzipped my horn bag, Lostine got it in her head that I was going to force her into the puddle, and she spun on me and tried to run home.

I pulled her head around for a one-rein stop, she spun in circles, and when she stopped her feet, I released her head and pushed her back up to the puddle.  We really weren't even that close.  I think we were about 20-feet away from it, but she did it again.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  I kept up this routine until she held still in front of the puddle and let me take the picture.  Just the other day I was saying that Lostine will always stop when I want to take a picture, but now she uses it as a window to misbehave.

I put my camera away and pushed her forward to go around the puddle, and she spun on me again heading back for home.  This time she would not stop her feet.  She was spinning and spinning, struggling to stand up.  I looked down and saw that she had spun us off the trail into this series of dirt mounds and ditches.  Each time she took a step, she didn't know if the ground was two-feet up or two-feet down.  I tried moving her out of that area while keeping her head pulled around, but when I gave her a little rein to move her, she threw her head up in the air and fought like the dickens.

I'm sure I had to be off balance, because I had my hand all the way up by her bit pulling as hard as I could to keep her bent, because I could see in her eyes that as soon as she got that head straight, she was going to launch me and run for the house.  During all this struggling she wound up right back in that area of mounds and ditches and she was losing her balance again.

I quickly assessed all scenarios:  If everything goes the way it is supposed to, she should stop her feet, I can flex her like before, and we should be able to continue our ride.  However, things weren't going like they were supposed to.  My trainer makes it sound like pulling the head around is the magic bullet that will stop a horse in its tracks in any dangerous situation, but my mare is very strong-willed and has the strength to resist anything.

If I stay on, we could fall and she could land on top of me breaking some of my bones.  If I let her have her head, she can regain her balance, but then I will relinquish control, and with the way she was fighting, I didn't know if I could pull her head around again should she take off at a gallop for the house.  In that case, I had better stay on because falling off at that speed would be disastrous at my age.  I could dismount while she's spinning and tripping, which will pull her more off balance and could result in both of us getting hurt.  There just didn't seem to be any good options.

I decided to ride out her wild spinning and wait for a door to open.  At one point when she was facing away from the house, she slowed down enough for me to dismount.  Of course, the spot I dismounted had to be a ditch rather than a mound, and I pulled my left foot out of the stirrup too late.  I felt my rib pop followed by searing pain.

I decided to ignore the pain and just correct the hell out of my horse until she settled down and realized what a dangerous situation she put us in.  I lunged her and backed her and lunged her and backed her until she was sweating like a pig, and then I walked her up to the freakin' mud puddle and made her stand there.  She did stand there, but as stubborn as she is, she refused to look at it and just keep looking back at the house.  Argh!

So, we played a game of Two Eyes on the Mud Puddle.  Not until she looked at the mud puddle for a good five seconds would we move on.  I led her away from the house and took an extra long walk, jerking her head back toward me each time she looked for the house.  We stopped and visited with every mud puddle.  When we got back to the house, I lunged and backed and flexed her some more.  Then she got put away without any treats.  I think the trainer will be working with her tomorrow as long as she's recovered from her accident pain.

My pain went away.  Now I'm just a little sore.  I either pulled an abdominal muscle or popped a rib out and back in.  I would say my biggest problems with my horses right now is the way we always have to return to square one after just a few days of not being ridden.  A 25-year-old horse should know better than to act that way.  At this point I wish I could hire three trainers to ride each horse out on the trails every day, not together, but separate, until the routine is so ingrained in each horse that they won't even think about running back home ever again, even with a weaker rider in the saddle.  I've learned a lot, but two days a week just doesn't cut it with these horses.


fernvalley01 said...

sigh ,Oh Lostine is right

appydoesdressage said...

Sorry to hear about the setback, how disappointing to have her misbehave so much when you thought she was being your steady-eddy :(

Cindy D. said...

Would it make you feel any better to know that my least behaved horse is my 25 year old? He does know better too, but chooses to act the way he does to protest coming out of retirement. It absolutely frustrates me to no end.

I am glad to hear that you aren't hurt though.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

And with some horses they never get it. Just like people, they have their own personalities, their own opinions and are stuck in their ways.
I tried riding Baby Doll at least 4 days a week out on the trails behind my house, but riding her more often and working her hard even when we got back home, didn't make any difference.
I'd try to make it more fun for Baby Doll by finding grass for her to graze, but that didn't make a difference either. She just hated leaving home. She really disliked trail riding...but I really disliked arena riding.
We were a bad match.

I felt bad for a long time about rehoming her, but after I got Apache and realized that we were a good match, and then discovered how wonderful it was not to have to fight and argue with a horse every time I rode, and not having to worry about a horse purposefully trying to cause injury to me each and every ride.....I realized I had made a good decision for me..and for her.

I'm glad you're ok and didn't get dumped and seriously hurt. Sitting on an out-of-control spinning horse is pretty scary.


Anonymous said...

At some point you have to decide. Do I keep putting up with this or do I get a horse i can actually get on and enjoy. I don't "put up" with stupidness anymore. I keep horses to RIDE ..not fight with. It costs just as much to keep a sensible horse as it does to keep one that makes riding a disappointment.
Got to give it to you for your determination. Summer heat will be here soon and they will just be standing and you will ahve to "start" all over when fall gets here. Such a big waste of time in my opinion. Would love for you to have a horse you could actually enjoy.

Cut-N-Jump said...

I was going to say something earlier on but for whatever reason, it didn't happen. All of the flexing from side to side, can make for a 'rubber necked horse' and when that happens- your one rein stops go right out the window.

The main thing to remember about your one rein stops is that basically all it does is throw the horse off balance. They sure as sh!t don't want to fall down so they quit doing whatever it was they were doing long enough to regain their balance.

If you keep using them, sooner or later the horse won't respond to them at all. It is like a hard mouthed horse- they have learned to ignore it and it no longer has meaning for them. The harsher bit will only work for so long and you'll be right back where you started.

achieve1dream said...

That's weird about the spinning.... I was under the assumption that the more practice they had with it the better they got so long as you were consistent that they had to have all four feet planted before you released the rein.... that's how the Thoroughbred I had was trained when I got him and it saved my butt for sure. I have one tiny idea... when you practice the one rein stop do you make her stand still afterwards or do you immediately start walking again? When I've seen it used the rider uses it to stop the horse and then makes the horse stand still, if the horse moves even a tiny bit they flex them again until they stand. I don't know other than that... it may be just that at her age she knows all the tricks and just doesn't want to cooperate? Or maybe she was in pain? Doesn't she have arthritis? Anyway I hope your trainer can figure out what it was. It's hard to even guess when you aren't there in person lol. I'm glad you weren't seriously hurt.