Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wind is a Powerful Force...

...so don't break it.  Ha ha.  Sorry.  I just had to try to crack a joke to relieve some tension.

I'm a bit speechless.  I was having a really bad day, getting bombarded with some really hard problems that only I could solve, but didn't know how to solve.  I was on the phone, doing research and writing emails all day.  My horse training session was originally set for 3:00 PM, got changed to 4:00 PM, got changed to 1:30 PM, and eventually landed at 2:15 PM.  I was so frazzled that I couldn't even wrap my head around a lesson, so I just saddled Gabbrielle for the trainer.

Traffic has been heavy in our neighborhood today.  Strangers have been cruising back and forth.  Neighbors who aren't normally home have been home revving engines, taking walks, letting their dogs loose to run around in my back yard and whatnot.  It wasn't until I saw a bunch of kids on bicycles in front of my house that I realized it must be spring break for all the schools.  Between all that activity, my cramps, and being so stressed that I felt it would be a miracle if I made it through the day without having a heart attack, the last thing I wanted to do was take another trail ride on a high-headed horse that just wants to run back to the barn.

The trainer agreed with me.  I suggested we take it easy and just do a little tarp training in the arena.  I did the ground work, and she said, "Are you going to get on her?"

I looked at her like she was crazy.  "No, I still haven't even ridden her once in two years.  I'm not riding her over a tarp while my nerves are completely shot."

Right then something spooked Gabbrielle and she leaped straight up into the air and ran backwards.  I jumped and made some surprised noise and the trainer laughed at me.  She rubbed my back to try to calm me down.  She had finally witnessed my Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in action.

So, the trainer rode Gabbrielle across the tarp.  I was sitting on a rock in the shade across the arena and decided to stand up and walk over closer.  Right when I stood up, a big gust of wind picked up the tarp over the haystack to my right and distracted me.  When I looked back at the trainer, I saw the tarp she was walking over lifted up too and hit Gabbrielle in the hind legs.  Gabbrielle jumped straight up in the air -- I'd say about four-feet off the ground because her belly cleared my six-foot fence, and came down hard on all fours, causing the trainer to fly up out of the saddle, and then Gabbrielle took off running.

The trainer pulled her head around while she was coming back down into the saddle, so Gabbrielle's butt got away from her and she landed sideways.  She couldn't hold on and fell the rest of the way flat on her back and knocked the wind out of her.

She was up by the time I reached her, thankful that she didn't land on her hip like with another client's horse last week.  I was ready to send her home to get some rest, but she insisted on working Gabbrielle really hard to get her over her fears, and then she mounted and kept riding over that tarp for the next hour.  She was so determined to end on a relaxed note that she put in two hours with her all together.

She said, "Now I see why you didn't want to ride her."

I was getting frustrated because I was trying to watch out for my trainer's safety, and all these people kept coming right up to my back yard to watch her ride, and they were distracting the horses from the lesson by hovering up there at the top of the bluff looking down at us like mountain lions about to pounce.  I just wanted to scream, "Go away and mind your own business!"

Then one neighbor decided it was a good time to start working on his dragster engine and another neighbor started racing his ATV up and down the road that lines my back yard.  The trainer was ignoring all of this, but I could see that my horse wasn't.  She was very tense, and I didn't want to see anymore wrecks.

I'm just so disgusted with all of my horses right now that I've lost any desire I've had to train them any further, mainly because it's been like three baby steps forward with each lesson and two giant leaps back when someone is having an off day.  The trainer admitted that though my horses are making progress, it is really slow and based on their personalities I'll probably have to be training and re-training them for as long as I own them.  What bothers her the most is how difficult it is to build a bond with them from the saddle.  The horses spook and bolt so much because they don't trust either of us, and without that trust, they just won't listen to us.

Now I am willing to entertain the thought that I am not the problem, which I originally thought I was because all three of my horses can be so unruly, which in my mind made me the common denominator.  It's more a matter of that my horses are all from the same general blood line and are this way with everyone.  The trainer gave me the number of a woman who wants to clean stalls in exchange for riding horses, and apparently she used to work with and ride Arabians quite a bit.  I'll look into that and see if she can do anything with them, with a liability release, of course.  But until I can get my stress level down and feel like my life is under control again, I'm not riding. I've got too many other problems and don't need physical injuries on top of everything else.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You know I've been following along with your horse journey for many years, and I've known all along that it isn't you that has created the unpredictable and dangerous behavior of your horses. You have worked so hard over the years giving your horses everything they need to be good horse citizens, including training, desensitization, new experiences, excellent care, and a great life.
I've watched and hoped that somehow they would somehow turn the corner and be the horses you always dreamed about and would give you wonderful, safe rides.....because you deserve it, my friend.

I'm glad your trainer wasn't injured, but it's still scary to watch someone fall of a horse, especially your own. I'm glad that you're staying safe, but I wish you could also enjoy some wonderful trail rides, too.

I know a while back you asked me to write something on my blog about how I've been able to come back from horse injuries, and PTSD, and lack of self-confidence. And I still may get around to doing just that.
But let me share one thing that has changed my life with horses, especially my own.

You mentioned how your horses don't trust you or anyone else. I bet they also don't have that close bond where they are willing to do whatever you ask, bravely with trust...because they want to take care of you, because they know you will take care of them.

After my Apache mare kicked me in the eye just a couple months after I brought her home, I realized our problems were based on trust. I had been working on ACTHA preparations and she was willing to do everything I asked, but she didn't completely trust me and I was training her using coercion...not totally working with my horse, but telling her what to do, if that makes sense.
But the positive thing that came out of her injuring my eye, was that we were both on the same level. I didn't trust her and she didn't trust me.

What changed everything around for us was The Waterhole Rituals and speaking the same language as my horse while building trust together.
I was introduced to the Carolyn Resnick Method and it changed our lives. Apache began to trust me, and she worked hard to show me that I could trust her, too.
It wasn't an overnight fix, but something that took over a year. The time we spent together every day, communicating and just Sharing Territory was life changing and created a close bond of trust, friendship and even love.

This is something you can do with your horses, too, without even riding....and no it's nothing at all like Parelli.

Check out Carolyn Resnick's website. She has some wonderful books and videos, too. And if you get the opportunity to go to one of her clinics, or one hosted by one of her approved, trained clinicians, you should consider it.

Here is the website:



Marissa Rose said...

I think that having someone 'lease' your horses would be a really good idea, if the rider is advanced enough to not ruin your horses or delay their progress further. I think that just having some more regular work (I mean, Arabs can be worked everyday and still have go in them!) so I think that it could be a really good thing! (Like I said, assuming she is a good rider) I can see it being their bloodlines just being a little crazy. But you will all get there!! Plus, is your weather changing a bit? All of our horses are being crazy in the past week and so!

Laura said...

Sorry to hear about your day... good thing the trainer wasn't hurt...

I hope your tension eases over the next few days and you can feel better about everything and evaluate your situation. Having someone come out and lease one of the horses or something similar might help.

Hey Lisa - I've watched the Carolyn Resnick videos and while they were interesting, I didn't feel that I quite new how to implement her ideas. Would you be willing to write a post to sort of explain what you did with Apache?

redhorse said...

This too shall pass. Really. As long as the day ended on a good note and the horse was calm, she will forget the bad stuff.

I don't think either you or your horses are bad, or to blame. You may be a bad fit at the moment, but you are really on the right path. I wish you a boarder or neighbor with a calm, experienced horse who could lead you out on your rides and show the way. It makes so much difference. The stall cleaner might also be a good person to have around.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

redhorse - Yes, I'm sure that once my time frees up I'll get the riding bug again and risk it. The one encouraging thing I learned is that a woman who is 4 years older than me can fall off a horse twice in one week and not break any bones. I tend to view falling as an automatic trip to the hospital at my age. We have been taking the horses out with calm experienced horses and my horses still got crazy. I don't think that's the easy fix in their case.

Lisa - I hope you do write that post. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is interested. Those who have been reading your blog for years know all the struggles you had, followed by all the great trail rides, but we need to know what happened in between. What was the process that got the result you are enjoying now?

I accepted years ago that my horses are always going to spook, so I just need to be ready for that, but I've never dealt with them just spinning on me and running back to the barn or the trailer before. Sometimes I think I should take the extra time to trailer them somewhere else, so they don't know where home is and then maybe they will be better behaved like they were back in Nevada. And, yes, I considered them better behaved back then. I remember Lostine used to ask me if we could turn to go back up the mountain for a longer trail ride because she enjoyed it so much. But then maybe she just didn't want to go downhill because it hurt her feet.

Cut-N-Jump said...

From one of the Dirty Harry movies- "A man's got to know his limitations."

Some days I may head out to ride and end up ground driving instead. It's not a bad thing to do and in situations like this- it is a win-win as it lets the horse get over their own fears and issues while your feet are safely and firmly on the ground.

They can build trust in you and everyone is fine in the end. If you want, I can give you some tips on ground driving and long line work. They are never too old for it and it gives you a good idea of how they look, how they are moving and what needs to change to make it better.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

CNJ - The trainer didn't skip the ground driving step with Gabbrielle, but she didn't do it on that day.

ryde2rope said...

Everyone is saying things that you want to hear... Bottom line is.. You need a GENTLE broke horse. You have 3 now that you have struggled with for a long time. WHY??? Whether it be your ability or training issues ..it still keeps you from getting out on the trails riding. You have the most beautiful area in which to ride. The Superstitions are amazing... Goldfield has wonderful trails all over...but you aren't able to ride them. I am not trying to be mean but. as much as you love those 3 horses.. you are not enjoying them as trail partners. so sad.

RuckusButt said...

NuzzMuzz, I haven't been a reader as long as some but I do try to keep up. Somehow I never realized you had legit PTSD, not that I thought you would lie, just if I did read a reference to it (and I'm not sure I have) I likely thought you were semi-kidding.

I don't have advice for you because I am quite sure you have done and are doing the absolute best by those horses. I WILL share a reminder that I received while trying to figure out what was wrong with a horse I leased who was a purchase hopeful. Most of us have horses primarily because we want to ride. The other stuff is a huge part of horse ownership, but most of us still want to ride as well. Riding should be fun. Yes, there is always work involved, but that too can and should be of the challenging-fun variety.

NM, if I were reading this without knowing who it came from, my first thought would be that the person should have a different type of horse. One that would let her appreciate the incredible area in which you live for riding. One that wouldn't freak after hearing ATVs etc yet again. These horses exist and they aren't necessarily "easy" horses either, they just aren't so insanely sensitive as yours.

Again, this is not advice, just some thoughts that are probably very limited by what I do not know. I guess I just want to stress that you are an exempliary horse owner and also that it would not be a bad thing to re-evaluate what you want, if that is something you are interested in.

You deserve more positive experiences for all your good work! I know these things are hard. Listen to yourself, not anyone else. That's probably the biggest thing I've learned. You will know what to do and when.

sue said...

I've been reading your blog with great interest, really admire the trainer you found... I am wondering if you aren't dealing with three horses, but a herd..... they are so bonded with each other that they don't "need' humans... I wonder how it would be if you had just one horse.... that would be bonded just with you because they wouldn't have any other.... it would be hard decision to consider, but... just thinking...

spotz58 said...

Three things I have learned over the years:
1) Horses don't perform perfectly 100% of the time no matter what breed they are or how much of whatever kind of training they have had.
2) Horses need training throughout their lives, sort of like how people never stop learning.
3) Horses learn in cycles; they get better, then they get worse for a bit, then they are better and ready to make progress, then they get worse.....

Learning these 3 things has made my horse life better and more enjoyable. I hope yours improves!

achieve1dream said...

It really sucks that your horses are so sensitive. I wish there was a quick, easy fix, but the work you're doing is great. It just takes a lot of time. Hopefully the stall cleaner will work out so that your efforts aren't thinned out across so many horses. It would be cool if you, the trainer and the other girl could each work with a horse. I don't know how you deal with three horses. I know I have three (well Zep is a donkey of course), but I only really work with Chrome.... anyway I don't know how to help, just letting you know I feel for you and I hope things get better.