Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More Fun With Distractions & The Big G Gets Her Day

All my close neighbors went to work today, so I saddled up Lostine to work on holding still at the mounting block.  I noticed that all the horses were on alert, "pointing" toward some trees coming up out of the arroyo.  I hiked around, hoping to find what they were alerting on, but whatever it was stayed under cover.  Then the horses changed the point where they were staring, so I got out my binoculars, but still couldn't see anything.

Parelli student came by and I told her my plan.  While we were finishing tacking up Lostine, my neighbor at the end of the street drove by on his motorcycle and looked down my driveway at me.  This is the guy who races up and down the street going 65 mph in a 25 mph residential zone and keeps turning around in front of my house for 2 hours straight.  He uses our street as his own personal drag strip.  I gave him a long hard look that said, "Oh no you don't!  I'll come out there and kick your ass off that motorcycle if you start that shit again."

Thankfully, he was adept at reading the body language of an angry woman, and he turned around very slowly, and I never saw him again.  I understand that he's nervous about riding that crotch rocket after his wreck, so he's building up to it by practicing on a dead end road where there isn't much traffic, but if he wants to go 65 mph, he should really just get on the freeway where he won't be bothering people in their homes.  He's been practicing getting back into the saddle of his motorcycle for over a year now, and it's time he expand his comfort zone beyond the turnout in front of my house.

Lostine took one step when I mounted, but Parelli student said that she was just adjusting her weight.  We decided I should walk Lostine around, dismount, and then get her lined up better at the mounting block before mounting.  Lostine was really good.  She stood still for every mount and dismount.  Had she walked off, we would have moved her feet and only let her rest next to the mounting block.

She was also good about walking, so Parelli student decided to hop on and give her a spin.  Last week Lostine tried to take off on her in the arena.  Happily, Lostine stood still while PS mounted too.  But as soon as PS started walking her, Lostine took off at a trot, building up speed fast and launched into a canter.  PS did a one-rein stop, tried to get Lostine to walk forward again, and Lostine just kept running off with her.  PS asked what she was doing wrong.  She recognized that Lostine was well behaved for me, and only started acting up once PS rode her.

I asked if she was squeezing with her legs or bumping the horse's sides.  She said she wasn't.  I asked if she was nervous.  She wasn't.  I watched her ride, and suggested that she not gather the reins up while at the walk, since that is usually a cue that the rider is about to ask for a faster gait.  I told her to hold the reins where she wants them before asking for the walk, and keep them there.  Lostine still kept taking off on her.  I told her to concentrate on her solar plexus and if she feels like she's pushing her energy forward, try to move it more centered or back.  Relax back into the saddle more, just in case Lostine was interpreting PS's energy level as urging her to go faster.  I could see PS relax her own frame more, but Lostine still took off on her.

We decided that Lostine was just testing her and trying to intimidate her.  PS said she was fine with that.  She could ride out the circling and the one-rein stops and wasn't intimidated by crow hopping.  I told her she may be here all day circling Lostine to get her to slow down.  That's why I stopped riding Lostine in the arena.  I didn't have the patience, and quite frankly, I wasn't physically fit enough to trot in circles for such a lengthy period of time.  PS said she does have the patience, so I told her to just go for it and not accept any gait change from Lostine unless PS specifically asks for it.

PS spent some time backing Lostine as well as slowing her down and trying to get her to maintain a walk.  Things were going well until Lostine sensed something down in the arroyo and kept trying to run back to the barn.  PS did a good job of turning her toward the arroyo and stopping her feet.  Lostine was scared for quite some time.  I looked around, but couldn't see anything myself.  It was most likely a dog or coyote, but could have been anything.

That is why I get so frustrated when people cut through my property or just stand around the perimeter of it watching me train my horses.  It's a significant distraction, and I always have abandon the lesson I was teaching the horse (which in this case was cruising), and make teaching the horse to face it's fears, spook in place, and still focus on the rider become the lesson of the moment.

That gets old after a while, because you have to constantly be stopping one lesson before the horse has learned it in order to pick up the other lessons, and you wouldn't have to pick up the other lessons if people would just stay off your property and stop distracting your horses.  If I'm training my horses in the arena, it's because I'm trying to teach them something in a controlled environment, but in some ways I have less control in my own backyard than I do on the trails.  I find that most people are more afraid of rattlesnakes in the desert than they are to trespass on my property.  Maybe if they knew just how many rattlesnakes I have on my property, they'd be more afraid to do that.

We did have to end the ride early, because the horses needed to eat their lunch before the horse trainer arrived, but Lostine was definitely more relaxed and listening better after a while of PS circling her to slow her down.  She learned that the monster in the arroyo didn't eat her, and she was safe with PS on her back.

When the trainer arrived we decided to have her do a warm up with Gabbrielle in the arena, and then I would ride out with her on the trails on Bombay.  Gabbrielle has gone out once before with Lostine, so this time we were switching up buddies on her.  Gabbrielle jumped the gate and the trainer said that if she had been any closer to Bombay, she would have landed on top us.  So, I stopped and waited while the trainer rode Gabbrielle back and forth through the gate in a controlled manner.

They were both really good going out, taking turns leading, following, and riding side-by-side.  We stopped by a busy street, and Gabbrielle kept popping her head up to point out a man who was walking around a vehicle, climbing in and out of it.  So, the trainer worked on getting Gabbrielle to lower her head each time she popped it up.  Bombay started throwing his head around, so I had to do the same.

I decided to have them walk back on the same trail, because that is when Bombay tends to want to run home.  He knows the way.  He was doing really well right up until the trainer decided to move Gabbrielle off onto a different trail away from us.  All of the sudden Bombay had a meltdown.  He couldn't decide whether to run after Gabbrielle or run home to Lostine.  He chose Lostine.

I circled him until he settled down, but the jig had taken over.  He was an emotional mess.  I find it so ridiculous that he rides out alone just fine, but if he starts out with another horse and has to move away from it, he thinks it's the end of the world.  The trainer rode Gabbrielle back over to us and he slowly settled back into a walk.  I think I only had to circle him in three different locations and after that I just checked him with the reins.

The trainer continued to move Gabbrielle away from him, and he did still pop his head up and get anxious, but didn't try to run for home anymore.  Going out the gate, we let Gabbrielle go first.  I guess she got overly concerned about a newspaper at the end of my driveway, so the trainer circled her around it.  Then we rode to the back of the property and were standing there talking when all of the sudden the trainer said, "Do you see what I see?"

I was looking around for a rattlesnake.  She said, "Look at Gabbrielle's bridle.  The Chicago screw is just hanging there."

Right then Gabbrielle shook her head and the screw fell out.  The bit was barely hanging on the bridle.  The trainer dismounted and said, "Someone sure was looking out for us today, because if that happened out on the trails, there could have been a bad wreck."

Needless to say, I'm going to buy some leather ties next time I'm at the feed store.  Those screws have away of always screwing you over.


achieve1dream said...

Oh wow, she got lucky with that bridle! I'm glad nothing bad happened. It sounds like for the most part they did great. It will just take more practice for them to get used to going out together. You've made soooo much progress with them! Keep up the great work!

Karen Burch said...

Use a little bit of nail polish on the threads of the screw to keep the pieces together. Put a little nail polish on the threads and then tighten the screw as tight as you can and let dry. You can, with significant elbow grease, still unthread the screw and take it apart, but it won't come loose on it's own. Works really good for me.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Karen - That's a good idea. I knew I'd find some use for my nail polish some day. I stopped putting it on my fingernails years ago because I'd just end up eating it.

Sam said...

I got rid of all my Chicago screws a while back - I can't trust them.


Cindy D. said...

I was going to suggest a touch of Elmers glue, which is what my tack store lady used when repairing a bridle for me. But I'm thinking the nail polish would work just as well, if not better.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Sounds like a pretty good trail ride out with Bombay and Gabbrielle. She's coming along nicely.

Nail polish is what I use to secure my Chicago Screws and I have never had them come loose in 4+ years of riding. Even when my headstall's cheek piece was ripped in half on a trail ride when my mare stepped on the reins, the screws stayed tight and intact.


Crystal said...

Sounds like a lot got done today with your horses, lucky about the bridle too, I hardly use the screws anymore even though I have never had trouble yet.
There is always distractions going on here when i try to work with my horses, but I am at the point now where unless its a safety issue I just ignore it and get back to working on what I was doing, seems to work fairly well with the horses, they get used to weird stuff going on when training and learn to ignore it eventually too.

Katharine Swan said...

I agree with Crystal. The lesson with distractions should be to keep working despite them. Besides, if you always change what you're doing when they overreact to distractions, you could be inadvertently teaching them to look for distractions when they get bored or frustrated with the current exercise.

As for the Chicago screws... Last year during trail riding season we had two riders from our barn lose one in the same week. No wrecks, luckily, but it made me glad that my bridles don't use them!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I've had several incidents recently where continuing with the lesson I was teaching was impossible with the distractions, because it was important that the horses behave in their normal way for me to teach it. Once people showed up, the horses' behavior changed, and without that behavior, I couldn't teach them the lesson I set out to do.