Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Forward, Forward, Forward

I left off talking about how Gabbrielle reverted to backing up each time I cued her forward, and how I was making a game plan for how to correct that.  From the ground, I stood beside her and spoke the command "forward", then gave her a second or two to move forward.  If she did not, I said "forward" again and tapped her gently at the base of her tail with a dressage whip.  I continued the tapping and verbal command until she took a step forward, and then I released both cues.

After she showed signs of understanding that process with me on the ground, I got into the saddle to try it.  I squeezed with my calves, clucked and said "forward", and she backed up.  Hmmmmm.  I decided to take the squeeze and cluck out of the equation and just say the word "forward".  Nothing happened, but at least she wasn't backing up.  Then I said "forward" and tapped her on the base of the tail with my hand, because I only wanted to use the dressage whip as a last resort from the saddle.  She understood and took a couple of steps forward.

P.S. suggested that I do the same cues but pull her head around to circle her, and that worked.  She walked forward for a longer period of time.  Soon we were doing figure 8's and going around the arena.  Steering her was awkward, because sometimes she was pulling on the reins while other times she was so responsive that instead of turning in a circle, she disengaged her hindquarters over and over in this jerky tight circle when I wasn't laying any leg on her nor pulling her head around far at all.  I was just tipping her nose in.

I kept at it and soon she was packing me around the arena like a seasoned horse.  It didn't take long to work out the communication between us.  I worked mainly on forward and whoa, forward and whoa, and she was so good about not walking off from the halt and not backing up to the forward cue.  Then I got off and let P.S. ride.  I watched the same progression happen with her.  At first, Gabbrielle responded to everything by backing up, but then caught on and moved forward.

P.S. then worked on alternating between teaching her the difference between forward and back.  I admit I was worried that it may be too soon to be asking her to back up since it took several days to get her to move forward, but Gabbrielle did learn the difference between the two.  She trotted quietly for P.S. and didn't make any sudden moves.  I've seen her lurch around and sometimes take off at a faster speed than the horse trainer wanted when she rode her, but Gabbrielle was really calm and well behaved for both of us.

We put the horses away for lunch and then this freak whirlwind hit and blew my backdoor wide open.  My dogs barked and ran to the door thinking that someone was breaking in.  The dust devil moved down toward the barn and blew my chairs and that 40-pound manure wagon right up off the ground into the air and flipped them upside down or on their sides.  Then it chased the horses out of the barn and around the arena, swirling my arena sand into its funnel.  It stayed in the center of my arena for about 10-seconds like it was drinking up the sand while I yelled at the horses to run, and then the dust devil took off toward the arroyo as if someone were driving it and had just stepped on the accelerator.

It got me wondering if tornadoes like the one that hit Moore move like that, stopping and twirling in one spot for a while and then taking off at a high speed for another location.  We had whirlwinds and dust devils in Nevada, but when they hit us, they just pelted us with dirt and garbage for a few seconds, and sometimes the debris would cut our skin.  The ones here in Arizona are much stronger and do a lot of damage.  They can lift you off your feet.  I've been a bit hesitant about taking trail rides because I keep running into them out in the desert, and since you never know which direction they may turn in, you can't run from them.


Cindy D. said...

Wow that was a crazy little dust devil. I have seen some pretty big ones, but luckily never been knocked down by one.

Sound like you two got some great progress on Gabrielle.

Have you seen the Tom Kollenborn blog? He is a Superstition Mountain Historian. He used to do a TV show or news show, I can't remember. But he has a great blog with tons of cool stories about history of the area.

http://superstitionmountaintomkollenborn.blogspot.com/ In case you are interested.

achieve1dream said...

As far as I know tornadoes do not do that. Whirlwinds are weird! I didn't know they could pick people up. Scary!

Good job on Gabrielle!!! I knew you'd figure it out. The disengaging of the hindquarters is from lack of forward too. Once she's going more forward she will stop doing that. I'm glad she's catching on so well. It sounds like she was just completely confused and that she needed some help understanding everything.

When you add the calf squeeze back into your forward cue remember to squeeze very gently. Don't squeeze hard enough to make her back up. And make sure to give your forward and whip cue before she has a chance to think of backing up. That's how she will learn to associate the calf squeeze with forward again. :D Once she starts to figure it out you can squeeze gently, wait to see if she goes forward, say forward, wait to see if she goes forward, etc. Eventually you will be able to drop the vocal and whip cue if you want to. She just needs help understanding what you want from a calf squeeze. :)

Also I'm just curious, what cue was your trainer using to ask her to back up?