Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Gettin' It Done

We had another day of bearable temperatures and a nice breeze, so I talked with P.S. about taking a trail ride.  She had been looking forward to taking Gabbrielle out on the trails, and I was considering taking Rock on the trails, but since both horses were the least experienced with our routines and the location, we had to take one of the more experienced horses.  There was also the logistics of saddles.  We couldn't take Lostine and Gabbrielle because they both needed the same saddle.  We decided that I would ride Bombay and P.S. would ride Gabbrielle.

Gabbrielle got a little wary of going through the gate, even though she's been led and ridden through it multiple times.  She went through at an angle and clanked her hind hoof against the metal which sent her into a little trot, but she settled down.  She wanted to take the lead and Bombay was happy to follow.  She eyeballed a few bushes at first, but then got in the game and focused on hoofin' it down the trail.  Bombay and I had some trouble keeping up.

Except for the one time when Bombay sneaked up along side Gabbrielle and got a hold of the leather strings hanging off her saddle.  He's sooooo silly.  Every ride with Bombay is full of laughs.

Coming up out of the deep arroyo, Bombay was convinced that something was coming up behind him and he reacted by tucking his butt underneath him and launching forward through the air and running a little ways. That took Gabbrielle by surprise and she started running away too.  P.S. and I just stayed quiet and relaxed and pulled the horses' heads around to show them that nothing was there.

Bombay caused a little more trouble further down the trail by alerting on a sign up ahead that was lying on the side of the trail.  We pass these things all the time, but for some reason on this day it looked very threatening to him.  I could feel him pulling all his energy back, leaning back on his haunches, and getting ready to spin and run home.  P.S. tried urging Gabbrielle forward to show Bombay that she could walk past it without it biting her, but then she too got a little panicky.

We were just about ten-feet away from the trail we needed to take.  Normally, I'd consider these refusals at the sign a training opportunity, but I could feel Bombay quivering beneath my legs.  He was seriously scared.  So, I had him cut across to the other trail.  He jigged a little as soon as his back was to the sign, but then settled down once some distance was put between us and it.  My horse trainer would have circled the horses closer and closer to the sign, but I just wasn't up to it.  My goal was to help Gabbrielle have a pleasant trail ride.

We made it home without anymore incidents and the horses got lots of pets and praise.  Then we saddled up Rock and I rode him in the round pen to get P.S.'s take on why he throws his head down to the ground each time I ask him to move up to the trot.  She didn't think he was going to buck, but throwing his head around was his way of saying no.  She encouraged me to keep pushing him until he trotted.  I did.  It worked.  He had a wonderfully smooth trot, but his steering still sucks.

I asked P.S. if she wanted to ride him.  She did.  Within seconds she had him trotting and loping all over the place.  She said she was urging him forward with her energy.  She wasn't kicking him or squeezing super hard.  She did lift the leather strings on the saddle and show them to him, and he instantly moved up to the next gait.  The previous owner said she got him to go by showing him the rein.  I'll bet he learned to hate being hit with the reins by his barrel racing owner.

P.S. said that even his lope was super smooth, and she could ride his trot all day.  I started to leave the round pen to go get the camera to film his trot and lope, and Rock stepped right into the mounting stool and knocked it over.  His leg was kind of tangled in it, but he couldn't care less.  P.S. backed him out of that predicament and the stool got wrapped around his leg.  I pulled it out from underneath him and he had no reaction whatsoever.

I took my pictures and videos, then asked P.S. if she wanted to try riding him on the trails while I walked alongside them.  She did.  I opened the gate and she ducked under the archway and rode out.  We got to the end of the driveway and a neighbor was coming in her diesel truck, but she was going so slow I thought we could make it across.  I already knew that Rock doesn't spook at vehicles and traffic.  He made it across the street and through the gate like a champ.

It was only when we got to a point where the desert opened up and there were many trails going in different directions that Rock got nervous and spun back toward the barn.  He looked like he was ready to make a run for it, so P.S. circled him and flexed him.  I didn't know what to expect of Rock.  I was told that he packs out alone and with other horses, but wasn't given any specifics on how he behaved.  I didn't want to risk P.S. getting hurt.  I didn't mean to use her as a guinea pig, but she was already in the saddle and the trails were just a few yards away.

Rock didn't have much of a stop when he made up his mind that he wanted to go back to the barn.  I had the lead rope, so I attached it to his halter and led him back out away from the barn.  Then we turned back toward home on my terms.  Even with me leading him, he was pulling hard, ignoring both my cues from the lead rope to slow down and P.S.'s cues from the saddle.  I had to helicopter the end of the lead rope in front of his face, and then he stayed at my shoulder and stopped trying to drag me home.

At least now we have a better idea of what we need to work on in the round pen and the arena before taking him out on the trails.  We've got to make sure that whoa means whoa, we've got to get his head around easier so that we can circle him without feeling like we just bench pressed 200 pounds, we've got to get him lighter on the bit in general, and we probably should ride out with a buddy before attempting riding the trails alone.


Cheryl Ann said...

My trainer rode Lucille for me today (she is the 1/2 Tennessee Walker/draft mare that I inherited) and she doesn't have much of a whoa either. She will work with her on that and also her gaits, which are a little ... rusty...

Cheryl Ann said...

How did you find your PS? I need someone just to come up and work the herd once a week...besides my trainer!