Friday, February 21, 2014

Passing Through the Window of Opportunity

This weekend is expected to be busy with three days of rodeo events, and my neighbor having his annual rodeo party.  His parties are quiet, but there are a lot strangers milling about and playing horseshoes down by my barn, so I wasn't planning on riding this weekend, with all the people popping in and out of bushes.  This neighbor is really nice.  He always invites us to his parties, but he's much younger and we would stick out like a sore thumb if we hung out with his crowd.

So, today I wanted to get as much done with my horses as possible while the neighborhood is quiet.  My husband wanted to do something with Rock, so we put the new bitless bridle on him in the round pen after my husband lunged him.  I rode with the bridle and it didn't seem to cause any new bad habits, but Rock was being his usual stubborn self, not wanting to respond quickly to anything.  My husband got on and he moved like molasses for him too.  He pretty much ignores leg cues.  I stuck my head through the fence and tried to take pictures with my helmet cam, but they came out kind of weird.  The curve of the lens makes our round pen look like it's 100-feet in diameter.

Then P.S. and I went for a trail ride on the two gray horses.

I forgot to mention that the last time I rode Bombay through the gauntlet, which is what I call the bushy section of the trail head, he jigged nervously most of the way through, probably remembering  the bicyclist who terrified him in that same spot on the ride before that.  This time he made a relaxed trek through the gauntlet, because last time he made a successful pass through it without any bicyclists popping in and out of the bushes.

We took an interesting trail that I don't remember using in the past.  I'm not sure if it is new or has always been there, but it snaked around in all kinds of directions, going through ditches here and there.  I thought I took some pictures of it, but apparently I didn't press the shutter release hard enough.

Anyway, Gabbrielle was quite intimidated leading us into this one ditch, because it went down into a bushy section, made a sharp turn on the way up, and right around that turn was a dead log.  She hesitated going down and them jumped with her legs splayed on the side of the hill.  P.S. did an awesome job of sitting it out.  Bombay was being a jerk and pushing Gabbrielle from behind.  Gabbrielle wanted to run backwards, but Bombay wouldn't let her and they did crash into each other.  That caused Gabbrielle to jump.  We were all encouraging her to keep moving forward, and then she went around that corner, saw the dead log and jumped a third time.  My heart was racing, hoping this wasn't going to turn into a full blowout, and it didn't.

Just for safety's sake I took Bombay down into the next ditch first, and he did get the jitters over a strange looking dead cactus to the side of the trail, but he kept his head level, so Gabbrielle was able to follow.  P.S. said she misses trail riding with Rock, because Gabbrielle is so much more relaxed with Rock's easygoing example.  Bombay and Gabbrielle just tend to feed off of each other's spooks.

We rode past the spot where Rock dumped me in the bush, and the thorny bush he stepped in was still there and growing strong.  The bush I landed in is to Gabbrielle's left, and the bush he stepped in is to her right.

As we were headed for home, Gabbrielle stumbled over a rock behind us, and Bombay threw his head up in a panic thinking she was running from something.  He got nervous and looked around, but relaxed pretty quickly once he knew it was nothing and that he had just misinterpreted her behavior.

However, his relaxed state didn't last for long.  He slammed on his brakes and threw his head up, taking me by surprise.  I saw two hikers ahead of us on the trail and said in disgust to Bombay, "Oh, it's hikers!  Let's just go."

I didn't realize that my tone of voice might have been interpreted by the hikers as disgust over seeing them.  I was just disgusted with Bombay's over-reaction.  So, these two ladies began looking around for a different trail to take, but there was none.  I actually wanted to ride Bombay past them to show him that they won't bother him.  As we were approaching, I was planning on pulling off to the side and talking to the women, but they stepped off trail behind a bush.

I was thinking, "Oh no!  Don't do that.  Hiding behind a bush is the worst thing you can do," but thankfully they just walked around it and reappeared.  I remember a trail boss at a public stable telling me that even her rental horses spook when hikers hide behind bushes, thinking they are being polite and unobtrusive by doing so.  But when hikers do that, the horses interpret it as predatory behavior.  That's what a mountain lion would do right before it pounces.  Even horses that have never met a mountain lion know this, because it is instinct.

Anyway, Bombay had his head straight up in the air and was snorting and prancing nervously, alternating between balking and walking.  One lady kept walking but the other stopped and said she didn't want to cause our horses to spook.  I said, "My horse is spooky, but he's got to learn to pass hikers on trails without getting so nervous, so this is good practice."

The lady said, "They are beautiful horses."

We thanked her, and I'm sure Bombay would not have received that compliment had be been in a relaxed posture, because he's been looking mighty ratty lately.  Grooming doesn't help much with all of his self-inflicted wounds.  Gabbrielle is always gorgeous, though.

The lady asked us to let her know when it's okay for her to move.  I appreciated her sensitivity to how close these horses were ready to blow.  Gabbrielle had her neck arched and was blowing snorts, trying to sneak around to put Bombay between her and the hiker.  I said, "Oh, you're fine.  Just act natural and keep hiking."  We thanked her, and once we were past, the horses relaxed again like nothing ever happened.

I'm actually looking forward to the next time we run into hikers to see if the horses make a marked improvement in lowering their anxiety.  These ladies were easy, because they didn't have any loose dogs or walking sticks, and they were aware of our situation.  I'm thinking next time I'll stop and invite the hiker to pet Bombay on the shoulder.  I used to be able to do that all the time with Lostine, and Bombay isn't that far off from where she was in her frame of mind when I trail rode her regularly years ago.  Bombay just requires a little more pressure to take risks.  Once something clicks in Lostine's brain that it is okay, she's fine from that second forward.


Sam said...

I plan to see if I can find a saddle for Baron at the rodeo today - if not, I'm going to take a chance on the ugly one on-line. ;)

How is Rock's abscess? We will have to make sure to squeeze in one ride before it gets too hot.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Sam - Rock's abscess seems to be healed and not causing him pain anymore. I've got an appointment with your horse trainer next week. Yay! I can't wait to see what he says about Rock.

Beth said...

You may have mentioned this in a previous post and I missed it but what kind of helmet mounted camera do you use? Are you happy with it or would you choose something different? I really like the stills and videos you film and would like to invest in something worthwhile to take trail videos this year when we start riding again. Any advise would be appreciated. Thank you!!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Beth - Mine is the GoPro Hero 2 Outdoor Edition camera. I've noticed that a lot of reality TV shows have been using this type of camera and mounts to record stunts from the first person POV. My husband chose the Hero 2 after reading reviews and seeing that it seemed stable and had few complaints. There are newer models, though. I like it a lot. There are tons of settings, so you can set it up in any way that is best for your needs. I've fallen off a horse with it and dropped it several times, and there wasn't any damage to it.

Beth said...

Thanks for the info... I appreciate you taking the time to respond... really enjoy your blog!