Monday, March 17, 2014

The Longest Day

The longest day began at 5:00 AM when I got up to take Stewie the puppy to the vet clinic for more booster shots.  They only give vaccinations between 6:30 AM and 8:30 AM, and it's first come, first served with usually at least 20 people and their pets in front of me, so I always take along a word find book to occupy my time in the waiting room.

Once home, P.S. showed up to play with the horses and had all day to spare.  I asked her if she'd help me desensitize them to a bicycle out on the trails.  I have desensitized the horses to bicycles in their comfort zone at home, and now it was time to get them desensitized out of their comfort zone.

Earlier I had raced my mountain bike down the driveway toward the barn while dragging my feet on the ground making a racket just to see who would spook first, if at all.  I wanted to use the element of surprise by not using my voice to announce my presence.  You'll never guess who took off running in terror at the sight of me.

Rock.  Gabbrielle ran after him, but I don't think it was because she was afraid of me on the bicycle.  She just saw Rock running and ran after him.  Lostine and Bombay just stood there and watched me like they were bored.  I had even ponied each of the horses off a bicycle in the past, but that was before we had Rock.  I would assume that Rock has had plenty of experience with bicycles since he's been used as a trail horse by people before me, but he acted like it was the first time he had seen one.  Come to think of it, we've never come across a bicycle when we've been riding Rock on the trails.  Bombay seems to be the only horse who attracts bicyclists.

We started out just taking turns leading a horse out into the desert and riding the bicycle.  First, we had the horse follow the bicycle, then we rode toward him head on, then we came up from behind him, rode beside him, and circled him.  We tried spooking the horses by hiding with the bike behind a bush and then shooting out in front of them.  All of the horses did pretty well except for Rock.  When I raced past him, he jumped sideways.  All the horses also got a little nervous when we followed closely behind, but I doubt anyone is going to do that in reality, because they wouldn't want to get kicked by a horse.

We tried to help them associate the bicycle with good feelings, and so we rode up to each horse on the bike, stopped and fed them treats from a fanny pack.

Unfortunately, this was the only decent picture I got all day.  I tried videotaping some of our activities, but had the helmet cam pointed too far toward the ground.  Then the camera turned itself off, so all the pictures I thought I was taking the rest of the day were not being taken.  I need to turn the beeps back on so I know what I'm doing.  I had turned them off because the beeping noise was sending Midge into a tizzy, and I'd figure the horses would have to be desensitized to it too.

Next time we get a chance to do this, we'll ride the horses while someone else is riding the bike.  By the time we got home, we were hungry, so I made cheeseburgers.  Then we worked on ponying in the arena.  I think I've been talking about practicing that for months now, but haven't gotten around to it until now.  I mainly wanted to see if there were any horses that wouldn't get along together in a ponying scenario.

The only horse to give us problems was Rock.  He kept trying to bite Lostine on the butt, and she would pin her ears at him, but I was really proud of myself for catching him before he bit her, proud of Lostine for not trying to kick him, and proud of Rock for keeping up.  I figured he would dawdle and try to pull me out of the saddle, but he stayed at Lostine's speed.

Next time, we'll pony a horse out on the trails.

I "took" pictures all during the ponying process, but the camera was off.  It's hard to tell if the camera is powered up when it is on the top of my head.  Oh well.  I was about to ask P.S. if she wanted to go for a trail ride, but then I looked at my watch and realized that the horse trainer would be coming any minute now, and P.S. had to leave for work.

I still had Lostine tacked up when the trainer arrived, so I asked if I could tag along on his training session with Rock.  I also asked him to test out the riding crop on him.  He was doing a lot of turning to soften up Rock and make him more responsive.  Lostine wasn't in the least bit bothered with Rock circling in front of her and behind her and around her.  She rode beside him and didn't run for her life.  I only say that, because sometimes Rock chases Lostine around and she acts like he terrorizes her.

The horse trainer rode Rock over to some big piece of trash that was hidden in some bushes, and when Rock spotted it, he spooked big, but didn't turn all the way around and run off.  He settled down and approached it.

Usually, when P.S. and I are about to cross a street on horses, we stop our horses, look both ways, and then wait for the traffic to clear before crossing.  But the trainer just rides right out into the street.  I didn't realize that a van was coming until I was already committed.  The trainer actually circled Rock in the street with that vehicle there waiting for us to clear the road.  Lostine wasn't concerned about the van at all, even when it drove behind her with a rickety trailer bouncing behind it.

By the time I got back inside the house and looked in the mirror, I realized that because I woke up at 5:00 AM and raced out the door, I never put on any sunscreen.  My nose and cheeks look like tomatoes.  Oops.  Oh well, the pain will be worth it, because it was a productive horse day.


Cindy D. said...

Wow! Well done and way to get proactive! :-)

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

All I have to say is, Yay!!

Now, doesn't that feel good? Good for you.

Cheryl Ann said...

What a productive day! I wish I had days like that, but I'm either in a hurry to get home, or somebody calls me and wants me to babysit...sigh...I rarely have a FULL day with the horses!
Cheryl Ann

Sam said...

I love those rare all day horse days!

Cut-N-Jump said...

Glad things went well for you today. That's awesome. I usually wear some kind of hat to keep the sun off me. Otherwise I'm cooked in nothing flat. Yay fair skin in the desert.

Cars are supposed to yield to horses and most drivers will usually at least slow down when they see you in the road. Making your horse move around and act like there is a problem can help too.

fernvalley01 said...

sounds like an awesome day! hope the burn isn't too bad

achieve1dream said...

What an awesome day!!! That's a genius idea feeding them treats from the bike!