Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cloudy with a Chance of Going Outdoors

With it being the first truly cool, cloudy day of the fall season for us, with a high of 70 degrees, I knew a lot of people would be out.  I think any temperature in the 70's is perfect for humans.  I started off the day with a bicycle ride in the desert.  I was surprised to not see anyone on the trails, but on my way home I heard someone yelling.  As the yelling got closer, I heard the words, "Whoa!  Whoa!  Whoa!" and knew it had to be a rider on a runaway horse.

I got off my bicycle as a man on a horse came galloping toward me on a parallel trail.  As he got nearer, he pulled his horse around in a circle until it stopped beside me.  I said, "Are you okay?"

He looked around, but didn't see me.  I yelled out my question louder, and he then spotted me and rode his horse closer.  He said something to the effect that his horse is really fast.  It appeared that his horse was fine with bicycles, so I rode further up the trail and spotted a woman on a nervous horse circling bushes.  I stopped my bicycle again, and realized that there was a teenage girl on a jigging Arab just a few feet away from me.  All three riders appeared to be struggling to maintain control of their horses, so I didn't want to add to the problem by spooking their horses by riding my bike.

The girl reached the man and complained that he nearly caused them to get into a wreck by taking off at a gallop like that.  The man laughed and said, "Well, I invited you to come along, but you were too scared to.  Look at Mom.  She's doing fine just circling bushes.  That's all you've got to do."

He went on to explain that he was "hauling ass" until he ran into a cholla patch and tried to stop, but couldn't until after they had already run through it.  He told her that a bicyclist got off her bike for him.  I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but the woman was still circling her horse toward me and I wanted to wait until she was past me before riding again.  She seemed to be intentionally pushing her horse directly toward me.  Suddenly, her horse's head popped up and the woman said, "NOW you see the bicyclist."

Once her horse started to relax, I slowly rode off.  I found the experience to be a bit disturbing.  I know there are trail riders who stir up trouble for other riders whether it be intentionally or out of ignorance, but when it's your own dad or husband doing it, somebody who is supposed to care about your welfare, that kind of takes it to a whole new level.

Recently, a friend of mine broke three of her ribs, injured her lung, and fractured her back in a horse riding accident.  I visited her in the hospital, and she has to wear a back brace for the next three months.  Something like that is life changing.  She's lucky she wasn't paralyzed.  I've had a hard time sleeping because I've been worrying about her.  I take safety around horses very seriously.  It bothered me to see this man teasing his daughter for being too chicken to gallop on the trails with him, and laugh over the fact that he startled his daughter's and wife's horses when he took off.

I rode my bicycle down to the barn to let Bombay out of his stall, and Rock bolted in fear.  The other three horses have been thoroughly desensitized to the bicycle, so they stood still.  I realized that I needed to spend more time working with Rock around bicycles, so I rode the bike into the barn while he cowered in a corner.  I rode up to him and petted him while he chewed the handlebar.  Then, just for good measure, I rode off down the street, and returned down the driveway to the barn a couple more times, making sure he had his head buried in a food trough so that I would take him by surprise.  By the third time, the bicycle became just another fly buzzing around the barn, and he didn't react.

In the afternoon, I worked with Gabbrielle in the round pen.  She was being pissy about me tightening the cinch, so I spent some time just loosening the cinch, readjusting the saddle, and slowly tightening it again until she didn't care anymore.


Gabbrielle insisted on helping me zip up my protective vest...


I worked on sitting on my back pockets, because I tend to perch in the saddle when I ride her, and then she hesitates because I feel imbalanced.  I also reminded her to keep her head set and stay collected...

We did this exercise in which I imagined five points spaced evenly around the railing of the round pen, and each time we reached one of those points, I circled her three times, and then moved her forward to the next point, where we circled three times.  Then once we made a full rotation around the pen, we did it again, but with only circling one time before moving forward to the next point.

I did that because Gabbrielle had decided that she wanted to end the lesson early by intentionally backing into the mounting stool when I was cuing her forward.

She hasn't spooked since I started riding her this past month, which is nice, because when I rode her regularly several years ago, spooking was a given.  It was just a matter of when, how often, and how big she would spook.  However, today she did pop her head up and flinch once, and then another time she popped her head up, grunted, and jumped to the side, but in the split second she did that, I whacked her on the side of the neck she was jumping toward with the rein, and she stopped mid-jump.  I thought that was pretty amazing that I could stop a spook mid-stream.  She's so responsive.

In some ways, her sensitivity is a double-edge sword.  It makes her easy to train, but it also makes her reactive to things in the environment.

2 comments:

How Sam Sees It said...

I ran into those folks down at my end. I had Maggie out and I was actually glad that she is so rock solid (...and not Baron!). They galloped up behind us as a group, stopped to invite me to ride along with them the next time, and then took off at a gallop again. Maggie never lost her head.

achieve1dream said...

Wow some people are so rude! That is very dangerous behavior...

I'm glad Gabrielle did well. Chrome was being unhappy about me tightening his girth today too, which is unusual for him. :\