Friday, November 21, 2014

My First Trail Ride on Gabbrielle

After the grief Gabbrielle gave me yesterday in the round pen, I was a bit hesitant about riding her on the trails, but my husband finally got some time off from work and could help me out by riding a buddy horse.  I was unsure where Gabbrielle was in her training.  P.S. rode her during the summer along with the horse trainer on a buddy horse, but I didn't go along with them, so I didn't see how she did.  Last I remembered, she was still easily excitable and spooky.  P.S. had a system worked out with her in dealing with those behaviors.  I'm still trying to figure out how to stay balanced on such a tiny horse.

Gabbrielle's history is that I started her under saddle, and she was my first horse that I started, so I probably made a lot of mistakes.  I intended to train her all by myself, but then my mother broke her leg and needed to me move in with her to take care of her.  I didn't want Gabbrielle's training to lapse, so I sent her off to a dressage trainer.  She spent two months with her, and when I picked her up, the trainer warned me not to attempt to ride her out on the trails alone.

I started riding her in arenas, but then she got a series of injuries and had to be put on the Disabled List.  Then my mother died, and the next two years of my life got sucked away in the business of settling her affairs.  By the time we moved here, I had lost all desire to train a green horse by myself, so I hired a natural horsemanship trainer.  I could see that their personalities were clashing, so I decided to re-start her under saddle myself.

The trainer recommended that I sell Gabbrielle, just because she needed a lot of training for my purposes.  That's when I met P.S., and she asked if she could train her.  As soon as she started working with Gabbrielle, I could see that they were a perfect match for each other.  Gabbrielle is a sensitive, reactionary, but intelligent horse, and P.S. had the golden touch with her.  We decided to bring in another trainer to help her carry herself better at the lope.  P.S. and the trainer managed to get the horse to slow down and relax at the faster speeds.

I had hoped that P.S. would buy Gabbrielle, but she bought another horse, so now I'm trying to get to know Gabbrielle again and learn how to ride her.  She's not one of these horses who you can just hop on and go.  You need a plan for every predicament.  You need to understand how she thinks and always be one step ahead of her.  So far, she's dumped riders three times while spooking.

When I began tacking her up, she was very excited.  It didn't help that the other horses were all screaming.  She kept looking up the driveway expecting P.S. to show up to ride her.  I got busy helping my husband tack up Rock and when I looked back at Gabbrielle, she was asleep.  The horse can turn it on and turn it off in an instant.

When I mounted and asked her to walk, she backed up, even with Rock walking up the driveway in front of her.  I didn't want to begin the ride with a fight, so I just sat still on her and waited for her to stop reacting and start thinking.  Fortunately, she changed her mind and switched gears.

She backed up a second time at the gate.  That was my fault.  She was going to hit my knee on the post, so I squeezed my legs in and she ran backwards.  I discovered that if I attempt to squeeze her forward and steer when she's in that backing up state of mind, she panics.  But if I sit still, give her full rein, and say, "Okay," then she will walk forward.  For now, she's more confident if she's in control.

Going out, we were in front, and you can see that she was on edge with her ears pinned forward, listening for predators up ahead on the trail...

Once Rock got in front, she instantly relaxed...

The cholla balls were obnoxious.  We had to keep steering around them, and of course, every time I picked up on a rein, Gabbrielle's ears shot forward and she started looking around for whatever was going to eat her...

It looked like the horse rescue down the street was having another yard sale, because our horses were getting excited about all the voices and vehicles.  Once we got deeper into the desert away from the activity, Gabbrielle was practically sleep walking...


My husband was pointing out some mountains he wants to ride our horses in...

There's this little ditch that Gabbrielle always balks at.  Despite me visualizing success and willing her to be confident and go straight down it, she ran backwards.  She tried to spin and run the other way, so I had to get contact through the reins again.  I was letting my husband know that he was losing us, but Rock decided to trot up the hill, so the gap was getting wider.  I could feel Gabbrielle panicking over losing her riding partner.  I sat still, dropped the reins, said "Okay" and she walked forward, catching up to Rock.

We managed to pass one trash pile without her reacting, so I was hoping she'd be fine with the recently fallen saguaro.  She did perk her ears forward and slow her pace...

Then I realized that something big was moving around in the wash beneath it.  Despite the noise, she did really well passing both the fallen saguaro and whatever was causing the commotion down there.

At the last little ditch before home, Rock took off trotting and Gabbrielle reacted by running backwards again.  I think she thought he was running from something in the bushes.  Once she rides with him more often, she'll learn that he just likes to trot up hills.  Not everything is a reaction to danger.

I'd call it a very successful ride.  Despite balking and backing a few times, she didn't have any big spooks and she didn't cause a forced dismount.  She did jump a little bit when I burped.  Apparently, P.S. has never burped while riding her.  I told Gabbrielle that if she thought my burp was scary, just wait until I fart.  I scared Stewie off the couch the other night when I let one slip.

I'm thinking she's just not an arena horse.  By riding her in the arena to get used to her, she felt insulted or maybe bored -- like I was sending her back to kindergarten.  I didn't know how to explain to her that I'm riding her in the pen because I need to learn how to ride her -- not because she needs to re-learn how to be ridden.

Home sweet home...


2 comments:

Dreaming said...

Wow! It sounds like it was a great ride! Congrats!

achieve1dream said...

It sounds like a success to me!!! Some green horse moments, but otherwise great. Good girl Grabrielle! I feel you on the narrow thing. I don't notice it much anymore in the saddle, but when riding bareback Chrome still feels so narrow! I wish P.S. had bought Gabrielle too. They sounded so perfect together. It's okay though, with practice you can have that with her too. :D