Monday, December 1, 2014

Figuring It Out

Here are some highlights from today's ride on Gabbrielle:

Nervous about the smell of turkey grease spilled on our driveway.  Must be a stinky Bigfoot nearby. 

Suddenly noticing the pile of saguaro limbs off to the side of the trail.  I did a good job directing my attention forward, so that Gabbrielle would keep moving and not stop to gawk. 

Gabbrielle slams on the brakes and does her best giraffe imitation at a hiker with two large dogs in harnesses.  I decided to let her gawk while I talked to the man so that she could see there was nothing to fear.  If we passed him again, though, I was going to make her keep walking past him. 

Gabbrielle stops to pee with me in the saddle and isn't concerned about losing her buddy horse up ahead.  She thinks she can always trot to catch up, but I taught her different.

High school had just let out and the teenagers were racing up the street in a couple of cars.  I decided to cross in front of them to encourage them to slow down in the presence of horses, but the driver of the first car didn't make any effort to take his foot off the gas.  This is the split second before his car appeared out from behind the tree up ahead, and Gabbrielle jumped straight up into the air.  Now I know I can ride out her vertical spooks.

Gabbrielle and I are starting to figure each other out.  When I lunged her in the round pen to work on tightening the cinch a little at a time, she tried her stunt of running backwards instead of forward, so I got strong in my stance and smacked her on the shoulder a few times with the rope and she gave up and trotted forward.  Moving out, she tried to back up, and I worked her head back and forth until she went forward.  Going through the gate, she tried to convince me that it was too difficult a task for her.  That's when I got her number.  From that point on, as soon as she balked or backed, I got on her case until she moved forward.  That whittled the backing up episodes down to just randomly stopping episodes.

I allowed her to stop at first, because I thought she had to poop, but then she started stopping without the need to poop, so I made it clear that she was to keep moving forward.  No more of this little horse who cried toilet game.  It didn't take much correcting for her to realize that she's better off just doing what I say.  At one point she ignored whoa and a pull on the reins, so I brought out my mean voice.  That did the trick.  When she was good she got praised and petted.  I'm feeling more comfortable on her and she's feeling more comfortable with me, so I can actually train her without her jumping out of her skin because I'm doing something slightly different from what she's used to.  The first couple of times I rode her, she felt like a ticking time bomb.  Now she just feels like a horse who is throwing out these half-hearted tests knowing that she is going to be disciplined for it.

I suspect it won't be long before I'll get a totally clean ride out of her.  It's so nice to get to the point where you can just enjoy your partnership as horse and rider without all the games and struggles.  Most of the ride I was feeling like Gabbrielle was saying, "I'm going to do this.  What are you going to do?"  After a while she'll know exactly what I'm going to do, and she won't have to ask.


Stephanie Ford said...

Yay! I never comment but I love reading about your horses' funny antics and the progress you make. Gabrielle sounds just like my newest mare, always testing me but totally worth it once you have a breakthrough.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Thanks for letting me know, Stephanie. I know my blog gets thousands of views a week, but I'm never sure if it is helpful or entertaining for others, or if people are just criticizing me in their heads. Probably a little of both.

Stephanie Ford said...

I've learned that no matter what you do or say, there will always be someone that has a negative opinion or think they know better than you. Anyway, I enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for sharing it with everyone.

Katharine Swan said...

I'm one of your lurkers, I'm afraid. :) I often read the posts but don't always have time to comment. I'm still here, though!

achieve1dream said...

I'm not a lurker haha, but I do tend to disappear at times, sorry! You know I'll always be back though. I love your blog!

I'm so happy you and Gabrielle are figuring each other out. The horse that cried toilet made me laugh out loud... hubby thinks I'm losing it. ;D