Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Slowing Down to Spell It Out

I've spent most of this week just dealing with rain, mud, dog behavior problems, horse behavior problems, and neighbor behavior problems.  I'm normally in a one-track mindset and all I want to do is ride my horses, so each time someone or something performs some obnoxious behavior that distracts me from riding, I tend to ignore it and just ride, figuring I'll deal with the problems later.  However, since the sand in the arena is as hard as concrete, the footing in the round pen is muddy and slippery, and who knew what condition the trails were in, I decided to focus on all those behavior problems for once and stop letting it just happen until I reach my boiling point.

Midge is learning that it is no longer acceptable for her to block me from where I need to go, nor is it acceptable to run behind my legs, then run in front of me and pull the leash taut so that I lose my balance and nearly fall.  She is also no longer allowed to lay across doorways, or hover under me and get between my feet while I prepare food in the kitchen.  I remember some lady in a veterinary office waiting area asking me if Midge is a problem for me because she gets under my feet and herds me.  I guess she knew her stuff about herding dogs, or perhaps Corgis in particular, because at the time she asked me, Midge wasn't doing any of that.  She was just hiding under the chair.

The neighbors are just driving me nuts with their endless construction projects.  I've got one neighbor to the north and one to the south who have both been bringing in dozens of loads of fill dirt in dump trucks every week, so I'm totally sick of listening to the roar of dump trucks.  The neighbor to the south has been bringing dump trucks in every other day for several months now.  The neighbor to the north has been bringing dump trucks in every other day for at least ten years according to other people who have lived here longer than us.  I scream, "How much fill dirt do you need?" knowing they can't hear me over the roar, but it makes me feel better to scream.

I just find all of this to be baffling, because it cost me over a thousand dollars just to get six loads of sand dumped in my arena.  These neighbors must be paying someone hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for that service.  And again, how much fill dirt does one person need?  I find that the people who live around me take things to extremes.  This whole car hoarding thing that goes on in today's society is just plain out of control.  The area I live in is like one huge scrap yard.  I figure half these men who collect junk cars are probably spending their kids' college tuition and inheritance on all the crap, and who wants to look at mountains of metal when the desert has such beautiful scenery?  I feel sorry for people who can't see past their neighbor's junk piles.

Oh yeah, and the guy who was painting the house behind me was blasting his music all week.  I'd swear that all the neighbors for miles could hear it.  News flash!  Ipods and earbuds were invented to spare the rest of the world from having to suffer through some people's bad taste in music.  Oh well, I guess this was my karma for forcing my parents to listen to my rock music record playing day in and day out for ten years straight.

Gabbrielle got spanked last night for being stubborn and refusing to leave Bombay's stall at feeding time, so this morning and all day she has been an absolute angel.  She even stands outside of stalls and looks at me to ask permission to go inside.  She has also eased up on her aggressiveness toward the geldings.  So, to reward her, I took her for a walk in the desert and let her graze on fresh grass.

We wandered off the trails to look at new growth, new trash piles, and fallen cacti and trees.  She was hanging her head low, totally relaxed until I attempted to make her approach one fallen saguaro that also had a trash pile around it.  I think she felt like she was surrounded by scary objects, so she launched into nervous mode.  Whenever she is nervous, it's hard to get her to go down into arroyos.  I'm sure they smell like the animals that travel them, and she also likes to stay up high where she can see everything around her.

On the way home, we passed a couple of horseback riders, and I was really proud of how Gabbrielle handled it.  Her head did shoot up in the air and she did gawk, but all it took were a few yanks on the lead rope to remind her to stay next to me at a walk on a loose lead.  She's getting past her balking stage.

I was totally jealous of these horseback riders.  Both were talking on cell phones, neither had the reins in their hands, and their horses didn't even glance at Gabbrielle and I.  They may as well have been riding couches down the trail.  That's something I'd really like to experience with my own horses some day.  I do ride rental horses from time to time so that I can have a comfortable, safe, relaxing ride, but ultimately, I want my own horses to mature to the point where they just do their jobs without all the drama.

I think if we ever get to a point where I have an empty stall, I'm going to stop one of these riders and ask him if he would consider selling his horse to me.  That's the way to go when it comes to buying horses.  Don't shop around on sites where horses are for sale.  Go out to the trails and watch the horses that are being ridden there.  Or if you want to show, go to a show.  Or if you want to jump, go to a jumping competition.  I remember seeing a little girl riding a short, stout, strong buckskin gelding that was as sweet and mellow as can be on the trails one day, and I haven't been able to get that horse out of my head ever since.

But enough about horse envy...  I then took Bombay for a walk.  He was a perfect gentleman all the way out, keeping his head even with my shoulder, giving me my space, stopping when I stop, going when I go...

I took him past the two houses at the end of the street, because the traffic coming from and going to them has risen exponentially, and I was trying to figure out what the deal was.  I spotted at least two vehicles at each house that I had never seen before, so I suspect they are hosting snowbirds.  It feels like there are three families living in each house.

I was concentrating so hard on just how many vehicles were filling the driveways and cul-de-sac of these two houses that I was taken by surprise when a pilot dive-bombed us in his fancy plane.  I jumped, but Bombay totally ignored the sudden engine noise coming at us fast and loud from above.  The pilot got a good look at us, then pulled up and headed for the mountains.  He began to circle toward us again, and I decided that I would flip him the bird to let him know how I felt about his unwanted, unwelcome, and dangerous stunt.

Fortunately, he kept on turning until he turned away from us, and then he was doing these circles and loops, obviously for fun.  Then he flew into the mountains, would wait until he was dangerously close, and then turn at the last second before he would have hit.  I said to Bombay, "Doesn't he know that is the Bermuda Triangle of mountains?  Playing chicken with them is not a bright idea."

We watched while he continued to act like a complete ass all the way down the mountain range.  I kept waiting for him to crash, because I really could not see any other outcome.  This pilot was behaving like he was suicidal.  He flew off without crashing, so at least one idiot survived to see another day today.

Bombay was great until I turned us toward home, then suddenly he was pulling on the lead rope keeping his shoulder lined up with my shoulder.  I prefer that a horse keep its head at my shoulder and let me lead.  I kept giving him tugs until he slowed down and walked on a loose lead, but then he'd speed up again and try to drag me a few seconds later.  I finally got so tired of that being only temporarily effective that I'd stop each time he pulled, and I'd either make him stand still while I tossed the rope all around his legs and body, or I lunged him around me.  Then I waited for him to calm down and take a deep breath before continuing on our walk.  At one point, I was waiting a long time for him to sigh or cock a hoof or something, so I took an exaggerated breath to model for him what I was waiting for, and he responded by belching in my face.  I petted him and said, "That's my boy!"

We almost made it home and then he spooked and bolted to the end of the rope over nothing (it was the exact same spot where he flipped out over seeing a mule for the first time), so I had to turn us around and walk away from home, because I was not going to take him back to the barn until he was as relaxed going home as he was on the way out.  If I can get it through his thick skull that he has to let me lead regardless of the direction, and he has to stay calm and relaxed, then I might want to try riding him on the trails again.  He just causes so much trouble by prancing on the butt of the horse in front of him on the way home on trail rides and bursting a blood vessel over seeing other equines out there.  So, I want to nip that behavior in the bud from the end of a lead rope first, then it will be easier to tackle from the end of reins.

I was thinking that there are a lot of different reasons for horses to rush home.  Not only are their buddies there, but food is there, rest is there, and they simply know the way.  I wondered if perhaps my horses are just being know-it-alls by showing me the way home.

Then I started thinking about something for horse owners to be aware of if they hire trainers to ride their horses on the trails.  I could totally see a horse trainer racing a horse back to the barn because he or she is late for his or her next appointment.  So, if you have issues with your horse rushing home, be sure to let your trainer know to allow twice as much time to get back as they do to get out on the trails.  Making the horse walk and stop all the way home should be part of its training.

Since we have grass growing in our back yard, I gave each of the horses a few minutes of grazing time while I held the lead rope.  The grass was growing outside of my fenced areas, so I had to supervise.  Rock got so pushy that he tried to barge out the gate when I was bringing Bombay in, so I had to have a chat with him about not leaving the barn without a halter on and a human at the end of the lead rope.  Even though I didn't get any riding in, it was nice to be able to take the time to deal with each behavior problem as it presented itself.  Hopefully, the time I put in with the animals today will pay off in the future.


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Or not! When I went outside to let the horses out of their stalls after dinner, Gabbrielle very intentionally swung her butt into the gate to prevent me from opening it while she pooped right where I needed to walk to swing the gate open. I smacked her on the butt repeatedly saying NO NO NO and she just kept on pooping.

Crystal said...

Horses! Well hopefully thier other behaviour will last a little longer. It really is never ending working on small problems

achieve1dream said...

Chrome did that to me too!!!! I was cleaning out the barn, he walked into the barn, turned his butt to me (but not close to me) and started pooping. I started smacking him on the butt and he kept pooping. He finally did leave though and he hasn't tried it since so I hope he got the point. The brats can be so infuriating sometimes, but they totally make up for it when they are being loving and sweet. :) I'm glad you had a day that you were able to work with them, even if it was from the ground.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Ha ha! My husband said she did it to him too. I've been paying closer attention to Gabbrielle's body language, and she's definitely always scheming to do something to get my attention.

achieve1dream said...

Hehe you know what they say about some dogs, even negative attention is better than no attention! I think our horses are the same!!