Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Queen Reigns Supreme

On today's trek down to the barn, I had no plans.  The ravens let me get to be about 5-feet from them before they flew off.  Pretty soon they might let me pet them.  One of them tries out different sounds on me to see how I will react.  Today's sound was almost sweet.  It was a very quiet cooing.

I wound up haltering Lostine, grooming her, tacking her up, doing a little bit of ground work in the round pen, and she was so quiet and cooperative that I braved those insane trails again.  There is a pattern I'm seeing in which I tend to hire horse trainers in January and February because those are the months I find it most difficult to get nice, quiet, relaxing trail rides due to both expected and unexpected changes in the traffic, the environment, the weather, and whatnot.  I think this is the time when the horses feel most anxious, because what they come across on their travels is so unpredictable.

This is the only picture I got of the trail ride while heading out.  The GoPro took one picture and then the battery died.

I was thinking about how much I respect this horse.  I've owned her for 15 years.  When I first got her, I took her to two different trainers and they both said that she didn't need any training.  It turned out that she behaved beautifully for any rider who knew what they were doing.  I did not know what I was doing, so she gave me all kinds of grief in the beginning.  However, she taught me to be a better rider, and I have never had to put her back into training with a professional because whoever raised her in her early years gave her a real solid foundation, and she has retained it.

After my struggles with Rock yesterday, it felt heavenly to be on a responsive horse.  In fact, she is so responsive that she reads my mind and does what I'm thinking before I even have the chance to give her a cue.  On the trails, all I have to do is look at a cholla ball or big rock that I want to steer her around, and she steers herself around it.

Approaching the road, I listened closely and looked both ways and didn't see or hear any vehicle coming.  We got out into the middle of the street and my neighbor came flying up over that hill next to us in her luxury crossover with one of those huge grills on the front.  I startled and inhaled in shock.  Lostine startled and sidepassed up the road moving away from the front of the vehicle.  The driver slammed on her brakes, I squeezed Lostine forward, and she got us out of the road.  Then I turned and waved at the driver, who waved back.

I don't want these neighbors to start to spite me because I keep making them come to a stop since I'm always riding horses across the road, so I'm taking the approach of being super friendly and acting like I'm glad to see them.  The idea is that I'll make an impression, and they will think of me in that same spot I always cross the road, and then just automatically slow down knowing that I might be there.  If I make a negative impression on them by making them feel at fault, then they might start driving faster and swerving toward me just to harass me.  There's no need to put up a sign.  They know I ride my horses across there, and they are pretty much the only ones who have nearly hit me on several occasions because they drive so fast up over that blind hill.  I'll have them trained in no time, but until then I think I'm going to start crossing the street further away from that blind hill.

We were having an awesome ride on a loose rein.  Lostine was enjoying the outing and I was feeling completely relaxed.  We started going down the trail that Rock had his little freak out on yesterday after seeing the herd of deer.  I scanned the horizon and saw what looked like deer laying under that same tree.  I was squinting to try to verify that it wasn't an illusion when I heard a man clear his throat on the trail up ahead.

I am trying to look for opportunities to challenge my horses to face up their fears on the trails, but I have had so many scares lately caused by horses being overstimulated by various activities on the trails that I decided to opt in favor of keeping it a nice, quiet trail ride.  I didn't know what was up ahead -- if it was just a lone hiker or a lone horseback rider or lone bicyclist or someone with loose dogs that he cannot control.  Usually, if there is just one challenge the horse has to face, we can work through it.  But lately we've been running into multiple, simultaneous challenges, and that's what pushes my horses over the edge.

I have to balance out what is good for the horse and what is good for the rider.  If I have to deal with horses spooking, spinning, and bolting on every trail ride, then I start developing a sour attitude about riding.  Then I ride less often, and the horses pay the price because they aren't being kept in shape and they lose what they've learned when they are inactive.  So, I have to make myself happy too, and on this day I chose to keep my ride pleasant.  I turned Lostine around and headed down a different trail away from the deer and away from the man who cleared his throat.

We didn't see anyone on the rest of the ride.  In the final stretch toward home, Lostine got anxious and began looking at everything like it was scary.  Then some quail flew out of bush in front of us and she jumped backwards.  That's a new one.  I'm used to horses jumping sideways.  She started trotting off the trail like she was losing her head, and I pulled on one rein to remind her that I exist up there in the saddle.  She very politely came to a stop and I sat there stroking her for a while, letting her take in our surroundings until she realized nothing was there except the Boogeyman in her head.

We made it home without me having to dismount and without getting hit by a car.  It's funny how one near miss changes you.  On the way home, I made her stop twice and I waited a long time before crossing the street.  I kept imagining that I was hearing engine sounds, but nothing was there.  I was just so happy to be on a horse that would stop when I asked her to.  That simple bit of cooperation from a horse is enough to make me feel more secure in the saddle.  When I saw that the battery died on the GoPro and I only had one picture, I forced a little more juice out of it and got this shot before it died again.

Cuteness prevails.


lytha said...

That's great that you can have fun on Lostine.

I think I was mistaken when I sent you that Warwick Schiller video "Horses who are distracted in new places" because he wasn't talking about horses who are spooking/gawking at scary things, he was teaching how to deal with a pushy disrespectful horse who is "looking at all the women on the beach" - as opposed to "staring at that rock monster." I guess I didn't think it through so I apologize.

You mentioned how you didn't see how pulling a horse away from an object would teach it something useful, and you're right, that would confirm to the horse that the object was dangerous.

He does have an interesting video on his channel about dealing with a horse spooking at an object, but it's that same old story about making the wrong thing hard - he circles the horse at a trot til it's facing the object again, and then lets the horse rest as long as the horse is proceeding toward it at a walk. As soon as the horse gets stressed and starts moving away, he trots another circle and so on. That kind of thing really only works in a safe environment (he was in an arena) and I know you've got cacti everywhere preventing that.

PS I have no idea what a luxury crossover is.: (

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lytha - Yeah, that's a good distinction between the two types of gawking. My horses almost always gawk because they are afraid, sometimes afraid and excited at the same time when they see new horses. I did dig around in his videos and saw the one on spooking you are talking about. I'm glad you directed my attention toward him.

A luxury crossover is a cross between a luxury car and a crossover, which is like a small SUV hatchback.

lytha said...

I had to look up what a crossover is but I think I get it now. Never heard the word.

achieve1dream said...

That is a genius idea for training the driver to expect you there!! I hope it works it. I might have to try that hehe. :-)

Gabrielle is worth her weight in gold! I hope with a little more work that Rock turns into a solid citizen like her. :-)