This morning I was taking stock of everything that needed to get done today and prioritizing the tasks, knowing there weren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. I mainly wanted to make sure I got things like mopping floors done while no one was home to slip on the wet floors and get injured. The dog poop was piling up outside, so I went out to clean it up first. While out there, I felt what a beautiful day it was and considered playing hooky from cleaning and taking a "quick" trail ride. Then I noticed a strange vehicle parked by the gate to the bridle trails.
I thought, "I hope that person leaves soon, because I don't want to have to contend with riding around his car to get out to the trails."
With the dog poop cleaned up, I went down to the barn and paddock to clean up manure and let the horses out of their stalls. I noticed the driver of the vehicle pulling forward even more, thus blocking the gate to the bridle trails. He got out and started unloading something from his hatchback. Next thing I knew, it sounded like he was firing up a leaf blower.
"Ugh! A gardener!" I thought. "This could go on all day."
My neighbors list their home with a new agent every three months, and every new agent has to bring in a crew of gardeners, house cleaners, photographers, and other agents. The activity is non-stop for a few weeks, so after a year and a half of this, I'm pretty fed up with all my good weather days being ruined by a whirlwind of activity in the neighborhood.
Anyway, it sounded like the leaf blower was over my head, and I looked up to see a drone with camera attached flying over my horse paddock. It turned out that the agency was taking aerial video of the neighbor's property. It was annoying having this buzzing over my head while I worked, but I figured the camera was pointed and my neighbor's place, so I wasn't too concerned. It would eventually go away. I noticed that the horses were swishing their tails angrily as if an insect were buzzing around them.
I was out there for a long time because there was a lot of poop to scoop, and I noticed that the drone spent more time over my property than the neighbors'. I was beginning to feel like my privacy was being invaded. I kept doing chores waiting for the drone pilot to finish his job and drive off, restoring peace to the beautiful day so that I could go for my trail ride, but he wouldn't go away.
My husband said that he heard a story in the news about a man shooting down a drone that was buzzing over his back yard, because the camera was invading his privacy and the buzzing was causing unwanted noise pollution. I decided that if anyone started the habit of flying drones in my neighborhood, I would first talk to the person if I knew who was doing it, and if he didn't stop, I'd shoot it down myself and be willing to pay for damages as long as he keeps his replacement drone over public property. If he didn't like that settlement, we could discuss it with a judge.
People say that airplanes and helicopters fly over people's back yards all the time, and it's not a problem. However, planes and helicopters do not fly as low as drones and usually are not recording photographs and videos that can be uploaded to the Internet. Plus, most planes and helicopters are passing through to a destination, but when someone pilots a drone, it is usually within a small area, so the drone hovers and buzzes around repeatedly. We're talking apples and oranges.
Anyway, I walked to the far side of my barn away from the subject that was supposed to be video taped, and I stood under and overhang while petting my horses. All of the sudden that drone flew over my barn and down with the camera pointed directly at me. The guy was definitely spying on me, so I flipped him the bird, and he piloted the drone back to my neighbors' property in a jiffy. He must have been watching the video with a live feed to a monitor on the ground.
I suspect there will be another open house this weekend with signs and balloons all over the route I have to take to get to the bridle trails. Then all the home shoppers will be parking in front of the gate. I'm at a point where I just wish the house would sell so that I don't have to deal with anymore invasions of drones and Looky Loos. It's been nice not having barking dogs next door, but I'd like to reclaim the trail head for horseback riding rather than parking.
The good news is that I eventually did get to ride. The horse trainer came by mid-afternoon. I had planned to have my horse saddled and ready to go before he got here, but it turned out to be a bit of a crazy day. My husband came home from work early because he was sick, so I never got to mop the floors. When I went out to saddle my horse, I got distracted by manure and tried to clean it up "really quick", but the horse trainer arrived early. I told him to take his time, and he still had Gabbrielle saddled and mounted before I was done tacking up Bombay.
Gabbrielle looked totally relaxed, and Bombay looked like a basket case. I could feel his nerves. I tried to ignore them, but both his nerves and my nerves came into play off and on throughout the ride. While riding up the driveway, Bombay was doing something weird that was shaking me in the saddle. The trainer said that he was trying to grab the lead rope with his mouth so he could swing it around. We rode out into an open area, and the trainer tried coaching me through the neck-reining process, but I kept screwing up, going back to old habits. Bombay was totally confused, either turning in the opposite direction or turning and trying to run for home.
My plan was to practice neck-reining during the ride until the motions became second nature, but the trainer was in the lead and he kept taking us down narrow trails and steep trails, and there weren't many opportunities to turn. We somehow wound up on the trail from hell that has all of these pointless switchbacks across a wash -- a lot of down and up and turn and down and up and turn. Both Bombay and Gabbrielle were getting more and more nervous. Gabbrielle was balking at rocky sections, and Bombay kept prancing up onto her butt, trying to push through her.
Gabbrielle was doing a good job walking on down into the ditches and up the other side once she got unstuck, but Bombay wanted to run and I was struggling to hold him back. He gets angry if I pull on the reins too much, but I couldn't circle him in some of these tight spots and I couldn't let him keep running into Gabbrielle or she might kick. I just wanted to get out of that mess, so I asked the trainer to stop when we got to the bottom of the wash. I said I needed a breather, because my horse was nervous and that was making me nervous, and I just wanted to sit still and not pull on his mouth for a bit.
We bushwhacked until we reached a straight trail that ran along the ridge of the arroyo. Bombay instantly relaxed and gave Gabbrielle her space after that... at least until the trainer circled behind us and put Bombay in front. Then Bombay picked up his pace and got all jiggy, which drives me nuts, so I circled him around some bushes. Gabbrielle got in front again, and Bombay instantly settled down. Apparently, Bombay does not like to be in the lead.
I was trying to figure out why he has been so stellar when the trainer rides him out alone, and why he was such a ball of nerves with me on him and another horse keeping him company. I decided that I'm just not the best rider for him. Something about me makes Bombay nervous, and when Bombay gets nervous, I get nervous.
One piece of information I got off the trainer that I want to remember is that Bombay does better if you gently ask him to do something and you wait for the correct response. He does not do well with pressure, and he's claustrophobic, so if I react to his spooks and bolts by pulling back on the reins and clamping down with my legs, it can trigger him to either panic or get angry, which can lead to a wreck. He's the type of horse that you just have to relax and let him run when he bolts, and then slowly gather up a rein to pull his head around to stop him.
Gabbrielle needs pressure, because otherwise she wouldn't do anything or go anywhere, because she's afraid of everything. When she spooks or balks, I have to get her to pass whatever is bothering her and show her that it doesn't concern me. If she's still nervous, I have to circle the object at a distance and then as soon as she focuses her attention elsewhere, we walk away from it.
That makes sense, because we're trying to train her to not be concerned about stupid stuff, so as soon as she loses interest in it or shows signs of relaxation, she is rewarded by moving away from the object. I like this method, because forcing her to face her fears by approaching them directly and making her touch them with her nose has never been a favorite activity of mine. I think that just adds to her fears, and I think the point should be to teach the horse to stay the course, stay relaxed, and stay focused. Plus, one of these days, the horse might really have something to fear, and the last thing we want it do to is touch a rattlesnake or mountain lion with its nose.
We were ending the ride on a pleasant note, because we found a wider, straight trail where we could talk without having to worry about rocks and cacti and steep drop offs, when the trainer turned us toward another infamous steep hill where I got into one of my wrecks, so I asked him to go right instead of left. Bombay was anxious to get home for dinner, and he wanted to run, so the last thing I needed was to have to struggle to keep him at a walk down a long, steep slope.
We made it home without any spooks out of Bombay. He did trip a few times, and he did break into a trot a lot, and he did turn and try to run for home a few times, but at least he didn't do one of his teleportations sideways. Gabbrielle, who is supposed to be my trouble child, was fine for the most part because she had her buddy horse with her.
I think I'm just going to have to spend some time on Bombay working out consistent communication so that he's not so nervous and confused. I certainly don't beat him or do anything that should make him nervous, but I guess he just likes to know what is expected of him, and I'm not communicating that in a way he understands.
The trainer and I talked a bit about how to train ourselves as riders to be relaxed and not react when our horses spook, shy, or bolt. He said you just have to spend a lot of time in the saddle and practice. My skeptical side verbalized that during the process, you most likely fall off and get injured, and then you have to recover for several weeks or months, only to start all over from the beginning trying to ride often enough to learn to relax and not react, only this time it is much more difficult because you are suffering from post-traumatic stress and an even deeper fear of riding. I feel like there has to be a more cautious and systematic approach to teaching your body and mind to relax and not react to your horse's antics, but sometimes when you try to be safe, you end up just setting yourself up for a wreck. I suspect that's why so many people ride in faith and just say a little prayer before departing.
Oh yeah, and back to the subject of drones, my horse trainer said he had one follow him down the trail when he was riding a horse. It was pretty annoying for him, and had the horse been scared or startled by the drone, he could have been hurt. Our local news has been covering stories about people flying drones too close to commercial aircraft, risking a crash by having the drone sucked into the airplane engine. I suspect a lot of new laws are going to need to be put into place regarding the flying of drones, because it seems that not a whole lot of drone pilots have something called common sense.