Wednesday, March 30, 2016

G's Refusal

It's a gorgeous day with just clouds and a little wind from the tail of a passing storm.  I could not believe my luck when I wandered outside to find the neighborhood perfectly still and quiet.  I went to the barn with no plan.  I keep telling myself that I need to have a plan, but the extent of today's effort was just to ride a horse, any horse.

I tied Bombay to the trailer, nipped a chip off his hoof, and groomed him.  As usual, he had fresh bite marks all over his body.  I'd feel sorry for him except that he's the one who starts all the play fights.  He was clearly anxious about being ridden, and memories came flooding back of the neck and back pain I always get after riding out his spooks, so I traded him for Gabbrielle.

My last two trainers kept telling me that Gabbrielle is the horse that needs the most work.  I find her to be more relaxed in general than Bombay.  But I haven't trail ridden her in a while.  I'm sure that's a different story without a buddy horse.  In the arena, she can do all kinds of fancy maneuvers and there's no spooking.

She's gotten fat enough recently that her cinch no longer lands in hole, so I had to tie it closed.  She's a real stinker about bloating.  Three times, I tested the saddle, it didn't slip, I started to mount, and the entire saddle slid down her side.  I'd then have to tighten the cinch more, walk it off, and try to mount again.  I thought I was never going to get to ride between that and the other horses pooping all over my riding space before I could get them locked up in stalls.

Since I've been doing more arena riding lately, I'm beginning to remember why I stopped riding in the arena.  It takes at least three times as long to prepare to ride in the arena than it does to prepare for a trail ride.  I have to clean up all the manure, put the horses in the stalls, set up the obstacle course, and drag the mounting block into the arena.

Though Gabbrielle was not nervous, she pooped four times from the moment I caught her until I released her.  I swear that she poops four times more manure and more often than the other horses.  That's my main incentive for selling her.  I don't want to spend the rest of my life cleaning up manure.  And I'm sure Gabbrielle will outlive me.

She was doing well for a while and then something clicked in her brain and she just flat out refused to go any further.  When I urged her forward, she'd go backward, and when I'd pull her head around, she'd just stop and ignore my cues to move forward.  She was being a smarty pants.  This was not a case of miscommunication.  She knew exactly what I wanted, and she just refused.

It would have been a good time to have a riding crop, but I didn't have one with me, and my legs and heels were useless.  So, I dismounted her... well, I tried to dismount her.  I don't know what the hell is going on with my muscles, but I could not lift my leg over her rump.  I was just stuck in the saddle with no one to help me down.  So, I stood up in the left stirrup, leaning my weight over the center of her back, let go of the reins, and used my hands to lift my right leg over her rump.  She was very good about standing still and waiting for me to drag my dead leg across her.

Every time I develop some new health problem I wonder if this it -- if this is the end of my riding hobby.  I have been having issues dismounting for a while, but this was the first time I thought I might not be able to get off at all.  It made no sense to me, because I was able to lift my leg over to mount.  Why would I not be able to lift it a short time later to dismount?  All I can figure out is that when my muscles get fatigued after riding, they loose strength and coordination.

Anyway, when I finally dismounted, I led her straight over to the round pen, and ran her in circles for a while to let her know that refusing to cooperate does not get her out of work.  I wish I could have corrected the problem from the saddle since I did what she wanted, which was dismounting.

In retrospect, I probably should have just ridden her hard backwards, even if it meant crashing into fences.  But I didn't have a plan, so she caught me off guard.  This horse is definitely smarter than I am.  I suspect that like Lostine, Gabbrielle is not an arena horse.  She'd way rather be out on the trails.

While I was lunging her, some horseback riders stopped on the cliff above my round pen to watch, and Gabbrielle's tail instantly shot up into the air and her speed quadrupled.  I had to halt her before she hurt herself.  Here she is totally focused on the distraction...

I really, really, really don't like being watched, because people who stare are usually also judging.  That's fine if I'm competing or showing my horse publicly or running a clinic, but I expect to be left alone when I'm working with a horse in my back yard.  Since Gabbrielle would no longer pay attention to me, I backed her all the way from the round pen to the trailer.

I'll try again another day, but next time I'll carry a riding crop.  I think I also should play it safe and make sure I've got someone within walking distance to help me in case I can't dismount.  I mainly just need somebody to move my leg for me.  All of my horses are good about standing still while I struggle.  I do work out in our home gym from time to time with the intention of building up muscle strength, but it usually backfires, because I'm so sore and stiff the next day or two that I can't even ride a horse, none-the-less work out again.

I really don't get it, because I do hike and bicycle a lot, and you'd think that would keep my leg muscles in shape.  Sometimes I wonder if it's more a problem with my brain not sending messages to my leg.  But I also have a problem with my right leg popping out of the hip socket, so that could be related.  Whenever I go in for my annual physical, I usually just tell the doctor I'm fine, because otherwise I'd need a couple of hours of his time to list all the ridiculous things I've experienced with my body over the previous year.  There's nothing he can do except order tests, and they usually come back inconclusive.  It's easier and less expensive to just tell him I'm fine.


Crystal said...

That's weird with your leg, I know my right leg sometimes falls asleep when I ride too long especially loping. Can you get off the other side or are both legs not moving?
I have to say again, I think Gabrielle is the prettiest horse, too bad you weren't closer.....not that I need another horse haha, hmm maybe its good you aren't ;)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Crystal - I've been thinking about that. I'm not sure if I can get off the other side. I need to get a better understanding of what keeps happening to the right leg. If it's just a problem with the muscles or bones around the hip, that might work, but if it's something to do with the entire leg, I probably can't stand in the stirrup on it. I'll just have to try and see how it behaves. I do limp with my right leg afterward. Also, if it's a fatigue thing, then yeah, both legs probably wouldn't lift.

I'm glad someone is interested in Gabbrielle. She is gorgeous. At one time, her bloodline alone made her a very valuable horse, but not many people around here are willing to give Arabian horses a chance. I get a lot of strange comments from other trail riders. They wonder why I would want to ride an Arab if I am not an endurance rider.

ellie k said...

I feel for you with the leg. Last week I stepped in a place a rabbit dug in our yard and fell really hard. I am blue, green and black down my leg and onto my foot. I thought I broke something I fell so hard. My neighbors turned there tame rabbits loose when they got tired of them, they eat everything in yards and dig holes to eat the roots. I sure hope you can get to the point you can enjoy your horses soon. They need you well as much as you need to be able to enjoy them.