Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Getting Ahead of the Past

In years past, for some reason it has taken me a long time to get up to speed in the horseback riding department.  I can't ride all summer, so I look forward to the temperatures cooling down in the fall, yet somehow I don't get into the swing of riding until January.  I suspect that part of it is that it takes me a while to break my old summer habit of keeping busy indoors.  Part of it is that I get out of shape during summer hibernation and I don't have the strength and stamina to saddle up and ride.  Part of it is how busy I get around the holidays.  Part of it is that I used to take classes in the fall, and all the classes I took sucked up my mornings, which is when I like to ride.  Part of it is that with the horses being out of practice, I have to start over with their foundation training, and that's boring, so I opt to do other activities first.

By the time the holidays and my classes have ended, I'm back in shape, the horses have settled down, and I'm ready to start a new routine of riding several times a week, the population explodes and I start getting hit with unexpected challenges along the trails that take the fun out of riding, so I have to do a lot of desensitization to guarantee that I won't end up in the hospital the next time some human lets her dog attack my horse or gallops up from behind me through some bushes or sets off a firecracker or buzzes me with his drone or dive bombs me in his plane or helicopter or blasts past me on his silent mountain bike without announcing his presence or whatever it happens to be on that day that scares the hell out of my horse.  Then I spend all winter trying to expose my horses to what scares them, and at the same time I try to avoid problems so that I can still have a pleasant ride every once in a while.

Right around May is when the population heads down to ghost town mode, and I have some of the best horseback rides of the year.  Then after just a few short weeks of heaven, it hits the triple digits and I'm back in hibernation.  Last May totally sucked, because I had the perfect conditions to ride and my neighbors ruined it by scheduling a ridiculous number of home improvement appointments that I had to handle on their behalf since they were on the other side of the country.  I asked them if they could postpone the appointments until summer, because in May I had perfect riding conditions and had plans to work with my horses every day, but they didn't take me seriously and did what they wanted.  That led to me quitting that job.

Also, I was developing arthritis all along my right side and it was progressing so quickly that I could no longer walk without the help of a cane, none-the-less mount and dismount a horse.  Now that my doctor found a pharmaceutical that dims the pain and allows me to move freely, I want to take advantage of it and start riding as soon as the temperatures allow.  So, I've been working out on the indoor exercise equipment to assure that I will be in shape to ride as soon as the riding season starts.  I'm also doing a little bit of ground work with the horses each day for as long as I can stand to be outside.  I'm not going to sign up for any classes, and I'm going to keep the holidays low on my priority list.

August is usually a lot hotter than it is now, and the forecast shows a steady decline in temperatures, so there is hope for an early fall.  Although I have learned not to invest too much excitement into the forecasts, because they are ever changing.  Last night I caught the edge of a storm front and chose to sit in a chair next to the barn while the horses ate.  The gusts of wind were getting stronger and stronger.  Then I realized that I was sitting in front of the little Rubbermaid shed that always blows apart in the wind.  I looked over my shoulder and sure enough, the whole shed was shaking.  If the roof blew off and hit me in the head, it could knock me unconscious.

No sooner did I have that thought and looked just beyond the shed to see this wave of sand coming straight at us.  I grabbed my chair and ran for cover.  Once that blast passed, I moved up onto the porch only to have lighting spark right in front of me.  It wasn't coming from the clouds, and it wasn't coming from the ground.  It materialized right in between them and shot out sideways.  So, I had to take cover indoors and hope for the best with the horses.  I still feel like I haven't seen it all when it comes to weather phenomena in the desert.

Do you play music around your horses?  I recently started listening to Amazon Prime music stations while doing barn chores.  I needed to improve my mood, because the heat was making me cuss out loud too much, and the other day I heard my neighbor slam his door after I let out an expletive after rolling my ankle on that damn salt block again.  I figured he had been sitting on his porch enjoying nature and I ruined it for him with my foul mouth.

I actually didn't cuss much before I experienced an Arizona summer.  The heat does it to you.  Every little move you make is hard, and then when something derails your efforts after every two steps, you kind of lose it.  My husband and I overheard a woman throwing a nasty tantrum in the supermarket parking lot after she stepped in some gum.  She was screaming at the world for being inconsiderate of others, only she was polluting the meaning of her verbal onslaught by inserting a curse between every other word.  We kind of chuckled to ourselves, and I said, "It's the heat.  People act insane in the heat."

Things that normally wouldn't bother you, and you'd just deal with them, suddenly become huge obstacles once it gets to be above 105 degrees.  Your blood is already boiling, and then something stupid happens, like you step in gum or sprain your ankle or spill your drink, and the rage just comes flying out of your mouth before you can even comprehend what happened.  You react first, think later when you are in an air conditioned environment and all your internal organs have had a chance to cool down.

Anyway, I started listening to music through my iPhone while doing chores, and I found that it not only improved my mood, but I was more focused, so I could anticipate what problems might slow down my progress.  I'd get into a trance-like state and I'd be able to shut out all the negative stimuli:  Heat, humidity, flies, gnats, mosquitoes, fire ants...

In fact, when I was done with my chores in record time, I looked for other things to do because I wanted to keep listening to music and hang out with the horses.  Not one single cuss word came out of my mouth.  I just sang along quietly.  I was listening with earbuds at first, but the horses got interested in the cords hanging out of my ears, and they kept sneaking up behind me and pulling on them.  I took the earbuds out and held them near the horses' ears.  They each looked up to the cliff where strangers congregate to watch me do my chores, thinking the music had to be coming from there.

I decided to just play the music out loud, figuring that if it had a positive affect on me, it should do the same for the horses.  Then I started thinking about listening to music while I ride the horses.  I held the iPhone behind each horse where the horn of the saddle would be to see how they reacted.  Bombay was attracted to the music, because he was bred in a barn where music was always playing.  Each barn had its own radio.  Rock was fine with it, because he's fine with everything.  Lostine ran away the first time she heard the music behind her, but was fine with it after she processed it in her brain.  Gabbrielle had fits trying to get away from it.  As long as I held the iPhone in front of her, she was okay, but as soon as I held it near her body, she evaded it.  I did some desensitization until she accepted me holding it in that location.

Next, I tried playing different styles of music to see how the horses reacted.  They seemed to like classic rock the best.  I tried listening to country, but there were too many songs that romanticized getting drunk, and that bothered me knowing how awful it can be to have an alcoholic loved one.  I've never been able to listen to rap or hip-hop.  In fact, when those two styles became popular, I stopped listening to the radio, and music disappeared from my life.  That kind of gives you an idea of how long it has been since I've listened to music regularly.

I experimented with the music by letting all four horses out of their stalls while I cleaned, and everyone remained mellow.  No fights broke out.  They just kind of followed me around and poked my iPhone carrier, as if to say, "I know where that sound is coming from."

Either that, or they were trying to change the station.

Peace on earth.  All horses are a safe distance from each other.


TeresaA said...

I listen to the radio all the time in the barn. It helps the time pass and sometimes I dance with my pitchfork and sing along which amuses the dogs anyway. :)

Linda said...

When I boarded, they had music always playing in the arena, and I would sing along as I rode. Cowboy liked it. I used to have a radio out in the barn, but it got dusty and didn't work too well anyway, so I threw it away. I should look into a system that runs on my phone, like you do. Maybe a portable wireless speaker. It should help pass the time when I'm doing massage or cleaning stalls. And, I hate the hate, btw. It does make people craZy.

lytha said...

Enya is the perfect music for when you need patience with a horse. My mom joked, "Every time I think I'm gonna kill someone, I listen to Enya and the urge goes away.": )

Sherry Sikstrom said...

great idea! music is a great equalizer and calming influence. When I wean foals I always have music playing in the barn for them, it seems to help

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Tereasa - Hmmmm. I probably couldn't get away with dancing because it might attract a bigger audience on the hill, but I'd definitely be cutting the rug if my barn had walls.

Linda - I saw an ad in Horse & Rider for a wireless speaker you can strap to a western saddle around the pommel.

Lytha - My father loved listening to Enya, but her voice drove my mother crazy.

Sherry - I'm glad you left a comment on this post, because given your field of work in both therapy and horse breeding, I was interested if you had an opinion on music.