Since Gabbrielle has been so obnoxious, expressing her barn fever in full force, I wanted to start working with her to keep her busy. I took her for a walk in the desert the other day, and she was fine. She balked a bit on the way out, stopping to look around every time she heard or smelled something, but the rest of the time she was really good about walking slowly next to me, letting me and my bum leg set the pace. She investigated one trash pile, but didn't spook at anything.
This morning I tacked her up for a ride, and she began fussing about the cinch before I had even pulled it under her belly. I've decided that I hate dealing with cinchy horses. It's just one more neurotic behavior I don't have the time or energy for. If I cranked the cinch tight enough to interfere with the horse's heartbeat or breathing, or even to pinch the horse's skin, I'd understand why Gabbrielle pitches such a fit. But the reality is that I'm very gentle. I tighten gradually and always move the horse around after tightening it. If I see any wrinkles in the skin, I loosen it. There is no need for her to worry.
Then she turned her head away from the bridle. I gently pulled her head toward me and slipped the bit into her mouth, praising her for cooperating.
Then my husband walked out to do some yard work next to the round pen, so I decided to lunge her next to him in the round pen while he shoveled and pushed a wheelbarrow around. She was fine until he climbed into the back of the utility trailer to dump the wheelbarrow. Then she threw her head up and bolted to the other side of the round pen. She's seen him do this a hundred times, and she was fine with it if she was walking by, but moving at any pace faster than a walk triggered her spooky side. It was like this:
I'm trotting, I'm trotting, I'm trotting. What's that behind me? Oh frick! Why I am I trotting? Something must be chasing me! Run!
Once she could trot past him while he was in the trailer, I cooled her down and took her to the arena for a ride. I walked her around him from that perspective just to make sure she wasn't going to lose her mind, and she was fine. I pointed her toward him so that if he made any loud noises, she could see what was going on. I'm a stickler for safety when it comes to mounting, because you do not want your horse to bolt right when you have one foot in the stirrup and are in the process of swinging your leg over, especially when you have a special leg like mine that needs to be lifted over with one hand.
I rocked the saddle and it was on solid. I put my foot in and leaned forward. Again, the saddle was secure. However, Gabbrielle's expression made me suspicious. I put my weight in the stirrup and leaned forward while swinging my leg up as high as I could get it before grabbing it to pull it the rest of the way over, and right then, Gabbrielle sucked in her belly, letting the saddle slide all the way down her side. I went down with it.
Now, she's a fairly short horse, so this normally wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that the mounting stool was right there. One leg landed on it while one leg landed off. I tried getting both legs off, and my left leg slid down the side of the stool, taking skin off it as it went.
I was pissed and threw the mounting stool across the arena, but maintained a cool exterior as I adjusted the saddle back to where it was supposed to sit on her back. Please note that she did not get scared and spook with the saddle on her side, almost hanging off her belly. She was clearly expecting this to happen, because she made it happen. She just stood there while I fixed everything. I think she even found me throwing the stool to be humorous.
Then I led her around some more, gradually tightening the cinch again. I led her to the mounting stool, rocked the saddle, stepped in the stirrup, and there was that expression again. The expression of a mischievous horse. She was watching me closely. She knew the difference between me testing the saddle and actually mounting, so I went ahead with the first movement I would make when actually mounting, and there went the saddle sliding down her side again. I swear she was laughing.
I was like, "Alright, you want to be a cinchy horse? I'll give you a real reason to be a cinchy horse."
I tightened it to the point where she had wrinkles, I backed her up, I tightened it some more, but there was a problem. There was no hole in the latigo where I needed to stick the buckle, so I had to loosen the other side of the saddle. Around and around we went again, trying to get her to let her guard down just a second so that I could tighten it where it needed to be.
At the stool, I went to mount, and the saddle slid. I was able to tighten it two more holes after she sucked her belly in, then two more holes after walking her. That's four full holes from the point at which I thought it was tight enough to safely mount. That's what a trickster this horse can be.
This was my view for the majority of my attempted ride:
I sat there knowing that I needed to dismount, tie her up, retrieve the riding crop from the tack room, mount her again, and give her cues with the crop, but I was so exhausted. By this time I had been working with her from the ground for an hour and a half, and it wasn't getting any cooler outside. My leg was stinging and feeling like it was bleeding. I got off and put her away.
I'm thinking I just won't bother trying to ride her anymore. It's too much work when you consider that I can have either of the geldings tacked up and walking down the trail in five minutes. I don't know how much longer I have to ride with this fast progression of my arthritis, so what's the point in dorking around with an uncooperative mare? I think I'll just spend this year enjoying the boys.