Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cia Is Home, But Will She Ever Be a Trail Horse?

Yes, you read the title correctly, Cia is home.  Training was cut short.  She flunked out of kindergarten.

It wasn't entirely her fault--because of her shedding, she got some cinch sores, and was probably experiencing pain.  She needs rest to heal up, so I decided to bring her back and do some other stuff.  

After two weeks she wasn't settling down and since she's being trained 2.5 hours away, it was difficult for me to assess why.   

One way of looking at it:  A lot was thrown at her.  As my sweet-never-failing-hard-working-willing-to-drive-six-hours-to-get-my-sweet-horse--husband and I were driving to pick her up today, we ran into a cattle drive right along the rode.  Yep, a full-fledged cattle drive--people on horseback, 4-wheelers, trucks--herding hundreds of a cattle down the road where we were driving. (These were Cia's new friends from the ranch where she stays) We had to stop and let all the calves and their mamas pass by us.

Maybe Cia is more of a city horse than a country horse and all those cows were just a little disconcerting.  Add to that a couple of stallions stalled near her, spring fever, and some of the rockiest, steepest terrain you've ever seen, and you can see why, maybe, she was a bit frazzled.

The question now is whether Cia will ever be a "trail horse". 

The negatives:  When she was scared, she was really scared.  She didn't care where she placed her feet.  She didn't care who was in front of her.  She was dangerous.

I have never seen any of this out of her, but then again, I've never pushed her outside of her comfort zone.  

Where do I go from here? 

I'm going to let her heal up, and I'm going to think about it.  I will probably attend some clinics with her and continue to ride her here at home.  I'll also trailer her with me whenever I go on outings so she can get used to leaving home and herd.  And, I'll wait to fully assess all of this until spring fever is over.

My gut instinct is that she's a better horse than that.  I've been riding her for three years and never seen any of this.  Maybe she's a sensitive horse who needs to be trained by her owner.   Maybe with enough exposure she can desensitize.

On the other hand, I know what all those signs mean, and I don't want to get hurt on a horse.  I want a horse who will be my partner out on the trail and not put me in danger when a herd of elk come crashing across our path.

So, one step at a time.  She'll have to prove herself to become a "trail horse."

18 comments:

  1. This is tough indeed.
    You're a wise one, though.
    Just listen to your instincts.....
    and your heart.

    ~Lisa

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    1. Thanks, Lisa--that's sound advice.

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  2. Maybe she just needs some time to grow up mentally. Or maybe she just needs to be exposed to things more slowly, as you're planning. She sounds like a horse who lacks self-confidence - are there things you could do with her that would help with that? Or perhaps the trainer just pushed her too hard - she just may need a lot of time and to be brought along very slowly.

    Hope it all works out for you and her - these things can be perplexing, as I surely know.

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    1. Kate--time was definitely an issue and my trainer felt like she'd need a lot of it--much more than we had originally anticipated. There were definitely confidence issues....and also possible conformation issues that may (big "may" here) have made the process harder for her. I could have left her there for the long-haul and let my trainer handle the whole process, but I felt many of those things were things I could do myself in clinics and trailering away for lessons--and I don't want her to be gone that long. This is definitely perplexing...which seems to be the story of my recent horse life. :/

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  3. Sounds like Cia is a lot like my Gwen. I used something called CAT with her to get her used to being away from the herd and out in the big, wide world. I took her out just past her comfort point (by a step or two), waited for a sign of calm from her (head down), and then turned around and went back. We just continued this and gradually went further and further away. It took months but now, if she's not in heat, she's gotten quite comfortable away from the herd. I still wouldn't ride her a mile away from the pasture but I know we'll get there in time.

    Have faith, Cia can get there too.

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    1. Smaz--that's good advice. I plan to start by trailering her away from here for a lot of her work. I have an arena available at the state park I ride at--it's five minutes away. I also want to take her for some lessons with me and her and a trainer. All of that should help her build confidence. The theme of my training is going to be "away from home."

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  4. Wow, so much to be considered when riding. I can see that a tremendous amount of trust moves between horse and rider. Maybe your gut is right ... Training, with this horse, has to come from trusted you?

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    1. Joanne--I wonder if you knew how complicated the horse life was before reading the daily ins and outs of this blog. ;) I do think trust between rider and trainer is important and takes a while to develop. With that in mind, however, I do also think what my trainer saw are things I will have to deal with--trust or not--and decide if I'm comfortable doing that. I guess I can only answer one day at a time.

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  5. Cia may have been missing her herd and her humans. She had a lot of new and different things thrown at her at once and was a probably a bit frazzled by her experience. Once she settles back in at home I think you have a good plan in place.

    Working with her on a consistent basis and taking her with you to introduce her to new adventures might be just the ticket she needs to desensitize her. Anything you could do to build up her confidence would likely help her deal with new situations too. Good luck.

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    1. GHM--I feel that's all I can do--desensitize her and be consistent. I had hoped she'd be a push-button horse, but that isn't to be. My hope now is that some of what we see is seasonal...maybe a little pain related from the cinch issues...and she'll make quick progress in the confidence area. Thanks for the good wishes.

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  6. If you haven't seen the flighty behaviors, it my be because she trusts you and has confidence in you as a leader. She may not have excepted the training environment as her new herd and home, and was "ALL ALONE" and was panicked. Sounds like you have a good plan in place. Keep us involved!

    Bill

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    1. Bill, I do believe she was panicked and felt alone. More time there would have probably helped her settle in. I didn't feel good about leaving here there long-term though because it's so far for me to drive to see her and I didn't want to be away from her for that long. I really do want to be a part of her training, no matter where it's done. When I lived closer to my trainer, she always loved it when I'd hang around and help out. My daughter trained her horse side-by-side with her and that worked out GREAT. I'll definitely keep you all informed as we move along this road.

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  7. Sometimes what we want for our horse isn't what they are suited for, and then it's up to us to find the best fit for them. Maybe Cia would be happier as an arena horse, at least as far as her basic training goes; sometimes getting them really solid in arena schooling before you take them out on the trails is a good thing. It gives them time to become automatic in their responses, and build a trusting relationship- so that when you are faced with that horse eating monster out on the trail, you'll have something to fall back on. Time, patience, trust and training- nothing is easy in the world of horse ownership.

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    1. That's very true, Shirley, and a good way to look at it. Good words of advice about time, patience, trust and training, too. That's what it always comes down to--even if we buy a "bomb-proof horse."

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  8. I think you are doing the right think by Cia. You know her best and she trusts you. Taking it slow and not throwing too much at her at once is a good plan.

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  9. Cia reminds me so much of my Arab, Brandy. When I got her 7 yrs ago, I didn't think we would ever get through her issues. It was bad. But let me tell you this, we have gotten through most of them and it may have taken 7 yrs to do it but now I have an amazing trail horse. She still has her moments and when she has one of them, it is usually a bad one. But I would never sell her. She is a special horse and it takes a special kind of person to ride her.
    I do believe you need to take it slow and being very patient is key. Cia will get there, it may be in a year or it may be in 7 yrs, but if you don't mind the wait it can happen (not saying that it will happen but I have faith in you that you can get through this with her).
    And you know what? I still can't believe I took Brandy trail riding the first few years! It was ugly! But we are blazing trails all over now!

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  10. Makes me wonder how much time the trainer spent "on the ground" with her before saddling her up. Some great comments here and perhaps she will be a better fit for the ring... but time will tell. Go with your gut instincts, I'd say, and also don't let your emotions and "love" get in the way... your safety is the most important thing.

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  11. Trust is such a huge thing with a horse. Having it can get them through most anything. Not having it can make them very miserable.

    Sounds to me like Cia is very sensitive and, for me, anyway that's not a bad thing. Sensitive horses may be harder at first but the journey it takes to train them builds a pretty awesome relationship. If you have the time and patience, it is well worth the effort.

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Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.