Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Naughtiness & Nightmares



It's been a few days, so I can write about this from a distance now.  Every so often, it seems, we are faced with a nightmare scenario with our horses--no two of which are exactly alike.  We may plan for Nightmare A, but Nightmare A.25389 is what we get instead.

Let me start from the beginning.

On the 11th day of the 100 Day Horse Challenge, I worked with Beautiful Girl on going over poles.  She had such an acute awareness of where she was putting her feet and such a fluidity over the poles, I thought, I have to get this on video.  However, when I started taping her with my phone, Beautiful saw, or felt, the disconnection and used it as an opportunity to pull back.  That set in motion about a half hour of working together, culminating in a wonderful, willing partnership.  I jogged with her at  my side, and she would stop on a dime when I stopped, keep my pace, everything I could ask for in connectedness on the ground.

It was going so well, I thought let's try some trailer loading.  Off we went to the trailer, which we've been practicing a little bit every time we train.  I stand to the side and ask her to move into the trailer exactly as I would ask her to move out in a circle.  She has been doing this for me with  no problem.  She usually steps right in, looks around, smells the smells--then slowly exits off.

The day of the nightmare, we were doing so well, I figured we should go all the way in.  We did.  She didn't even hesitate for a second.  Once in, she was as relaxed as she was on the ground outside.  There was no sign of any concern on her part.  (Of course, she wasn't tied in moving down the road, either, but it was great progress.)  She backed out of the trailer equally calm and willing.

Which led to our 3rd training obstacle, tying.  I tied her a couple stalls down as I cleaned her stall.  She was tied to one of the barn support beams that we have a metal loop drilled into and then a Blocker Tie Ring attached to that.  Her lead rope was through the Blocker.

Well, as I was cleaning, I heard her pull back.  I ran out of the stall and over to her--or, at least, I walked fast, trying to keep the atmosphere calm.  I saw the stall door open and she was attached to it with her cheek squished--and she was pulling back with all her might.  I reached up to the Blocker, but it was slack.  I looked down at the door, and the cheek portion of her halter was stuck on the metal pin of the gate latch.  I remained calm and tried to loop it back over, but it was too tight with all her weight against it.  I didn't have a knife on me to cut it.  I couldn't get behind her without possibly scaring her more.  All I could do was talk quietly to her and hope she'd listen, relax, and come forward.

"Beautiful," I said, "It's okay, girl.  It's okay."  And, would you believe it, she listened!!  She released just a little tiny bit and I was able to get the halter off the pin.

(The pin.)



After that, she stood as calm and quiet as she ever had, but still curious and connected.

(The halter--you can see it is stretched out in the cheek portion.)



What did I learn from this?

1.) Never tie her in front of that particular stall because she is a smart curious horse and was probably trying to unlatch it--she had done it several times before--and even itch herself on the pin--thus, setting her up for that catastrophe.

2.) Always carry a knife with me in my pocket.  (My trainer from years ago had told me that already).

3.) No matter how hard you plan, when working with horses, anything can happen.

4.) Working with our horses on a regular basis does more than just "train" them, it helps to build the kind of trust that may be called upon in an emergency.  If I hadn't been working with her for the "Challenge", she would not have calmed down enough to get her free and the outcome could have been much different.

I was a lucky cowgirl last week, and I'm heading out there today for some more!

15 comments:

  1. Whew!! Doesn't it make you feel SO very good to know that she trusts you enough to listen when she was in panic mode? That's the kind of stuff that makes my heart swell with love and satisfaction to realize they do trust me, and will listen when they need to. My hope is to never, ever betray that beautiful bond of trust. So happy she didn't get hurt. :)

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    1. No doubt. The thankfulness and love that poured over me when she listened and released--it was too much to describe.

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  2. A knife in the pocket is a good idea. I'm going to have to train myself to add that one into my routine. I haven't had a horse get its halter caught on anything yet, but I have had horses loosen the lead rope and get it long enough that it got caught on things. I hate it when a horse pulls the lead rope out far enough that it can graze and get the rope caught under things, then its head is pinned to the ground. Also, I've learned that when they pull back wearing a rope halter, they tighten the knot so much that you can't untie it the traditional way. You have to push the two ends together until the knot gets big enough that you can grasp one section of it and pull to untie it. If that makes any sense. But, yes, stopping the struggling is the best solution, and that's easier said than done.

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    1. That's true about rope halters. It would not have worked for me in that situation. Even cutting had its issues--how frantic would she have been if she saw a knife close to her face? She had been frantic, but then stopped...which makes me wonder, too, if there is a point at which they quit struggling--like when they "lay a horse down" (Horse Whisperer movie). If they don't do major damage to themselves at first--maybe a calmness comes over all of them when they know there's no escape? Luckily, I have never been in that situation before, so I don't know the answer.

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  3. I'm so happy to hear everything turned out well for you and Beautiful. I believe it all comes from her trusting you and working with her calmly. The main thing is that you also stayed calm and she could sense that and didn't panic.

    We haven't ever used rope halters but use the breakaway leather type so if they get caught on something and pull back hard enough it will break. I think the only time we ever tied horses was maybe to a trailer at a show. In the barn we have cross ties that also break away if they pull hard enough.

    I also agree that a knife is essential to have in your pocket at all times. Just wish I wouldn't forget it most times!

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    1. A breakaway halter is a good idea. I hadn't seen cross ties until I was older, and I thought, wow, that's a great idea! For my style of tying, I do like the Blocker Tie Rings. Until that day last week, I assumed a Blocker would solve ALL my problems. Little did I think she could get the cheek portion caught on a pin. A series of events had to all line up for it to happen. 1.) Unlatch the gate, 2.) Get the gate open, 3.) get cheek caught on pin, 4.) Pull directly backward with all your weight.

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  4. I hate it when they do stuff like that. I usually just stay out of the way and let them figure it out, with some exceptions. Like the time Scout got his jaw stuck in his stirrup, the dork. I was wasn't sure he'd let me help him, but he did. :)

    I'm not always good about keeping a knife on me either, even though I know better.

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    1. I agree that sometimes you need to just stand back, this was a bit different, even though I was limited. How did Scout get stuck in a stirrup? I must have forgot that story.

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  5. I hate it when they do stuff like that. I usually just stay out of the way and let them figure it out, with some exceptions. Like the time Scout got his jaw stuck in his stirrup, the dork. I was wasn't sure he'd let me help him, but he did. :)

    I'm not always good about keeping a knife on me either, even though I know better.

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  6. she obviously trusts you very much and it all worked out.

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    1. Either trusts or is smart enough to know when pulling back just doesn't work. I'll vote for trust!

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  7. A knife in my pocket is part of my clothing, I feel naked without it! I have a thin flat knife with a very sharp blade, folded up it is about 3 inches long. So it's easy to slip in my pocket and doesn't get in the way.
    I love that she stopped struggling for you, your good work with her is paying off.

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    1. You are a smart horse woman. I used to carry one, but I'd leave it in one coat or another and never seem to have it when needed. I need a smaller pocket size.

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  8. It's so rewarding to have that horse trust you. I board at Valley Chapel farm now. We should ride sometime when the weather gets warmer and catch up. I haven't seen you in so long Linda! I'd love for you to meet my new horse, Artax!

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    1. It sounds like a nice place. I'd love to meet Artax. He's a pretty boy.

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