Thursday, August 4, 2016

Dear Horse Diary


Dear Horse Diary,

Wednesday I got to go on a trail ride with Leah and three friends and their horses.  I wasn't sure how Leah would do in a group of four since it was only her second time out on the trail this year, but she surprised me and didn't seem to care about the other horses.

Leah didn't do anything spooky or scary, but she did walk out fast.  If I rode on a loose rein, she'd get worked up, so I tried to keep close contact with a back and forth of the bit.  She needed that support. It was kind of sweet the way she'd bend her head around to see me, like--Hey mom, are you still there?  

The trails were big and open, for the most part, but I wanted to test her on the water/cliff side. I didn't have to do that, but I want her to get comfortable along the water.  It's a multi-use trail though, which means bikes can come up on you at anytime.  I didn't like that.   Luckily, no bikes ran into us.

There's also a very loud Waste Water Treatment Plant across the river. Very LOUD and UGLY. It made her nervous.

But no one in the group could tell.  Only me. Must not have been that bad.

There is something I regret.  At the end of our ride, I took her through the Trail Challenge Obstacles.  She did GREAT backing through the labyrinth, side-passing over a log, walking through the criss-cross section.  But, she didn't like the rope gate.  A friend told me it probably made her think of electric fence, and it was like a light bulb went on.  So, I took her to the round pen to practice on a real gate.  For some reason the round pen scared her and she didn't want to side pass to the gate.  She tried to blow out to the left, so I contained her with more of my left leg.  She felt trapped and went up.  I regret that.  I shouldn't ever let it get to that point.

**ADD ON 8/5/16**I guess I left a part out. My first response to the gate issue, before I trapped her, was to work her hard away from it. I did a lot of trot and balance work inside the round pen & then returned to the gate to rest her. She liked the rest, but as soon as I'd ask her to scoot over closer to it, she'd start moving away from it. I'd work her again, return again to rest. We probably did it 4 times. I had a friend there and I asked her opinion--she said to put more of the left leg on her to keep her from scooting, and that is when she jumped up--it wasn't very high up, but enough to show me she wasn't going to get near the gate. It didn't feel unsafe, but it did tell me that I didn't want to "go there."  I asked her for few side passes further from the gate, which gave me, and we ended on a good note.  I dismounted inside the round pen, rather than out, and walked her back and forth in and out of it.  Rested her, and then walked her back to the trailer.

Oh well, there's always tomorrow.  I hope she forgives and forgets. But what if she remembers and bucks me off....or blows to the side in a bad situation and trips herself up..or goes up and...and..and..

Okay, don't judge, don't judge.  Just wait until tomorrow.

*******

Dear Horse Diary,

Today I went on a ride with only one friend, but a new horse--Mouse.  Mouse is not a mouse, he's more a moose.  Leah kept grinding her teeth at him, like she was pissed off, but then she started sniffing around him like she wanted him to be her baby-daddy.  I think she was just playing hard to get.

Anyway, remember how I wondered if she'd blow out today?  Well, she did.  A little bit.

We went back to that same trail that overlooks the BIG, UGLY, LOUD, Wastewater Treatment Plant, and she did not like it.  Not one little bit.  It was on our right, so she started to blow out to the left--just like yesterday at the gate!!  But this time, I didn't fight her.  I worked her.  We went out to the left, like she'd asked for, but we worked harder and away from her boyfriend  sworn enemy, so pretty soon she was happy to get back on the loud, ugly trail.

Horse Diary, something is very strange with Leah, and it makes me so sad.

My friend brought apples for treats after the ride...

And, she gave me one for Leah.

And, Leah didn't eat it.  Not ONE bite!!  I thought all horses like apples.  What is wrong with her?  Does this mean she won't be a good trail horse after all?

(Dear Diary, that last part about apples is a joke. Although she doesn't like apples.  She will be an awesome trail horse!  ;) )




19 comments:

  1. Has she had apples before? it took Carmen a while to eat apples when she arrived. I think that she's doing great- focus on what she is doing and chip away at the areas that are difficult. It will all happen.

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    1. The great part is that I get to work with my trainer every week. I use the week alone to get information & then lessons to findicate answers. I knew she had to have a survival skill, but I hadn't seen it until this week. Now I know it's turning away and running or, if contained, side passing away.

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  2. I've had horses that NEVER liked apples, until their dying day. Weird.

    You're doing a great job with Leah!

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    1. I guess Leah is one of those horses. Lol. She's doing great on the trail. She's very calm for being so green. I'll have to find ways to help her through scary situations. She's a movement forward type horse so the answer will probably be more work. We'll see. That's the fun of a new horse.

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  3. When I first got Rock, he didn't understand that some fruits and vegetables were edible until he saw the other horses eating them. I broke them up into tiny bites, and now he scarfs down whatever I offer him because he's learned that if I put something on a flat hand, it means it tastes good. Opening and closing gates is tough one. The only horse that got good at that was Bombay, because he thought it was funny to lock the mares up and make them angry.

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    1. Good idea. I did have my knife with me, so I was able to cut them up. Leah has this way of looking away whenever she doesn't "want" something. She looked away and would not look at the apple. LOL. The gate is interesting. She opened and closed the one at the barn, but wouldn't do it at the state park. I'm interested in what m trainer has to tell me at our next lesson. It's the same with the bridge. She crosses the one at the barn, but not the almost identical one in the state park. Hmmm....it's a mystery!

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  4. Yes it will be interesting to see what your trainer says. I have an idea and I wonder if she will concur. When Leah is having issues like not wanting to do the gate, instead of "making" her do it- which led to you trapping her with your leg and her going up- go all Ray Hunt on her and make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. So if the issue is a gate, do exactly what you did with the "boyfriend" and work her harder away from the object than make the gate- or whatever the issue of the moment is- a place of rest, a nice place to be.Pretty soon she would want to sidle up to the gate. That's the theory anyway! :0)

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    1. I guess I left that part out. My first response to the gate issue, before I trapped her, was to work her hard away from it. I did a lot of trot and balance work inside the round pen & then returned to the gate to rest her. She liked the rest, but as soon as I'd ask her to scoot over closer to it, she'd start moving away from it. I'd work her again, return again to rest. We probably did it 4 times. I had a friend there and I asked her opinion--she said to put more of the left leg on her to keep her from scooting, and that is when she jumped up--it wasn't very high up, but enough to show me she wasn't going to get near the gate.

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    2. I'm finding about her that when she's agreeable, which is about 99% of the time, she is fantastic, but when she sets her mind against something, she is very hard to persuade.

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    3. I just had an idea though--along the lines of your comment--it could be that with her, I need to recognize the "fight" long before it starts or becomes an idea in her head. I may have possible waited too long to work her hard. Another horse might tolerate a little asking and prodding, but to her, that little bit of asking and prodding sets up a stubborness. I think it's about timing with her and not letting her ever get to a "set" mind against something.

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    4. Sometimes we have to pick our battles. How about next session, you start at the gate, so she is fresh and hasn't had time to make a big deal of it?

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  5. Remember, it was just one ride. Many have trials which we can view as opportunities to work on whatever they were. Horses are amazingly forgiving of us, and just move on - unlike us. I sure wouldn't worry about the apple. She might have been mildly upset and didn't want to eat it, or maybe she's never had one before? Maybe she's a carrot gal. Sounds like even with the less than perfect things that came up, you & she did alright, and got past some issues. Maybe on that day, the gate was just "too big a boo" for Leah, try it again sometime and try to be more relaxed yourself about it, and just saunter up real close instead of sidepassing over to it. Not sure what else to try, but sometimes if we get them busy going up to it, leaving, repeat and not pushing them to do it perfectly, then all of a sudden, you are where you want to be without forcing her right up to the gate. Does that make sense? Guess what I'm trying to say is, don't "make" her go up to it, ask in a different way. And you will figure out how to ask differently, so she doesn't feel trapped. I definitely would not push her with my outside leg if she's not comfortable, would maybe walk closer and closer instead, letting her rest when she's aligned with the gate, even if not close enough. Baby steps. You guys are doing great - as we both know all too well - these relationships take a lot of time, patience and repetition. Sounds like overall it was 2 good rides!

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    1. I was just kidding about the apples--though she doesn't like them..yet. I do think she's going to eventually make a superb trail horse. There are definitely though, many more miles needed before we go on the really narrow cliff trails.

      I like the idea of approaching and retreating from the gate. She opens and closes the gates at the barn, it's just THAT gate. But next time we go, I'm sure she'll remember the issue and do it again. So, an approach and retreat might be a good idea. She also goes over the bridge at the barn, but at the state park. They're almost identical. My trainer and I worked on it last week, but it didn't help this week. Maybe an approach and retreat---work away from the bridge, rest on the bridge, will work there, too. All great suggestions!!

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    2. she also goes over the bridge at the barn, but --NOT-- at the state park.

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    3. Great advice from C-ingspots

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  6. I think you handled this very well. We all have rides where we react and do the best we can in the moment and then later go, "oops, shoulda done something else." The great thing is that horses forgive us, over and over again. You listened to Leah, you were fair, and you will get there. Its a journey, right? Jackson is super picky about treats -- some horses are just funny that way. He still doesn't think much of carrots. Go figure.

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    1. Thanks, Annette. It is a journey. I'm looking forward to running it by my trainer tomorrow and making practicing some similar scenarios.

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  7. I'm sure she will get it eventually and be a great trail horse. You're doing good work with her but every thing takes time and lots of patience. I like c-ing spots advice. I had a horse who only liked a certain type of apple and refused to eat any other kind. I'm guessing Leah has discriminating taste buds!

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    1. Ha! Maybe I should try a different variety. Yes, the approach and retreat may be the baby steps I need for now. She has a stubborn street and any type of "fight" is long remembered.

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