Nov 11, 2012

Back to Work


Some moms, when they find out their kid is about to get married, call the florists and the caterers. Me being me, I called the bobcat and the excavator. What I was thinking when I volunteered to have the reception at our house, knowing that we had neither yard nor patio, no place to sit, and that we lived virtually in a dog toy graveyard, I have no idea. Be that as it may, the wedding came off splendidly. We *do* now have a yard, a patio, and the dog toy graveyard is no longer a main feature. The heavy equipment left three days before the Big Day, and I was still planting trees and hanging lights till literally 45 minutes before I was supposed to be at the church. It was a perfect SoCal evening, with an almost full moon and a gentle temperature. It was relaxed, sweet, lovely, and wonderful, and man, am I glad its over.

I miss writing two or three times a week. Heck, I miss riding, too, and the boys have been totally neglected while I ran around with concrete and bricks and potted plants. But things are settled now, and I am catching up on body clipping and feet trimming and will ride again today, hooray!

Let’s go back to how we addressed Brian’s cross tie issues. This approach, of small therapeutic doses endlelessly repeated, worked well with him. It works well with all horses, and is a big part of why my horses, no matter their pasts or backgrounds, are well behaved and trusting and obedient. And so with Bryan, this was the basis of all of the work that we did whether mounted, on the ground, or during free work.

The consistency of The Rules goes across the board. Every time we handled him it was the same; no slinging your head around (thereby cracking the human in the face) no stepping past the human; no dragging behind the human; no screaming when attached to the human; no jumping on top of the human…I think you get the drift. As usual, every horse we would take in would grasp The Rules quickly; horses aren’t dumb and they crave and honor leadership. Natch, B, not being the sharpest marble in the drawer, took a longer time than the others.

Gates, and gate manners, are a big deal to me. More people get kicked and stomped at gates and going in and out of gates than I think maybe anywhere. I see people being so casual around horses and gates and while doing turnouts and it makes me crazy. Before anyone starts to ride with me our first lessons include how to lead, how to deal with the horses on the ground, and how to deal with gates.

My horses walk through the gate after I do. They turn around when we enter and face me and stand. They stand quietly until I let them go and step away. There is no free for all, there is no tearing away from me, there is no ‘open the gate and off they go’ thing, at all. They learn this right away, and I make sure that anyone who handles them learns it as well.

Bryan was no better at the gates then he was in the cross ties. As I had learned the hard way by being dragged that first day, he would fly back when you took off the halter and woe be to you if you were attached to him in any way. This would not do. But it was hard with B, since he was not food oriented, was not aware of the human at all.

He in general was so frantic to get away from wherever he was, and get back to the  barn from wherever he was,  that he would fly through a gate, spin, and either back up or pull away. It didn’t seem to matter to him whether he was coming or going; it was a gate, and it was made to be crashed through. When we turned him out, he would fly backward and race to the fence line closest to the barn, and start The Trip Home (this of course was really just back and forth, head up, eyes blank, for hours, but in his mind there was Purpose). When we brought him in, he would race through the gate and try to drag you back to the barn, prancing, head up, eyes blank. It frustrated me, but it broke my heart as well.

Next: small breakthroughs.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Abby - Congratulations on your daughter's wedding! I put my sister's wedding on at my house and it was an all-consuming and exhausting (and never-to-be-forgotten and glorious) affair.

    I love what you have to say about gates, and concur (as usual!). I also consider going in and out of gates to be one of the most dangerous activities we do with horses.

    One of the first things I work on when a new horse comes to my farm is gate manners. My verbal cue is "away." And then I expect the horses to take their positions (it's actually pretty cute when they do).

    I let them choose their "away" positions, but once they do, that's where I expect them to go. It doesn't take long, and it makes it safe for everyone to lead.

    It's great to have you back blogging and continuing the Story of Bryan.