Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rodeo Time

It rained a lot last week so I got to go see my boys (since I got to cancel horse lessons!), but not ride on the trails as they were really muddy.  I did manage to get two trail rides in, about 4.5 miles each, but the first one was really muddy and quite nerve racking since we were slipping everywhere and the second was really choppy and a little stressful since I couldn't get Snickers into a good extended trot and to pay much attention.  On top of that, on the sloppy and slippery day, just as we were getting back, another guy was just starting down the trail towards us.  Snickers had been watching him and his little grey horse come down the road to start on the trail, but after watching them move toward us on the trail for a minute or two, he completely lost it.  He was ready to take off back down the trail again, AWAY from the barn that was right there!  And they were still a good 50 feet or so away!  Thank goodness for clip-on rope reins and his halter on underneath - with how slippery it was and how may badger holes there are, I got off and clipped the reins to his halter like a lead rope so that he could dance around me in an area I knew was safe while they passed us.  They only went a little way down the trail and then came back, so I waited and let them pass us to make sure Snickers could get his head on straight and let them walk by while still staying calm.

Speaking of spooking, Snickers also busted the new light blue rope I bought for him.  Flash and Snickers were tied up side by side, and Flash knocked down a rake.  Of course, Flash stood there like "oops" but Snickers lost it and didn't stop pulling back until the rope broke out of the metal clasp.  Since then, I got him a royal blue one that matches the rest of our stuff better, but I'm being super cautious about it, especially since our halter/bridle combo finally came in and I do NOT want to bust that halter!  Snickers also broke my phone, but that was kind of my fault.  On one of the days he was pretty tired, I decided it was as good of a day as any to try bareback - he'd been collecting VERY nicely for me, and has been quite a bit now.  Still foaming like crazy though :(.  Anyway, I left him tied and brought the stool up - BIG mistake!  He was fine for me getting on, though I was quite cautious about it.  But then he tried to move forward, found he was tied, and braced back against the post again.  I gracefully slid off, but my phone slid out of my pocket and not-so-gracefully busted the screen.  A few hours and $20 later, the phone was as good as new, but still!  I'll be more careful about that - this is at least the second phone I've lost because if fell out of my pocket on a horse.  Of course, I think Rocket stepped on the last one.

Anyway, so now for the "rodeo" part (which I am reposting from a post cuz I'm lazy)...

Snickers started to get less interested in being caught since I moved him out to Dusty Acres, due in part to me working him so hard every time but also I think contributed to by the fact that he's king of the herd (while Flash, ironically, is the bottom), but it was not really an issue until last Friday, when he flat out refused to let me approach him and I had to have the help of a trainer to corner him. During this event, she recognized he needed to have some serious respect and obedience training, so we went immediately to the round pen and worked with him for 2 hours until he stopped when we said "woah" - he stops immediately when I'm on him, but isn't as responsive when you're on the ground and especially when he's not "caught". Before this lesson, he was way too busy whinnying for the other horses to pay much attention. However, since this lesson, he stops VERY well in the round pen and even now if I work him free in the arena.

Unfortunately, the lesson didn't stick as the next day, he wouldn't even let us corner him and I ended up having Al rope him. It was quite an ordeal (he's very spooky) in which Snickers then proceeded to stampede (it looked like a wild horse herd!) until he finally ran himself into a corner huffing and puffing and Al grabbed the rope, and afterward Al did quite a bit of desensitization in the round pen with the lasso. He was so sweaty and exhausted after all of that, I didn't have the heart to make him work anymore. Rather than returning him to the pasture, he went to his new stall and has been there since. I've worked with him on stopping with "woah" and coming to me afterward in the round pen and even the arena now, but he really doesn't seem all that interested in me and kind of does things on his own time and how/when he feels like it. Worst of all, as soon as I introduce another horse (which I did by bringing Flash into the arena and turning him loose), all the progress we've made simply disappears. It's like he's never even heard the word "woah" before.  I've been riding him, but only 30 minute short ones that don't work him into a sweat, mostly working on collecting in the arena. My ideas are to keep doing what we're doing, as well as trying to turn him out in the arena with other horses and catch-treat-release over and over. If that goes well, I think I'll turn him loose in the pasture with a lunge line attached (yes, the 30 feet of line really is necessary in this case) and do the same thing. Hopefully, since I truly think I am part of the issue here, I can teach him to want to be with me. But right now, I just feel so discouraged!!

From this post, I've gotten a few good replies and more encouragement, so I'm going to stick with it.  It was pretty tempting on Saturday, after our "rodeo" to just sell him and go buy the mare at Belesemo Arabians, but after all the advice I've gotten and talking to them about the conditions with the mare, I think it's best to just work through this.  Thank goodness Trevor was taking me out to dinner that night (finally we got to go to Texas Roadhouse), and he really supports me and thinks this will just make me (and Snickers!) all that much better to have worked through this issue.  Snickers has been quite a bit more sensible since the whole ordeal, including letting me put the bridle on without issues, but I really just want to be able to catch him, but I also feel like I'm missing out on that wonderful bond that Arabians are supposed to have (and the bond Flash has with me!).  Hopefully this will improve soon.  I guess it's  just going to take time and work.

I'm still planning on volunteering at the Tough Sucker II, btw, and am hoping that the Owyhee Fandango will be our first race.  I was tempted to try and make it to the Tough Sucker, but especially with this setback, I'm not going to worry about it at all.  Plus, I really do need to volunteer first and get my bearings a little more.  Snickers has unfortunately dropped a lot of weight after all this too :(  Oh well, that gives us about 2 months to get where we need to be.  I sent an email to see if anyone will be able to drive us there....

I also talked to Doc Washington yesterday about Snickers's fitness and I got a lot more awesome advice than I was asking for!  We also talked about our current issue with the catching, and he said it sounded like I really recognized what we needed to work on before we move into more endurance.  Here are some of the key points from our conversation about endurance, though:

  • I need to condition faster than I plan to ride
  • We need to be getting above that 20 mile mark each week, but not go over 30 miles
  • For an Arabian or half-Arabian, any conditioning will have them ready for a 25-miler,
  • Especially for the first year of endurance conditioning, you need to take care not to get your horse sour (like I'm running into) - take some easy rides and put a lot of emphasis on bonding and enjoying each other as well
  • As a personal preference, we should be loping rather than extending our trot (good news for me!) if we're working at 13mph speeds.  He was saying something about it being less taxing on their joints and whatnot.
  • I had originally called about whether I should have him do a once-over before I race him since I never had a PPE, but he said that'd be overkill since I know that horse's background and he's never really DONE anything, so there's no reason he should have issues since he's been good so far
  • As for a stethoscope, I should look for something in the $15-$25 range - between $25 and $100 there's not a whole lot of difference and the $100+ would be overkill for me
Anyway, so that's about it.  I have more videos, so I'll see if I can get some of the highlights uploaded.  Hopefully, things improve with Snickers :(  I feel so bad with him in a stall all alone!  Not to mention that the reason he's in there is because he wants nothing to do with me.  *sigh*

Here's a few videos related to this post:

Snickers after Al's rodeo, which involved roping Snickers to catch him and then desensitization in the round pen.

This is what we're currently working on with Snickers and demonstrates pretty well his behavior:

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