Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Well THAT didn't go well... Part 2

Ground tie. Yes, sometimes he can ground tie.
It's a work in progress.

I pulled out my chair from the trailer, grabbed my cooler, got a little organized. Smokey had his hay bag.

I decided to walk him over to the road area that leads into the parking lot. One of my goals is to work with him on pavement every chance I get since it seems to make him (me) nervous. He was perfect, lead nicely, looked about but didn't get worried.

We headed back to the trailer. Still no sign of the BO and B. I tied him to the trailer and tried to settle down to eat a little. I changed into something suitable for swimming. Still nobody.

How long does it take your horse to unravel? It took mine about 10 minutes of waiting. Then he was a fish on a line, twirling around, convinced that the other horses should be here.

I had to agree. I needed to give him something to do, something to focus on. And me too.

I decided that we'd go swimming. They'd be there soon, and could meet us in the water.

I locked my cell phone and truck keys in the trailer tack room and headed for the lake. Smokey was a little less well behaved, so we corrected here and there. His head was high, he was looking for others, calling once or twice. We entered the water and he was initially doing well.

Then he began pawing at the water. Then pulling on the rope. I only had him in his web halter (mistake number 3 of about 79) and had trouble making my messages convincing. Then it happened.

It was the thing that if I was a more knowledgeable horse woman, someone who understood young horses better, I would have nipped in the bud. He gave the tiniest rear.

Honestly, it was just beautiful and that's part of the reason I didn't think of correcting it. Then came the head moves in the water, and a second, bigger rear.

Don't get me wrong, he was never in danger of falling over, nor was he rearing "at" me, but he was definitely doing this as a show of strength. Not to me, I believe, my sense was it was more of a display meant for anyone who might dare come to eat him.

Right about then I decided to get us out of the water. I'd tried to ride him in the water, but he was too headstrong, too full of himself – in a bad way. He seemed to blank out about me for moments, I reminded him that I was there. He was that frazzled.

We walked out of the water – I turned him twice when he got ahead of me – and we headed back to the trailer. Still no sign of the BO or B.

That's it, we're leaving, I thought to myself. I secured him to the trailer, stepped in to get a manure fork to clean it out, and shut the tack room door. As I was shoveling out manure I saw him rear – again – as he was tied.

That's it! I thought, my last shred of patience gone. I gave him an immediate verbal correction and headed out to do some circles. He was a mess, but eventually got two braincells focused on me. I re-tied him and went to put up the manure fork.

Which is when I discovered that the tack room door was locked. I checked down at my pocket. It was flapped open and a quick check showed there was no key there.

Seriously? I'd lost it during our brief lead line lunging? And how did the door even lock? I was so pleased that I couldn't accidentally lock the tack room door because it requires the key to lock it. Yet I was so gifted that I somehow managed this feat.

And my cell phone?

In the tack room. Cuz, you know, it's safer in there.

Now who was frazzled?

I seemed to remember I'd beeped opened the truck, so I checked the doors. The passenger doors were still locked, but the drivers side was open. I started rummaging for the extra key. Gone. With all the recent moves we were constantly moving keys around.

We have a hidden key, though. I grabbed a dirty towel from the back and lay it on the ground under the truck. Well, now we know why we call it hidden. I sure as heck couldn't find it.

I attempted not to hyperventilate.

I looked back at the tack room door. It has a window. Maybe I could break it, I'd hung the keys on a hook inside the door, surely I could reach them. Fortunately I hadn't locked the window from the inside, and I was able to slide it open and punch out the screen.

I reached down blindly and touched the knob for the door. I figured that this door would have some sort of safety built in so you couldn't lock yourself inside. Sure enough, the knob slid , and the door was open.

See the round knob? I love that round knob.

No sign of the tack room key, but big deal, I already figured out how to break into it anyway. I quickly grabbed my truck keys and cell phone and put them in the checked-three-times,-yes-it's- unlocked truck. Now, to load Smokey.

I don't even have to tell you this part, right? He refused to load. Right about then the BO and B showed up, looking like they'd had a heck of a ride themselves. (they did).

“Will he not load?” the BO called out.

“Oh, he's going to load.” I said. Shortly there after he did, without any help from anyone else (my lone source of pride at that point).

I drove back as rain started to hit my windshield. I was so disappointed, I'd made choices that day that set us back, way back. What was I doing with a five year old horse? I had no clue. I let him unravel because I couldn't see it coming. I bit back the thought that I shouldn't actually have this horse. It's a mental road I've driven many times, thinking I don't "deserve" this horse. I'm over that now.

When championship reiners are being left to starve, I have no illusions that somehow the fact I'm not a top level trainer and dressage rider is a horrible fate for Smokey. Frankly, I'm of the mind that we are both just going to have to deal with our mutual shortcomings. I'll work on mine, he'll work on his, we'll get somewhere because I'm too stubborn not to get somewhere.

At the barn I unloaded him and took him to the round pen. We had a brief session. He listened well after some quick turns. But I knew we still weren't ending this on this note. He needed to get back in the trailer.

Before you think I was totally insane, remember, we are in an extreme fire danger zone, even a day of rain won't cure that. I can't have a horse who won't load.

And we were not ending on a good note. He was going through the motions, but he wasn't connecting with me.

We had another battle at the trailer. He wouldn't come near it, acted like he had no idea where I wanted him to go when I was trying to line lunge him. This is a horse who will change direction in the round pen with a slight movement of my shoulders.

I finally got a glimmer of cooperation. He turned in the direction I asked. We went back to the trailer. He put a hoof in, then back out. I turned him once and went back to the trailer and stood there with him, dropping my head.

“Come on Smokey. We're way past this, we know how to do this,” I said softly.

And he jumped in the trailer.

I stepped in after him. He stood in place, his eyes still wide, but something coming back into them, something I was surprised to see.

The only way I can describe it is it was that look your child gets when they drop the tough guy act and they are there, your kid again. Accepting of your help. Accepting of your role. Letting go.

We stood in the trailer together for a minute. Maybe two. Neither one of us asking to leave. Then I stepped away and said “back.” He calmly stepped back and I walked him back to his paddock and the rain went from a sprinkle to a gentle steady fall.

When I got home to get cleaned up I found the trailer key. It was stuck in my pocket.

I had apparently not dug deep enough.


BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Well that takes the fun right the heck out of a day.

Laura Crum said...

Jeez, Breathe--what a frustrating day. We've all had those, especially with young horses. And I've locked myself out of my truck too many times to count. But all in one day? I hope you didn't beat yourself up too much. Smokey is lucky to have you. No worries about that--and in my experience you are 100% right--persistance is the single most important ingredient when it comes to training young horses. But I will mention that not all horses can/will swim and I would be very cautious taking a young horse in the water deep enough that he has to swim--either on his back or on the leadline. That can get dicey very quickly. I can tell you a story or two if you're interested.

Stephanie said...

I had a similar unravelling with Cibolo last week when we went to the lake. First it was the trailer. Didn't want to load before we left, and then shot out when we got there. Along the trail he started getting really uppity, to the point of crow hopping and small rears. Had to get off and lunge him mid-trail. Same trailer problems afterwards.

Maybe it's a weather thing? I don't know. Maybe him and Smokey talked and decided that trailers were bad and being jerks was cool. :)

Allenspark Lodge said...

Your horse focusing on you, rain, and a found key.

"All's Well that Ends Well"

Some truth to that.


Fetlock said...

I see myself in every line of this post.

What you're doing with this horse is improving your horsemanship (or horsewomanship, I guess). Smokey is going to act like a young horse until he isn't a young horse any more. It's not your fault that he's nervous in new situations--that comes with the territory. Yes, sometimes you can head 'em off at the pass, but often all you can do is try to make sure they stay safe while they live through things and gain the experience they need. They are sensitive to our emotions, but not so much that we can totally "direct" them how to behave all the time by staying calm.

I think it's great that you went to the lake and did what you did, and I hope you continue to do things like that with him. (Just don't lock yourself out of your trailer again! Heh.) He's green, but those kinds of experiences are exactly what he needs.

There is nothing worse than making a series of mistakes when you're frazzled--but there is also nothing more human! At least it makes a great story...finding out the key was in your pocket the whole time was the perfect end to this one! I really get a kick out of your writing, too--you have a great sense of timing and drama.

Wolfie said...

OK, I started to get nervous when your friends hadn't shown up. The rearing got my heart thumping a bit more, and when you couldn't find your keys, I started to hyperventilate. :-) You are one brave and resourceful woman! And, I say "good for you" for getting Smokey back in that trailer when you were back at the barn. You are absolutely right - he needs to load for safety reasons. In fact, I am thinking that there may be a loading exercise in my future. :-)

Anonymous said...

I can certainly relate to that. But to be fair it sounds like it ended up about the best it could have - you got him back from the twilight zone and were patient and persistent enough to end on a good note. That's hard to do - you should be patting yourself on the back.

All we can do is work with the horse that shows up today, as best we can. He was just telling you how he was feeling about things ("I'm overloading . . . !") with his body and you dealt with it - good for you.

Jan said...

Breathe, Wow, what a day!!! I can't believe all the things that happened in one day! But overall, you did great!! You were sorely tested many times, but you did great! And by the end of the day, poor Smoky did great also. (But I hope you don't have another day like that anytime soon...)

Katharine Swan said...

You know, you keep talking about the mistakes you made, but from where I'm standing you did everything right. It's possible to do everything right and still feel discouraged! Sure, you may have missed some initial signs that he was unraveling, but you didn't miss them for long, and once you realized you DID EVERYTHING RIGHT. Seriously! It may have taken a while to get through to him, but that was because of him, not you, and you kept at it until you succeeded.

As for the key... Well, at least you didn't break the window. ;o)

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

I can see why a couple of weeks in Hawaii might seem appealing.

You did good.


Shirley said...

They can't all be good days, and I think you handled everything well, even if it wasn't the most fun day.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'm surprised you aren't more proud of yourself. I don't see how you could have done anything differently or better. Sometimes no matter what or how we do things, they can still head south.
In the end, neither you nor Smokey got injured, you both made it back home safely, and you both ended on a good note. Seems like a pretty good day to me.... and you even managed to take a swim with your horse, which was your main goal that day.

Swimming with your horse in a beautiful lake is something a lot of us have never done before.
Yep. I'd say you've got a lot to be proud of.


Once Upon an Equine said...

I paniced when you couldn't find the tack room key. Locking keys in the truck or trailer is something I worry about. While the day didn't go smoothly and your plans went awry, I think you handled everything very well and you ended on a good note. Glad you both are safe! It sounded windy in the video. The approaching storm may have contributed to Smokey's nervousness. You handled it well. It will get better and you and Smokey will grow together through all these situations.

Mikey said...

What a day! I had to laugh though, cause that's how I lock and unlock the dressing room on our trailer! I don't know where the key went...
Hope your next days are better!

kden said...

From where I sit; not knowing one thing about horses, you did a fine job. I would have been in tears at the first sign of trouble.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Yikes. I'll bet you were thinking, "Really? I didn't need this..." each time another ridiculous thing happened. I'm always freaking out about my keys when I go on trail rides. I told you about the one time my husband left the passenger side door on the truck wide open with my purse sitting on the seat while we disappeared up the mountain for a couple of hours. I was amazed to return and find everything still there. But that was the opposite problem from yours.

Margaret said...

When you say "circles"... do you mean traditional lunging? I'm not sure going in circles tuning you out is a good thing... that's what I see happening with a lot of horses that are lunged. But, if you were giving him commands often and he was listening... then that's good. I think he was already tuning you out and responding to fear... as you know. Sounds intimidating to me and I applaud your steadiness.

Not all young horses act like that. My Oberon just turned six and he is one steady Eddy... Some horses act like that their whole life. I don't meant to be a wet blanket, but deciding a horse isn't for you does not mean you failed.

And one setback doesn't mean you failed. I guess the important thing is to learn from this lesson. I have to admit, rearing does scare me, though. I'll be following your journey!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Well I did leave a comment for you the other day. I guess Blogger ate it. bah!

I had just said that I was glad that it all ended well and that you still managed to swim in the water with your cute boy, which is something many of us with horses never get the lucky opportunity to do. And neither you nor your horse were hurt, so I'd say the day didn't go all that bad.
Give your horse and yourself some credit. You deserve it.


eventer79 said...

I really like this post -- you worked through the process. Yeah, he unraveled, but guess what, that happens to everyone. You recognized it, took action, and brought him back to a good place. Sounds like good training to me!

achieve1dream said...

Ditto on what the others said. You did a great job being persistent and ending on a good note.

I love reading your blog because it gives me ideas of things to work with Chrome on. I never would have thought to tie him up away from home. We're gonna have to try that on one of our walks. :)