Happiness is owning a chestnut mare.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Oh Taters....

 I have a feeling most of my posts will have this title. The first thing that everyone who reads this blog needs to understand is that my mare is special. Very special. and by special I mean quirky. She is the love of my life, but she is also my pain in my ass.

Tater's positives include (always start with the positive):

*very loving/friendly
*gets along well with other horses
*beautiful (I know, I know, but it IS a positive)

Taters quirks:

*She can't handle being somewhere when she cannot see another horse.  She becomes very nervous and at which time she promptly puts her mouth as close to my ear as possible and starts whinnying very loudly.  (she needs to make sure I am aware of her distaste for being alone). I think this is in part due to the fact that during her racing career she spent an entire summer on the farm by herself. He trainer mentioned that all she did was run the fence and whinny all day long begging for someone to answer her. I wish I could just tell her that she will never, ever be alone on a farm ever again so she doesn't need to worry, but I think that when everyone is gone she gets flashbacks and thinks everyone is seriously gone and not coming back.

*She spooks a lot. These spooks are very specific though. She spooks at things that she can hear but cannot see. Snow sliding off the roof for example results in a complete and utter meltdown. She remains on edge when she has ear plugs in which I think is because she gets nervous that she cannot hear as well (she enjoys being "in the know" even though it scares the bejezus out of her.

attached to those are:

*She will remain calm as long as there is another horse around who is also remaining calm. If she is alone, there is no remaining calm. If there is another horse around that is not calm, she will not be calm, even if it is something that she is generally not afraid of.

*When she becomes nervous there is no consoling her. Her mind is gone for at least 10 minutes regardless of petting/sweet talking/etc. She will eventually come back though (another positive!)

See! The positives list is longer :) Also, I am not put off by her quirks at all. Fortunately she was able to find one of the most patient women in existence who will love her regardless, yet also insist that we make things better. I am convinced that what needs to happen is that she needs to learn to trust me and I need to be "good enough" to count as another horse. Obviously I will never replace another of her own species, but I am working very hard through ground work and piling on the love to earn her trust and therefore (hopefully) keep her calmer.

Anyway, usually my days at the barn are a roller coaster. Today, of course, was one of them. I started out by arriving at the barn to find out that the workers had decided to come in and fix the drainage ditch. That means, trucks, a bulldozer and unknown people walking around and causing a ruckus coming in and out of both the indoor and outdoor rings.

My friend had some out to ride her horse, and I know that in general Taters stays chill when she and Seneca are in the ring together, so I decided I would lunge her outside first (they were working at one end of the outdoor, but bring the trucks through the indoor. She was perfect. W/T/C both ways, peppy, but not too fast, not nervous, just lovely. 

So then I get on. Again, she was lovely. There were puddles, which she is not a fan of, so I trotted a little bit, then walked her through the puddles. 

After we made it through most of them and she was not caring about the big machine (which, due to her inquisitive nature and ability to see the sound she decided she wanted to follow around and stiff for a bit) I trotted a little bit more, working on bending on circles (at the non-machine end) while my friend did some crossrails that we had set up. 

After my friend was done jumping I decided that Taters was quiet enough to try a few. We trotted around to the first one and the bulldozer jumped out and tried to eat us when we went passed the door (well, thats what Taters thought) and she was not even looking at the jump when I got to it. refusal I took her back to it again and she refused again (first time for this!) so I swung her around and took her over the other crossrail (she walked, sniffed, jumped, then I stayed at the trot and came back around to the one that she refused and that time she went over it.

Now. One thing that needs to be made clear is that though I have been jumping for almost 20 years, TEACHING people how to jump for 10 years, and have shown at heights much higher than crossrails that are MAYBE 9-12" high in the middle, it does not change the fact that my horse, as wonderful as she is, tends to be unpredictable which has caused me some unneeded anxious feelings.

So, what then is my response to this wishy washy pony behavior? Why my abs into a ball and stare at the jump of course! I get so pissed at myself because I know what I am supposed to do, but my mind and body will not allow me to do it 75% of the time.

anyway, I did the jump a few times...knowing full well that if I had been on the ground teaching and watching my student do what I had done I would have been like "wtf are you DOING?!"

Oh well, there is another Taters positive- She didn't ask me wtf I was doing (most likely because she didn't know wtf she was doing), she just went with it and didn't get mad at me.

So see how WONDERFUL that was? I am totally climbin high! Then my friend asked if I wanted to go for a little trail ride. Now, I am using the term "trail ride" very loosely here. In this case trail ride is defined as walking the path behind the paddocks, past the pond, up to visit the boys in the far pasture, then back down to the barn again.

She was PERFECT, AMAZING and acted like a pro. Maybe that machine trying to eat her scared the rest of the spook out of her (among other things) because she was enthusiastic with out trying to be in control, perfectly happy with having Seneca lead and kept a pleasant demeanor the whole time. I think she may have even loved it. So now we are on the top of the roller coaster hill! Unfortunately what comes up must come...down :(

I put her on the crossties to groom her and my friend had her horse in her stall next to her. Now, like I said, as long as there is a horse around who is calm, Taters could not care less about anything. She was being a little perfect princess, until the two horses that were in went back outside.

It took her about....30 seconds to realize that she was now alone in an empty barn. Now, was she actually alone? NO I WAS RIGHT THERE! Hopefully we will eventually get to the point where that is enough. Now is not that time.

Within 45 seconds she was flipping out whinnying, then pulled back as hard as she could on the crossties, broke her halter and proceeded to give herself a tour of the farm. Now, keeping in mind that there was a huge bulldozer and a truck in the indoor, both of which making tons of noise in the barn made my "loose horse!!!!!!!!" screams completely drowned out. Which meant no immediate help. Now in hindsight I probably should have grabbed a leadline (since the halter was broken) but all the doors to the outside opened wide so that the trucks could keep coming in and out and I was more worried about making sure that she stayed in the indoor/outdoor/paddocks (which are all attached and were all open) rather than the big garage door which led to the street, which was also open and where she was initially headed.

So, not thinking (because I haven't been forced to think for almost 2 weeks with being on spring break and all) I just ran and blocked the door to the outside, then fortunately she ran into the bulldozer paddock (which apparently is no longer wanting to eat her because she ran right to it. I asked the guy to stop infront of the one opening, and I had already closed the other opening. I was also an idiot without a halter walking after my horse like I was going to mount up and ride her back to the barn bareback and bridleless. 

Anyway, my friend and the BM had their horses on the other side of the fence and my friend threw me her belt to wrap around Taters head (now I totally feel like an ass) and I led her back to the barn, embarrassed, but not yet defeated.

She was not done getting groomed and she was not going to win (did I fail to mention that along with my patience comes quite a bit of stubbornness?) I threw her in a stall in the still empty barn and went to get my rope halter. She was crazy at first (obviously, we both just had a very stressful 5 minutes) but I did some pressure point exercises and she calmed down after about 5 minutes. I then proceeded to do my grooming, the way I wanted to do it while she stood still in her rope halter. Every step she took, pressure. Not mean pressure, though there were a few times she tried to say she was going where she wanted and she needed me to be more firm. 

I kept her in the barn until I  was done with what I wanted to do because believe it or not Taters, it is not all about you and what you want to do. It's all about your wonderful mother who loves you more than life itself. hahahaha just kidding.

Anyway, as I was leaving the barn the BM asked me if I had anything exciting planned for the day I said, "My life is pretty boring when I leave the barn, but who needs extra excitement when you have a horse like Taters?" 

But mom, I just wanted to be out with my friends....

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