Monday, August 28, 2017

exposure: creeks + gates

So Charlie's new barn has trails. And like, REAL trails - not just deer paths or people-trails that are questionably too steep/narrow for horses.

pictured: not a technical trail master lol
He's gone out through the grounds quite a bit in the past year - whether cross country schooling or just going on purposeful hacks with Brita since she boards here. In fact, Charlie's first ever trail ride was on this property last winter.

i can't be the only one who finds this view intensely refreshing!
We've gone out a couple times since moving in - mostly hacking through the fields. Usually with friends but sometimes alone. Recently tho I heard tell of a trail that goes across a little creek. Obviously very exciting bc Charlie's never actually seen a creek before!!! Clearly we had to go!!

look at all these easy fence lines for cruisin!
Lucky for me, Brita happened to be hankerin' for a hack ride just as Charlie came sound again from his abscess and was ready to get back at it. Poor guy, I tried counting out and he's been ridden something like 4-5 times in the past three weeks. That's wildly insufficient for our purposes but.... it is what it is.

familiar water element is old news to charlie
A long, low-impact walk-trot hack ride across variable terrain seemed like the perfect way to bring him back into work. Charlie seemed to agree too! He's such a pleasant horse to hack out - happy to plod off in any direction (even if he remains, as ever, slightly casual about foot placement).

this pic hardly does them justice but brita and bella just cruised right on around schooling various xc elements. benefits of living on the premises!
Charlie is happy to lead or follow on the trails but usually ends up in the lead just bc of his stride length. Tho, despite not being a 'spooky' horse, his greenness often necessitates getting a lead over the more challenging or technical obstacles that cross his path. As was the case with the creek on this trail.

It wasn't a particularly big creek, in fact it was smaller than most of the crossings on the trails at Izzy's barn. But it was deep-ish and too broad to jump, and by far bigger than anything Charlie's seen before.

see the goldfish in the trough????
So he just halted, snorted and looked at the creek a little funny. Watched as Bella came past us and splashed through with no problem. Snorted a little more. Then with much trepidation, just stepped right on in and made the crossing. Gooooood boy.

the trough was only spooky for a moment tho - then he realized that cute mare maybe needed some gentlemanly company!
He's such a funny horse - he's so quiet and so easy going and so down to earth, it's very easy to forget how green he is.

It's also very easy to forget one of the first lessons he taught me: That, actually, he's not great at handling pressure. Charlie's tendency is to get upset and defensive when he's confused or thinks he's in trouble.

charlie hopes to follow in bella's footsteps!
I kinda ran headfirst into this issue last week while just hacking out by myself after getting home from San Diego. Most of the fields are used for turn out so gates are a way of life. And most latches are too low to reach when you ride a 17h giant.

After jumping off and remounting repeatedly (and thanking my lucky stars that Charlie stands way better than Isabel ever did) we came upon the below gate that looked like something I could handle from the saddle. Charlie was able to do the footwork necessary to open the gate - but unfortunately was not able to get it shut.

true story: gates r hard.
Mostly it boiled down to rider error - I was so focused on the gate: going forward, backward, whoa boy, now sideways, wait forward, forward now! That I wasn't focusing enough on Charlie. Considering... ya know... he's proven to be a pressure averse horse and has previously shown distinct resistance to being driven forward (hellloooo dinosaur stuck in tar pit!).

Brita has a #concern for us lol
So we ended up having a moment. Charlie's biggest meltdown in recent memory. Lots of running backward and mini-rearspins.

Fortunately, Charlie is also a forgiving horse. And a thinking horse. And we've spent a LOT of time working on building trust. So he was able to pause, take a breath, hear me out, and walk back up to the gate. At which point I promptly hopped off to close the thing from the ground and just move right on along with our lives.

he'll figure it out eventually tho!
So this weekend we could take full advantage of hacking out with friends whose horses are gate experts. Charlie got to open some gates (the easy part), and even attempt to close a couple. Slowly. Steadily. Not a big fuss if he couldn't do it, bc our trail companions could step in and finish the job at any moment.

My favorite thing about this horse is he actually seems to enjoy challenges and puzzles and whatnot - he just needs to know he can get the answer correct, or at least that he won't get in trouble for getting it wrong. So gates will just have to be added to the list of things he needs to learn the rules about. That it's a game of very small steps and incremental lateral maneuvers.

poor soul also finally made his grand return to the dressage court for purposeful schooling!
And for me, it's so useful to remember that even tho the horse has had so much exposure on the track and in the past year with me, there's still so much that he hasn't seen. Like.... a creek. Or being expected to have a gate closed from his back.

One of these things isn't really something horses do naturally in the wild. And the other isn't one that is always present for the domesticated horse. Go figure, Charlie still struggles with both lol. Has your horse ever caught you off guard with a surprising or unexpected hole in his education?

33 comments:

  1. I was reminded this weekend that Pig doesn't lunge. Like, he's pretty damn terrible. Turns in and stares at you all the time. Or leans his butt in and motorcycles around like a wild thing. Haha. I guess that's a skill we never needed!

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    1. Oh man Isabel really DID NOT lunge either. Like not even worth trying lol. I've tried to install the most fundamental aspects of lunging in Charlie - but honestly it's more about ground work than actually making him move out. No endless circles trotting.

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  2. Gates are tough. Gem still isn't very good at them although we rarely run across them so it isn't something I've schooled her in that much. Charlie's new barn has so many wonderful amenities!

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    1. We are so lucky with these amenities! As I keep telling myself sitting in rush hour traffic on the drive out lol. But yea. Gates are hard. Insane had a couple that she was REALLY good at, like she has those gates figured out. But there were some others that were just.... Always beyond her. They're surprisingly tricky!!!

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  3. Firstly, I'm wildly jealous of all the trails and xc stuff you have on site now! So wonderful! Thankfully Dino is confident and laid-back enough that he just sort of does whatever I ask when it comes to new skills or experiences he encounters for the first time. He may not understand, but he generally does the thing without freaking out!

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    1. See that's what I love about Dino ! He's such a good confident boy, that's exactly the type of attitude I want to foster in Charlie. He's not there yet about a lot of things. But I'm hoping if he can keep learning and keep figuring out that I'm going to let him learn and think, that he will wind up upset or defensive less and less!

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    2. Definitely!! I think you're on the right path for sure with just taking him EVERYWHERE and doing ALL THE THINGS and giving him time to think coupled with the expectation that he's gonna be a Good Boy. He's going to be such a seasoned champ before you know it!

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    3. we can only hope so!! he seems to have most of the right qualities ;)

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  4. Its hard to imagine Charlie doing a rear and spin, but so awesome he could relax and try again for you! It speaks volumes for what a great job you are doing with his training.

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    1. i know right? when his former race trainer told me he used to have a rearing problem i.... was highly skeptical haha.

      but idk if you remember that 'sympathy for the devil' post i wrote in january, but basically when charlie's paralyzed airway flap went undiagnosed for so long he would get into major battles of will with his first race trainers about being made to work. he didn't want to work bc he couldn't breathe, and.... obvi they wanted him to work and would be quite rough in insisting. thus, the rearing and birth of charlie's patented "dinosaur stuck in tar pit" move.

      these days he's not quite as dramatic, and his "rears" as such are definitely in the "mini" category. but that's his go-to move when he feels like he's being driven forward against his will.

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  5. LOL at that first picture! How I wish I had real trails to ride on that didn't require hauling 20+ minutes away. I went to go ride in a pasture the other day and was pleasantly surprised that P listened well enough to open and close the gates, since I've never tried it from horseback before. Charlie will definitely get there.

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    1. yea we're definitely spoiled at the new barn by all the new and exciting various amenities available to us. this is the longest charlie's gone since november without having to be on the trailer a couple times a week!

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  6. I can barely manage to reach gates from my horses, who are significantly shorter than Charlie, so mad props to you for the contortions it must take to reach down to them from your giant! 😂 I'm glad Charlie was so good for his creek crossings, even if the gates need work. Sounds like your move to this facility is gonna be perfect in terms of continuing to expose him to a variety of experiences in a low stress way!

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    1. omg yea, most gates are hilariously too low to reach from the saddle. i never knew how spoiled i was with isabel!!! lol... and yes i was definitely pleased with his creek crossing. he's gotten a lot of practice lately with tiny little rivulets that cross our paths to and from the arenas - some of which became very flooded with recent rain. slowly but surely he'll end up being a pro, i hope!

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  7. OMG Brita's face lolololololol Perfect photo

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  8. It's funny how you forget their buttons when they're being so well-behaved. Mae is perfect in a crowd in an unfamiliar place. Put her out there by herself though - panic attack ensues!

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    1. yea it's so easy to get complacent for sure!

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  9. He's still perfect to me even if he has brain melt moments. Don't let those gates get you down, Charlie! :P

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    1. Ha if it weren't for the brain moments I wouldn't be able to appreciate the quietness right? Isn't that what they say?? Lolz

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  10. I heart him eating from his window

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    1. Omg me too tho! I <3 it even more bc so many random ppl take pictures of it to text it to me when I least expect it :D

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  11. I think all of my horse would manage to injure themselves trying to climb out of that window to get to the grass. I have definitely found myself trying to do something with my horses and pausing to think, oh wait. We've literally never done this before. Because I'm an idiot this experience usually comes at a show or event and I wonder why I never practiced in advance, but I just don't think about those things. I should.

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    1. I'm pretty sure one of mine would try to climb out that window to the grass too. Not sure she could fit right now, but she definitely would try.

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    2. Yea the injury risk by trying to climb out might be lower than you suspect - Charlie is a very tall horse with a very long neck and he jussssst can reach, with the height of the wall hitting him directly at his throat latch. Most horses can honestly barely see out let alone graze haha

      And yea - practicing stuff ahead of time is my way of life bc I will freak out and get all nervous if I think I'm gonna have to do something we have never tried before at a show!

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  12. Good boy Charlie. I always break down gates into small baby steps and the put it together. Looking at your gate I think that you could train Charlie to push it shut with his body and that would make it easier.

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    1. Yup - definitely agreed about breaking things into small steps. That's why it was so great to have friends on hand so we could practice trying with no pressure to be able to finish the job. Charlie is actually quite good at the pushing part - that's usually the direction he can handle (depending on the gate, and the direction we are going, that's either the open or close). In the above gate, closing it from that direction requires pulling, which is what I'm trying to do in the photos. Charlie's not quite as good at maneuvering his body when I need to pull a gate toward him, and in the example above we weren't able to finish the job. One day tho!

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    2. ah yes. He will get it pretty quickly though.

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  13. It is beyond cool that you have all this on the property to just work through whenever. :-)

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    1. It's pretty freakin awesome for sure. And I still feel like I haven't even capitalized on it all yet!

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  14. I find it hard to remember that Indy is still green, and really a baby even though hes 11, since he raced for so long. So sometimes I am wondering why something happened, then reminding myself he has only been under saddle under a year.

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