Monday, November 24, 2014

Pew pew pew!

Those are the sounds of gunshots. ..or lasers. But really, gunshots.

Today is the first day of gun season for deer here in West Virginia. Schools have the whole week off because if they tried to make them come to school, so many wouldn't. Deer hunting is means for a week of Thanksgiving holiday here!

Due to the start of gun season, many were sighting in their rifles yesterday. Essentially, the farm sounded like a battlefield as folks on adjacent properties shot of a variety of guns.

I tried to ride Griffin, but he was a basketcase about the guns going off. It didn't help that the neighbors started shooting their pistols for fun at the beginning of our ride either. Pew pew pew. PewpewpewPEW. Crack crack crack crackcrackcrackcrack. Griffin's muscles contracted and never released; he was a ball of nerves. It also didn't help that I was riding with the bareback pad because my Achilles tendon is still pretty fuckered up from my last endurance ride and is only aggravated when riding with stirrups. No stirrup November Forever, for this girl until it's better.

Before our botched ride. So calm.
I tried to keep him calm and redirect him, but he just wouldn't come off it. Despite the fact that we'd heard many shots and still weren't dead, he was certain that the next noise he heard would certainly mean his demise.

He pitched 2 or 3 minor fits wanting to go back to the barn that I made him work through. We even galloped up a short stretch of hill twice, which in the past seems to settle him as he gets to explode in a controlled manner allowing him to re-right the gerbils in his head. It helped a tiny bit, but he was still tense.

He wanted to TROT and RUN home even though we were not far from the barn at ALL. As we crossed the stream on our way back, I gave him a little rein to see if he'd actually trot through the water as he tends to like to linger in streams and puddles. He took two trotting steps into the stream and then launched up the opposite bank, slamming into it and nearly throwing me over his head as he caught himself. I strangled out the noise of a dying antelope as I tried to stay on, which distracted him enough for me to regain my seat. I'd definitely had enough at that point; my decision to call it a day was further confirmed.

Back at the barn a good many minutes after our botched stream crossing, Griffin was breathing as if we'd just finished galloping he was so stressed. As I untacked him, I just let the bareback pad fall to the ground on his off side. In his state of panic, he jumped VIOLENTLY as it hit the ground. It hardly made a SOUND; I imagine it was the visual of it falling that alarmed him further. Sigh.

He's merited some spazzy days though, as he's been largely well-behaved of late. Especially for a 4 year old! The day before he did his first solo ride on the rail trail (sans horse buddies or cyclist friends). I'd had a big goal of 10-15 miles, and a small goal of 6 miles. We ended up getting in 9.25 miles (though I miscalculated while I was out there and thought I'd only be doing 8).

He was mostly excellent for the whole ride. Where Q likes to spook at the most minute of things (a purple flower amongst white flowers, a weird branch among other branches, a smooth, grey-bark tree amongst rough, brown-barked trees, etc.), Griffin spooks at buildings and other large things (a house, a shed, a barn, a doghouse, etc.). However, miraculously (not really), Griffin does not spook when he is headed in the "home" direction. If we're moving out and away from home, terror strikes him much more easily than if we're going back toward home. It really seems that I have both spectrums of spooking with my two horses!

And for future training reference for me to look back on, despite 4 times stopping and dismounting where I didn't pause the GPS (3 to mess with boots and 1 to be courteous to a very brightly dressed biker who was passing headed the opposite direction at the most narrow part of the trail) our average speed for the ride was 8.3 mph. Endomondo reads that Griffin has a very steady trot around 9.5-10.2 mph. Outstanding! Because I could hear Endomondo calling out my splits, I am not very surprised, but I must say that it certainly does not feel that fast at all! It's just his trot, not something I'm pushing or asking for.

On the Q side of things, all is well. Today marks the end of her month-long vacation.

Time off has been great for the two of us. She's seeking out my attention more and more the longer I ignore her (she's fed and brushed but nothing more). She whinnies at my car as it approaches some days, and will walk to meet me as I approach her in the field at least half the time now. She even trust me enough to let me approach her on foot in the field when she's lying down napping. (!!)

Dusty horse is dusty. And rotund. Very little to no piloerection of her coat on
this day to attribute to her body condition score; it was in the 60s!
She's not quite an "air fern", but she definitely needs to be in work to maintain
a healthy weight.
In our quest to reset trust in one another, I've decided I'm going to treat her like a new horse that just entered my life that I know very little about. We've done 3 short round penning liberty sessions where all I have tried to instill in her is that she should face me when I ask her to "whoa" and she should approach the center if I remain bowed. She'll approach me directly when cued if she's been traveling clockwise, but she tends to meander around me if she's been going counterclockwise. For whatever reason, she's currently aligning herself along my right side as she's deemed that to be "safe" and "good" and "correct". I suspect I may have accidentally reinforced it without being aware. I do plan to rectify this silly thing she's learned over our next few sessions; until then, I'll continue chuckling over her "heel" command she seems to have learned.

I plan to take her on some walks this week to compliment the round pen sessions. Around the property and perhaps even up and down the road (back road that only receives residential traffic). With my Achilles very against saddle riding right now, and hunting season going strong, it will be a perfect thing. We'll move into ground driving in a week or so, I'd imagine.

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