Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Accidents and learning to trust

We tried the beach with Bar and Lena on Sunday and it did not go at all as planned. Luckily, nobody was hurt and Lena showed us a very mature side we weren't really sure she had. It started with loading - Bar did not want to be alone in front and objected mightily so we loaded Lena first, even though she hates the smaller front compartment. She settled in with only a minor hip-swing into the barrier and they were both quiet and calm all the way to the coast. Normally, she bangs back and forth in the front compartment, but it was almost like she realized she had to be the grown up horse this time.

That was apparently the easy part.

I came off again trying to get Bar up a hill, away from Lena, to get out of the way of a lone rider coming back down one of the narrow trails at Bodega. I scared Steve really badly because I was underneath that big, bay horse, and it looked pretty bad. Somehow I managed not to get stepped on, which Steve thinks is mostly luck considering the shifting sands and frightened horse. I didn't think about getting scared until much later when we were sitting in the hot tub, too busy worrying about other things and being embarrassed, I guess.

Bar headed back to the trailer, with Steve and Lena in pursuit. (After they made sure I was okay). I missed all of the chase, but Bar came back to them twice on his way back to the trailer. Lena was calm and stopped and waited for him and he actually let Steve catch him for a little while. Those trails are not good for ponying, however, and he got loose and headed back towards the trailer again. There were a lot of horse people out there and one woman riding another spotty horse got hold of him - he went right to her - as he was circling back around to Lena and Steve.

A couple folks came to make sure I was really okay while Steve tended the horses. I was, just annoyed with myself and embarrassed more than anything. Again, the fear came later. It was a silver lining to meet strangers who would take time to help us when things went off kilter. And, I might add, not make me feel like a total idiot.

This is a hard post for me to write because there are probably some people who think we should get rid of him. I think we pushed him too far too fast with the beach trip and it just so happened I paid the price. It looks particularly bad since I just fell off the other day, too. Probably Steve could have stayed on both times, and I know he's really worried about me. Heck, I'm worried about me, too. Bar is a lot to handle, but he's trying really hard to do what we ask him even though he has no real reason to trust us or his situation, yet. If he weren't trying, it would be a different story, but he is.

It does come down to trust, and it is still really early in the game with Bar. Yes, he can be a spaz, but Lena was too, even when we started taking her out with Doc at first. The difference is that she trusts us more to take care of her and we've proven over and over in the last 2-1/2 years that we won't do anything that terrible to her. (Wormer doesn't count.) That probably started way back on the night she colicked and we stayed with her, but it's something we've had to build on, too. It didn't happen overnight and it could be gone in an instant - just like with the blanket trauma. (Thankfully we've worked through that, now.)

I don't think I've done a lot to inspire confidence in him at this point, either, which is why I'm going back to some of the basics Peter and Rob showed me. The simple stuff helps keep me calm (and in the saddle) and that helps him. It may or may not help when he freaks out, but on the other hand, if we've built the trust, he may freak out less.

I keep thinking about the beach and how trapped he must have felt in that walled-in trail. Normally, I'll circle him (or Lena) to get them to pay attention but I backed him up and ran him up a slippery hill away from Lena instead. He did keep coming back to Steve and Lena, and he did head for the safety of the trailer.

No, it's not all my fault - though I wish I'd handled it better - but better to not put him in a situation where he has to make those choices and I have to try to hang on until we've worked together some more.

The hardest thing I've had to do in a long time was get back on him yesterday, but I did it. We took it really slowly, even getting into the arena. We walked around so he could see what was going on outside before heading into the empty indoor arena. We checked out the empty round pen and made sure none of the trail stuff had moved. I paid attention to the noises and things that were bothering him and acknowledged them while continuing the workout. I just kept talking to him and giving him credit when he did the right thing and when he paid attention and responded. In turn, he got better and more responsive as we went along, less distracted by the rain on the roof and the noises outside the arena, more focused on me and what we were doing.

So, no, I'm not giving up on him. It's like having another kid - you can't expect them to act like your first and you forget how much work the first one really was.

1 comment:

RunAwayPony said...

I've been told on multiple occasions that it takes two years for a horse to really get to know and trust you. I don't know that that's entirely true, but it stands to reason.
The more you work on the basics the better. Give him small challenges you know he can handle so that you get his confidence up and also his trust that you won't ask something of him that he can't do. Even with Tye, sometimes all we do is walk and trot.
I think giving him time is a great thing. If he was really a malicious horse, you'd know by now. He hasn't shown a mean side, just a confused one. And that's to be expected when working with a new horse.
Keep up the hard work, you know it'll pay off.