Sunday, July 15, 2018

Second Training Weekend, Part 2 (6/3/18)

When I got back to the arena the second day, I was relieved to see that she'd eaten most of her hay and drank a good deal of water because I worried about her pacing herself into an ulcer or colic. She was much calmer, too. Not frantic that her neighbors were being pulled from her pen, and happy to see me.

It appeared that she'd managed to find her brain overnight, but I still chose not to ride, knowing that the training plan was more intense than the day before. With her blow up over being saddled the day before, I wasn't sure what to expect, but she was back to being a "broke" horse.

Day one, I kept her with me, separate from the horses because of her anxiety. Day two, though, with her regained brain meant that she could be ponied from another horse. While everyone else was warming up, I took her into the arena with the other horses and did some circle work with her before handing her off to another posse member to work in formation.

She did incredibly well in formation, so got to go with the rest of the team across the bridge (she did awesome - but better than first weekend training) into the venue.

Right in the middle, surrounded by other horses.
For a horse who didn't want to be around other horses the day before, she did really well with horses close to her on either side. She got ponied all around the park, and got to see all sorts of sights: a huge rodeo arena (she worked in that for patrol car desensitizing in the first week of training), buildings on both sides, livestock barns, and vehicles. She had to stop and stand in formation, and work with the other horses. It was a great learning experience for her.

Despite me being an avid shooter, Skeeter *hates* guns. She's okay with the occasional shotgun or rifle blast from the neighboring hunters, but does not at all appreciate handguns. I know, I know, it breaks my heart, too. Gun training was planned after the tour of the vanue and I was cautiously optimistic based on her morning behavior.

I worked her from the ground during gun training, but it did not go well. The Posse member who had ponied her throughout the morning offered to trade horses with me, and since I was tired of fighting with Skeets, I jumped at the offer. I struggle with walking the fine line between being supportive in her fear, and disciplining bad behavior, so it was a relief to have someone else take it on. In watching the other person disciplining her, I realized I needed to reinforce boundaries, stimulus be damned. Because I was so concerned about trying to be comforting and supportive during something that I knew scared Skeeter, I was letting her walk all over me. My fear was that if I disciplined her for her fear, I would make her fear worse. She did much better with the other handler, which isn't surprising, since the other handler wasn't concerned with how Skeeter felt, she was concerned with keeping her ownself safe.

Skeeter hated the gunfire, but eventually quit trying to jump on the human holding her. I'll call it a win (for now). Once gun training was over, she relaxed again and started to show interest in other things, so we went over to watch the obstacle course.

She was very interested and wanted to go play, but because the other members were testing on the course, we didn't get to. There were still a few hours left of training, but I wanted to leave on a good note. The first weekend training, I didn't do that, and I think it negatively impacted her ability to relax for the second weekend training. She was in such an agreeable mood, I figured she'd load up easily.

I've spent a lot of time and money on trailer training, but she's a stubborn mare. While I was trying to load her, the next group of horses began their gun training. So in addition to having a horse that didn't want to get on the trainer, I also had a horse who was stressed by the gunshots.

I may or may not have threatened to walk her the half a mile down the street to the rendering plant - that's when I knew it was time to take a break. After an hour, I tied her to the trailer in order to avoid killing her.

I'm pretty sure we were trading hateful thoughts at this point.
 I sat on the back of the truck and tried to think happy, calm thoughts. I knew that continuing to try to load her with both of us being so frustrated wasn't going anywhere. There are very, very few things that drive me to tears, and this was super close.

Eventually, the rest of the Posse took a break and another member asked if he could try. Without much hope, I agreed. I told him the only thing he could not do was pull on her head - that's what got us in trouble in the first place. He tried every trick he knew - and he has a deep toolbox of tricks - but she wouldn't get in. She'd load her front two legs, scoot up right until her back legs were touching the trailer and stop. (It's the same thing she was doing for me.)

I, too, have tried every trick in the book. We even started out, when she was brand new to us, by feeding her in the trailer. She thanked me by eating all of the wiring and padding on the divider. She also learned that she can eat from the manger without getting all the way in the trailer, and that lesson comes back to bite me in the ass on the regular.

Eventually, we were down to the last tool in his toolbox - a manure fork. We bribed her as far in as we could get her, with me holding the grain outside of the window to force her to stretch as far as she could, then he poked her in the ass with the manure fork until she stepped up into the trailer to get away from it.

I had hoped to leave on a good note, but two plus hours after I wanted to leave, I was just happy to get in the damn truck and go.

To say our 40-hour training was disappointing would be an understatement. I was seriously questioning our ability to work with the mounted unit, and was beginning to think about switching from mounted to the volunteer (ground) unit. Surprise would be an understatement when I received our certificate of completion for the training.

We are nowhere near being ready to patrol, and I'm still not 100% sure that we'll ever make it as a mounted team, but I'm not ready to give up quite yet.


Linda said...

She sounds somewhat like Beautiful Girl. When I hauled her to the state park this last spring, she was always a super star. She did the obstacle trail horse 100% perfect FIRST time on each. She didn't think twice climbing up on the tire, the ladder, the labyrinth--none of it. I've never had a horse so brave over the obstacles. She ponied behind my other horses like a champ--up and down trails and everywhere.

So, go figure with the bucking me off two weeks ago. Like you, I don't know that we'll ever be a mounted team, but I do continue to work with her and she's excelling at at liberty work. NO SURPRISE there.

I'm trying to find your post about the buck off. I remember it, but forget the details. Good luck with the training. Patience and GOOD JUDGEMENT will go a long way.

Linda said...

I read in your comment that it was Pearl who bucked you off, not Skeeter. I guess I'm confused!

GunDiva said...

It was Pearl who bucked me off. Skeeter has never offered a buck under saddle, but Pearl dumping me killed my confidence for all horses.