Sunday, October 24, 2010

Obstacles for Maddie, and a Lesson in Patience for Kate

Just a quick update on this weekend's activities. (No pictures, as I only knew two people there, and they were riding.)

Hauled Maddie and Kate down to the neighboring city of Yakima ("the Palm Springs of Washington") to a little trail course that is set up at the Queen Bee Ranch. Weren't quite sure if it was going to be just practice time, instruction, or mini-competition. Basically, it ended up being practice time on a great assortment of obstacles, though most were not all that "natural."
Owner Gary required everyone to do plenty of preliminary groundwork before attempting the obstacles in the saddle, so since I haven't done a bloomin' thing with Maddie for almost two months, I started with her, and tied Kate nearby, where she could see all the goings-on, but not be in the way. (Hah!)

Gary subscribes to the tenets of natural horsemanship, and although there was nothing that I found objectionable (some of it I do use), his way isn't quite how my horses are trained. So Gary kept asking me to "send" Maddie through at the end of the leadrope, when she is used to me leading her, and trusts me more when I "set the example" of what I want her to do. If I had gone expecting instruction, maybe I wouldn't have gotten as frustrated with him as I did. At one point I was tempted to just load up and head home. But Gary didn't know me, or my background, so I tried to give him a little leeway to say what he needed to say, and compromise enough to at least give his methods a reasonable try. (One of the other riders from Ellensburg felt like she learned more from him in one day than she has working on her own in quite a while!)
Maddie was giving me lots of good efforts, so after about 45 minutes on the ground I decided to get on and try some of the obstacles where she was getting "stuck": two different "car washes" (one of wide cloth tapes and one of old sections of garden hose), several little "mazes" of irrigation/sewer pipes and barrels, and a "gauntlet" of branches, tires, pipes, railroad ties, plastic 55-gallon-drum-lids, etc. I warmed her up on the obstacles she had completed from the ground, a bridge, some pipes and beams to cross, the stair-step hill, then slowly worked through each of the more challenging ones.
I was really proud of her calmness and her effort!

Kate, on the other hand, was being a snot!
She is usually pretty happy tied at the trailer, but with all the goings-on, I thought she'd be better off at a post just outside the trail area.
Well, she pawed, and she screamed, and she busted the bottom rail of the fence.
The only thing I can figure is that she and Maddie rarely go someplace together, and Kate was just being buddy-sour (even though she could see Maddie the whole time). Gary offered to put her in his high-sided plywood round pen, where she wouldn't be able to see anything (or hurt anything), and I agreed that was what she deserved for her little tantrum.
She called a bunch at first, then seemed to settle down.

When I put Maddie up, probably two hours later, and went to the round pen to retrieve the now-quieter Kate, she had obviously worked up quite a lather, then rolled in the sandy pen. She was cool now, but filthy! I put on my rope halter with the 12-foot training lead, which would be better for ground work. (Gary had also criticized my choice of halters, but I had figured that she didn't need the "training " halter for standing tied.)
I wasn't sure I would even ride her, but we went in and started doing the requisite groundwork. Kate calmly negotiated the bridge, the cloth "car wash," several logs and pipes and the stair-step hill. But when she got "stuck" at the narrow planks, suddenly Gary was on my case again about my timing and my position and what not! I patiently listened to all his criticisms, then, when he turned away to "help" someone else I slung the lead over Kate's neck, tied it off to the halter, and used the bank to slide on to her back. Folks were starting to head back to their trailers and then up to the pot-luck lunch, so Kate and I pretty much had the area to ourselves.
I didn't want to do anything too exciting in just the halter, as I don't feel I have near as much control as in either a bridle or my bosal. I also worry about my balance on very steep hills even in the saddle, so we didn't do the stair steps or a couple of other more challenging obstacles but Kate proceeded to "run the gauntlet," cross the bridge, go through both "car washes," go down the cement paver "creek bed," and over several other wooden plank obstacles. About the only one I couldn't convince her to try was the very narrow teeter-totter (why go over something you can just as easily go around?).
Otherwise, Kate was cooperative and relaxed, so I called it good.

The rain that threatened all day never materialized, and we took the scenic Yakima Canyon Road both ways, for some lovely displays of autumn color. In the end, I'm glad I went (though I'm not sure I'll visit that particular venue again). It was, all-in-all, a good training opportunity for all of us.


  1. Sounds like an interested day for all concerned. I can see how you'd be frustrated with Gary, although his intentions seemed pretty good. I think he could have some adapting to what you do and how you work, rather than wanting things done "his" way, same goes with the halter. I believe there's no one right way, or right equipment, or program - each horse and rider are unique and need different things. But at least you made good use of the day!

  2. I'm sure it was GORGEOUS on the Canyon Road this weekend! But the training day sounds...odd....

    Did you PAY this guy for his expertise, or did you pay for the use of the venue for practice? 'Cuz it's kind of a weird situation.

    Anyhow, I'm glad Kate got some patience. When I started taking lessons, I'd take both horses and the one who wasn't being ridden got to stand at the trailer. If she didn't stand quietly at the trailer then she got put on the hot walker. For a hour. After the 2nd session of that, they both quit moving around at the trailer and took naps instead!

  3. Kate--I was particularly worried about using "his" methods on Maddie, who is such a sensitive girl. The fellow who did the creek crossing with her at last spring's clinic really got her frazzled. Gary did have a good justification for the "sending"--one doesn't want to be in front of your horse if they rush through an obstacle. But I've done this long enough to know where to be and when to move out of the way (tho he didn't have that history).
    It's sort of like your horse search--you wouldn't climb on someone else's horse and start working it as though you've had it for years--you start with where the horse and owner are at, and work from there (and with permission to try something the horse isn't familiar with).

    Aarenex--It WAS kinda weird, that's what threw me. No money involved (except for the fruit box I bought from him for use as a feeder). But it was his place, so he kinda gets to set the rules...
    I kinda like the sound of the hot-walker patience technique. Though I've never used one, and would have to train that first. The round pen seemed to do the trick.
    The drive down the canyon was worth it. Shoulda taken some photos, but wasn't in the mood to stop. Just wanted to get home. It was a relaxing trip, nonetheless.

  4. Interesting post, EvenSong. It makes me think about my own music teaching, and just about learning/teaching in general. Funny how, the older I get, the less I feel I know. I have the privilege of working with a particularly sensitive and talented group of singers every Saturday. Sometimes, I know I need to step out of the way and let them figure things out on their own. The trick is finding the balance. I wonder if it's a bit the same with riding/understanding horses. Both the humans and the horses so fragile - the cost of messing up quite high sometimes.

  5. It sounds like an interesting experience for the horses. I don't really like going somewhere and having someone tell me how to work my horses. I feel that I know what's best for them, you can give me your opinion but if I don't agree then I'll do my own thing. I'm not a know-it-all by any stretch of the imagination, but I believe in being flexible with each horse and working with them individually, one size fits all just doesn't work for me...or them. Had I been there I might have been very frustrated. I'm sure the scenery was beautiful and it was nice to get out and do something different though.

  6. I'm late, but what an interesting day. I wouldn't have handled that nearly as well as you. Sounds like you did great work with both mares despite the help. ;)

  7. I can imagine how beautiful it is around Yakima this time of the year. I've never heard it referred to as the Palm Springs of WA before but I can see that.

    Sounds like an odd day. Glad to hear it worked out ok for you and both horses.

  8. Sometimes it's just a bad fit - especially since you didn't go there for "training." I knew a trainer like that - if you got anywhere near him he'd spend time telling you why you weren't doing things right.

    The reality was that we just weren't doing things his way.

    Still sounds like you made real progress!

  9. Strange about the 'trainer', but I think it's amazing that the venue was free. I would ahve just smiled and ignored him myself. The last 8 mile obstacle course venues we had around here were $125 to use all day, but noone there to help you unless you asked. I like the idea of free better and with the trainer guy there just in caseyou got stuck or something bad happened. He didn't make you fix the broken fence, too. I would have been so embarassed if my horse had broken something. Good for you getting out there with your horses anyway. And enjoying some Autumn colors, too. :)


  10. Ooops..that was supposed to be a question about the broken fence. I hope he was nice and didn't ask you to fix it. :)


  11. Ya know,
    having used so many trainers from so many diciplines these past years...I can weed out so many of them now, for the useless stuff they try to get my horse to do- without asking me what we know and where our stickinesses are. They have "Thier Formula" and you msut fit into it...well I already DON'T fit into it!
    I am so glad you took some positive initiatve to get something done and end on great notes, I might add!!!
    Good for YOU!