Saturday, January 8, 2011

Antelope Attack!

I'm not sure why I haven't posted this yet... Friday was me and Paul's 5th anniversary so I suppose I had other things on my mind.

On Thursday we rode again, me on Nine, my mother in law on Tiny, my brother in law on Ashley, and this time Hammer followed along. We saw some pronghorn along the way, and at first they ran from us. We didn't see the whole herd at once because they were in the trees, but we could tell it was a huge herd! Well, they went parallel to the road we were on so we saw them again, in a really bad spot, too! There was a barbed wire fence on our right, and an old abandoned house with junk scattered all over the yard on our left. Remember, this is a very open area in general, so "yard" means 10 acres. Anyways, the pronghorn spotted us and started running strait for us, from the left. Apparently this is a tactic they use to scare off predators. Well, the herd was probably some 30-40 antelope, and the scare tactic basically worked! Hammer, who I frequently chase pronghorn with (I know, I'm a sinner) was all worked up, running back and forth, wondering why we weren't going after the antelope! Ashley was an angel; she was focused on the antelope charge, but she didn't spook. And as such, Nine followed her example. He didn't like it, but he didn't run from the pronghorn, either. He just kept trotting (VERY animatedly!) a few steps, stopping, snorting, then trotting forward again. Tiny, though, was terrified. Kate had to get off of him to work him in some circles. He was behind us, so I didn't see, but she said he had started bucking! I had to tell Katie, my dog, to get after the pronghorn so they would change course. She ended up just cutting the herd, so most went across the road behind us, but some stayed in a parallel course with us. We had to just stop and stand for like 10 minutes waiting for them to cross. It worked out for the best, though, because Kate was able to lead Tiny a ways to catch up with us, which allowed him to relax a little. Nine also got a very good lesson in standing still. Hammer has big issues with this - the slightest shift in my position, and he starts moving off again. So I was glad to nip this habit in the bud with Nine. He is so good - he was solid as a statue, not even trying to eat! He kept looking back to watch Tiny coming, and while his head was back there, he slobbered on my pants. :P I took this as a very good sign - he had to feel pretty comfortable with me up there, no fear at all, to give me a kiss. He is also really good at giving "kisses" these days. He's learned not to use teeth, he just leaves a slobber mark, lol. :P I tried to nip that habit in teh bud, too, when he started giving love bites. But he still does it, just without teeth. So I don't punish him. I don't mind a little spit.

Well, Kate and Tiny caught up with us, the rest of the pronghorn crossed the road, and off we went again. Nine was in the lead at this point, and doing awesome at it. He usually walks slow, like Ashley, but this time he really started moving out and swinging those long legs of his. There is a house with sheep and other horses (and dogs), but other than one stop to look at the sheep, Nine was perfect. He really took charge and showed Tiny how to be a good boy. The three dogs at this house are not chained or anything, but so long as we stay on the road, they stay in their yard. I ride past here on my own rather a lot, but usually on Hammer at a canter, so I wasn't sure how it would be with 4 horses at the walk, but it was fine. Nine didn't mind their barking, Ashley of course was perfect, and so Tiny was okay. He was still shaken up from the antelope, and Kate will never admit it, but I'm sure she was shaken up as well, which is a bad mix, but since Nine was being so awesome, and Ashley and Hammer were their usual perfect selves, Tiny and Kate came through just fine.

The way back was uneventful, even though we went back on the pipeline road, which took us next to a generating station or something; lots of noise and gas smells. Ash and Hammer have been past there plenty of times, but it was a first for Nine and Tiny, but there were both perfect gentlemen. And When Ashley cantered a few strides up a small hill, and Hammer took off in between me and Kate, smooshing all three horses together, Tiny spooked a little, and Nine wasn't happy, but we all stayed in one piece.

Can you believe it? Eight rides, and Nine is behaving better than Tiny, the "veteran" tourist trail mount! Apparently there weren't antelope where he came from, some place in Colorado, I think. Serious discrepancies there. Tiny got a LOOOOOONG lesson in the round pen on Friday. He was broke the "old fashioned" way, and it took 45 minutes to an hour of round penning before he finally lowered his head, then came to me in the center of the pen. When round penning, I try Monty Robert's methods to try to get something close to Join-Up. It doesn't always work perfect, like with Ashley, for example (she starts kicking; she lunges like a dream, but her dominant mare streak blazes when you put her in a round pen). Hammer joins up in about 10 seconds, Nine takes more like 10-20 minutes, and usually just gets to Follow-Up. But I stuck with it yesterday, and Tiny finally did it. I guess he was trained to just go round and round until told to stop by his handler, at some random point that makes no sense to the horse. So we had to do lots of direction changes (which I stole from Clinton Anderson; think lunging for respect, but in a round pen) to keep him mind on me. Took ages, but we did it. I got his attention on me, I got his trust. I put a bed sheet on him, and over his head so he couldn't see, and lead him around the pen. He didn't like it, but he had no choice but to trust me and follow my cues. He knows all sorts of cues - he has some very solid training buried deep in his past, but it's all covered in his stubborn, spoiled attitude. He doesn't respect his handler or rider, so when something happens out on the trail, he usually sticks his nose in the horse's tail in front of him. But we are trying to break him of that habit and have him listen to his rider, so when Kate told him to bend his head and circle, and thus ignore the pronghorn, he panicked. Lots of issues in that horse, but until yesterday he wasn't unsafe. We will just lunge or round pen him to get that respect and acceptance and attention before every ride from now on. It should take less time every time we do it.

Wow, that's a long post. If you read the whole thing, kudos to you! Now go get a life. :P I might ride Nine today, with Paul on Ash, if he still wants to (he has to work tonight). And Monday with be my last chance to have a free day - I get my wisdom teeth pulled Tuesday morning, and school starts next week. So, I may post again, I may not.

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