Friday, August 21, 2015

MerryLegs Looking for a Home

MerryLegs Looking for a Home

I have decided that MerryLegs will not work for me.  Even if I can find a trainer who can work out the bucking problem, I don’t think I can ever have the confidence to ride him, comfortably.  I got hurt too bad—and I still haven’t entirely healed.  I’ve had confidence issues in the past, so this isn’t anything new—but this one is too big for me.

I would love to return him to his previous owner--though it would be expensive--I think it would be the best.  He would be the happiest there--and no one would be taking the chance of riding him and getting hurt.  The trainer that I hired to help me said that he was very dangerous, and returning him would probably be the best thing.  Our barn manager, who has trained many horses in the past, said she would never get on a horse like him, either.  Our barn owner, who in his younger days was a prominent breeder and trainer of top-level reining horses didn't even think he wasn't even halter-broken when I got him--let alone ridden.  I don't agree with that, but something about him is amiss. There were some things, that I won't go into here, that were very disturbing about him.  He won't be an easy project for anyone who gets him--and a life of a pasture potato just might be the best for him.

Unfortunately, the previous owner really wants him trained so he can live a productive life--but she cannot afford that at this time.  She thinks euthanizing might be the best choice if he doesn't go to a trainer.  Regardless, she won't take him until the weather is cooler, so I will use that time to find a different situation for him.

I need someone who can stay on if he decides to do some crow hopping.  He bucked me off twice and a trainer off once, so I am fairly certain that he will do it again—but his rider has to stay on.  MerryLegs isn’t a fighter.  I don’t think he will buck for the rest of his life—that doesn’t seem to be his nature.  He did it only once on the lounge line and only once on a lead rope.  He never tried it again in either of those circumstances—not even a hint of it.  Still, my heart races at the thought of being in the saddle with him.

He is actually a quiet, low key horse.  He is doing very well with his ground work and really seems to like to be with people—I think that is a Morgan trait.  He is only 6 years old, healthy and sound.

Anyone who thinks they can manage him and is willing to help him get past this stage of his training—or is willing to work with a trainer that can handle a horse like him, please contact me.  In the end, he will be a great horse for someone—just not for me.

(I put everything back.)

I removed all the posts and references to a horse that was given to me.  He didn’t work out, and I had to find him a new home with a trainer that has more skills than I do.  It was a sad tale which I told in an honest manner, yet I have been accused of libel and threatened with legal action if I didn’t remove it.  I am sure that nothing I wrote was libelous, but to avoid any sort of hassle, I removed my blogs about him.  I don’t suppose many people will even notice.  There are very few hits on those pages.  Everyone has moved on. 

I want people to know that I not trying to hide the facts from anyone.   There was nothing to be ashamed of, and I was willing to stand by what happened as a truthful and sad story. 

To the person who keeps telling the former owner that I haven’t removed everything, I have to ask.  What kind of friend are you?  Do you like making her upset?  You should be ashamed of yourself.  If you were a real friend, you would protect her from unhappiness, not cause it.  

Clicker Saves the Day

I approached a bunch of trainers with my problem, and I told them I was looking for a home for MerryLegs with someone who can train him through the bucking problem.  Well, the horse gods were smiling at me, and I found one--and a good one, too.  They specialize in training family/trail horses.  The nice thing is that they don't rush the horses.  They spend about a year putting a lot of thorough training on the horses before they try to sell them.  It is a big place with several experienced trainers.  I was very honest about the problem, and they thought they could help him.  I'm sure that his amazing beauty influenced their decision.

I got several independent references for this trainer, and I also checked thoroughly on line for bad reviews--and didn't find any.  The horses in their ads sound too good to be true, but one person knew someone who bought one, and he was, "Exactly as advertised."

This seemed like MerryLegs' best chance to become an honest citizen in the horse world.

I made the arrangements for them to pick him up.  The hauler was supposed to arrive at 9:00, Tuesday morning.  We were swamped at work—and shorthanded because someone was on vacation, so I couldn’t get away.  Poor Ellen was subjected to the sad task.

I talked Kevin into being there, too.  It wasn’t hard to talk him into it—he is always happy to help us out.

At about 9:20, I get an email from Ellen.

“Clicker Saves the Day.”

That made me smile.  Now, I just had to wait for a further update.

Ellen called me a short time later while was walking Ranger on the loop.

The truck showed up on time.  They brought MerryLegs out and led him to the trailer.  He wanted no part of loading.  I don’t know if he equated the trailer with a very long journey or if he just didn’t like it because it looked different than what he was used to.

The driver and Kevin tried the traditional techniques with the rope and tapping with the whip, but MerryLegs was adamant that he would not go in the trailer.  Ellen was watching, and started to worry that they wouldn’t be able to load him at all.  After about 10 minutes, she told them to let her have a try.  After all, she had a big bag of carrots in her pocket.

Ellen stood in the trailer and rattled the carrot bag.  That got MerryLegs’ attention, and he took a step forward.  She clicked him, gave him a carrot and repeated.  Before she even knew it, he was halfway into the trailer—then he was all the way in.  in less than a minute, Ellen got him loaded.

Once inside, he seemed to relax and feel right at home.  Mission accomplished.  Clicker really did save the day.  I do know that he is going to a traditional trainer, and few of them see the point in clicker training, but maybe the driver will mention the episode to his boss, and that will get him thinking a little about our alternative form of training?  Maybe it will plant a seed in his brain of another tool to put in his tool box?

So, MerryLegs was on his way to a new life and a trainer that can stick in the saddle when he bucks.  (I hope.)

This whole thing was such a sad story.  It started out so happy, and then things changed so fast.  I hope it ends happy for MerryLegs, after all.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Decision

The Decision

There was no way I could get back on MerryLegs’—the fear was too much, so I realized I had to get help. There is a very good trainer who works at the stables next to us. I contacted her, explained my situation and she agreed to help.

The big day came. It was 3 weeks after the “incident.” I walked MerryLegs over to their barn, and we took him to the round pen. Kevin came with me. Ellen couldn’t bear to watch. The trainer started by getting to know Merrylegs with a little ground work—stop, go, move over. She then announced she would try riding him.

I helped her up and got out of the way. She walked him around in small circles in each direction and all went well—for about 2 minutes. He simply exploded. She was off him on the third buck—and in that moment, I made a decision. It was over between us. Regardless what happened, I could never trust him, again.

As she dusted herself off, she said, “Wow, I didn’t see that one coming. Very explosive.”

Just like when I rode him, the bucks were sudden, multiple and very, very fast. There was simply no warning—which is really strange. Horses usually will give you some sort of warning. When it happened to me, I thought I might have missed the warning, but I didn’t see one when I was watching, either.

The trainer wasn’t hurt beyond some bruises, fortunately. She didn’t want to continue training him in the future, of course, because she trains horses for a living—she couldn’t get hurt. She told me that probably something in his previous training was affecting his behavior—and it was not likely anything that I did. She didn’t think it was saddle fit, since he had hardly been ridden enough to get a sore back. There might be some other physical problem, but it was unlikely at his age. She said she started a lot of young horses in her life, and she never encountered anything like this, before. Maybe a person experienced with problem horses would be best for him.

I saw Ellen wandering our direction, and I met her with the bad news. She agreed with me that he just wasn’t worth the risk for us to try to fix. She hated the thought of me riding him, and she would never ride him, either.

I have contacted the previous owner and offered to give him back—I would pay for shipping, too. I am still waiting for a decision from her. In the meantime, we are just going to do ground work.

If a trainer can fix him—and probably he can be fixed—he just needs to know that bucking is futile—I just don’t think I can ever ride him. After all, he was supposed to be a trail horse. Bad enough if he has a tantrum and bucks me off—even worse if it is 5 miles from home.

Also, I would be afraid to ever push him to hard. What if he decides he doesn’t want to go forward—do I kick him and risk him going airborne? If that is in my head, how can I effectively train him to be obedient? Clicker training can’t solve everything. It certainly can’t take the fear out of my brain.

I confess that my decision is based on my fear. It is no secret that I am not a bold, fearless rider—I never have been. I have had problems with fear before, and it’s no fun. This time, I have something real and solid to be afraid of.

He had 2 bucking fits in the past. Once was on the lounge line—and I just held him in place until he stopped. The second was on the lead line when I got frustrated and tapped him too hard to go forward. I did the same thing—held him in place until he stopped. He never tried it again. I think that may be how he would react with a rider that didn’t fall off—but it just can’t be me.

It was so much like a fairy tale, and now it is over. I just hope I can find a “happily ever after” for this.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

MerryLegs, ScaryLegs and the big white bunny

MerryLegs, ScaryLegs and the big white bunny

Kevin had an idea.  He brought out an old pair of jeans, filled them with sand and we have put them on MerryLegs' back when he is in his stall.  I have him walk around the stall, and click him for quiet behavior.

Ellen had the big white bunny idea.  She brought it out this weekend.  When we were done with our lounging, we introduced the bunny.  She showed it to him on both sides.  He was worried, of course, but not for long.  I clicked him when he stood still.  Then, the bunny touched him.  He flinched, but soon, he didn’t mind it.  It wasn’t long before bunny was his back.  He got lots of carrots for that.

Later, when he was back in his stall, we put “scary legs” on him to show Ellen what we had been doing during the week.  We decided to toss the bunny on to get a picture.  He was great, and stood as still as could be with him balanced up there while Ellen took the picture.

Overall, we had a really good weekend.  His lounging is doing well, and I led him to the river twice.  On Sunday, we followed Ranger down.  This was his first time with another horse.  We had always taken him by himself.  At the bottom, Kevin was coming back from a ride with a friend, and he was a little uneasy when the horses passed him, but he quickly forgot them and said he would rather just follow Ranger.  He also didn’t like when I turned him to go away from Range—but only the first time.  The second time I tried, he was fine.  He dipped his feet in the water, but it was too high for me to lead him across.

Ranger was so nice to him, too.  Not once did he make a face or act like a bully.  He was happy to have him there and acted more like he was showing his little brother around.

The best news—he decided he can walk out of his stall and then out of the barn without a hassle!  When he readily led out on Saturday, it so caught me by surprise that I was speechless.  He has been doing it ever since.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Four-Day Weekend!

Four-Day Weekend!

Ellen and I had our first long weekend since May, and we had a great one, too.  So often, we are rained out—this time—barely a drop of rain fell.  The river was so low and the temperatures were comfortable. 

The memo must have reached the park department, because they finally started to do some maintenance on the trails, but it wasn’t all that bad.

The first day, we were going to ride to Flane, We thought we would try to cross the second river crossing instead of going on the ford.  We haven’t been able to do it in a couple of months because a tree fell on the river bank and there was tons of debris.  Still, we didn’t want to risk the odd weekday traffic.  I thought we could manage riding up it, at least, and that we should try. 

We were pleased to see that the tree was gone and the debris was partially cleared!  Hurray!  When we were halfway across the river, a school bus crossed the ford.  We were so glad we made the decision to try the river.

We got about halfway down the sewer plant trail, when we saw a vehicle blocking the trail—they were out doing maintenance.  He said he would move it, but we opted to turn back.  We asked if he cleared the river bank, and when he said, “Yes,” we were able to thank him profusely.  He said they would finish getting the rest of the debris and fixed the very rutted hill.  As we peaked around the tractor, we could see they had done work ahead.  This was fantastic.  This part of the trail was so rutted and rocky, we  could only walk on it—and we felt guilty about doing that.  Many times, we just didn’t bother to go that way because of it.

We ended up passing home and going a little the other way.  Kevin was riding out to meet us, so we rode with him a little while, too. 

The next day, we went the other direction to the show ring trail.  We hadn’t done this since before the rain deluge, so Ellen was a little nervous.  Dante and Cole were perfect on the way out.  We were glad to see they fixed the big hill going up to the show ring.  They have to fix it every year.  We manage well enough when it is rutted, but it is so much easier when it isn’t.  We trotted the whole trail, there and back.  The horses seemed to enjoy themselves.

I opted to lead Dante through the hectic Lagoon on the way home.  There is one spot where he is unpredictable.  Starry met us shortly before we got to that spot, and he followed behind Dante.  Sure enough, a car came by and Dante scooted right in front of me and circled around.  He was fine after that.

Ellen was leading Cole, and at one point, they got so far behind that we had to stop and wait for them.  she told me that when they passed the truck with the park worker emptying the garbage cans, Cole wanted to stop and bow for him…

We made it home with no more incidents.  What a great ride.

The next day, we repeated the ride, but this time we met Starry earlier in the ride, Dante was perfect and Cole didn’t have to do any bowing.

We originally planned to go back to the show ring trails on our last day, but we felt like going the other way, instead.  We wanted to see how the maintenance crews did with the trail.

Our first happy surprise—the river bank was cleaned of the debris.  It only got better.  the rutted hill was fixed—then at the top of it—the whole sewer plant trail was resurfaced.  It was the first time I was able to trot that whole trail in literally years.  Dante trotted it for the first time, ever.  It was awesome—no guilt about riding over all the stones, either. 

Once again, we met Starry.  Kevin got to see the new trail, too.  We were a bunch of happy trail riders.