Monday, March 30, 2015

Some lessons are harder than others

There comes a time when we have to face some of our fears head on, and yesterday was that time for River.  I've mentioned before that we have had issues with her right side, and though she has been getting a lot better, I knew that we were somewhat skirting the issue, and not really facing it.  We all need to recognize our limits, and I knew that to get to the root of River's issues with this was more than I could physically  handle - she's just too quick and too strong for me to do what I knew needed doing.  This is where Jim Groesbeck came in.

Jim is a very talented trainer who started my Azteca gelding, Prado, a few years ago (before I  purchased him last year).  He also started Jessi's sweet mare, Sombra this year.  He's a great hand with the horses, and I knew that he would be able to help River with the weaknesses in her training.  It was a hot day for March, and River still has her winter coat, so yes, she sweated up quite a bit, and yes, she got very worried in working through her lessons.  In the end, though, it is for her own good and will make her a safer and  happier horse in the future.

River does not like to be lunged from her right side - period.  I've almost succeeded a few times, (and I'm proud of the both of us when this happens) but when she gets worried, she just flees. This is not a good thing.  Before we can get on her, we need to know that she will be safe in all situations.  She is not being bad, she is truly worried for some unknown ( to us) reason.

Jim started his work with River from horseback.  This is a great way for  the horse being worked to have the companionship of another equine during their lesson.  River kept wanting to go around the arena to the left, so Jim and his mare helped her to go right.

Then Jim gave her a reward of pets to let her know that he is on her side, it's not a war.

One of the biggest lessons River learned yesterday was to give her head to the right, and turn her hindquarters to the left - you can see the start of that here.............

This next series of images show the progression of the exercise, from getting the rope over her head to the right side, to her turning right and unlocking the hind end to the left again, with the reward of a rub at the end of the turn.

After River figured the exercise out from horseback, it was time to continue on the ground.  In doing this, another problem came out that we haven't seen since the day we picked her up from Safe Haven - kicking.  After a lengthy time of trying to get  her in the trailer that day, she finally resorted, out of fear and frustration, to kicking.  River has not offered at all to kick us in all the time she's been here, and she's had times when she could have.  It's not in her to want to do this, but rather it is  what you might call a "high sense of self preservation".  River came from the pens with a nasty, old scar on her left hind fetlock - one which doesn't cause any lameness - but one that is clear evidence of her getting her leg caught in something.  Because of this, she is extra sensitive to having ropes around her legs, and this came out again yesterday.  In trying to get the rope around River's hindquarters to help her turn around like she did from horseback, the rope slipped down a little, and poor River  came unglued. You can see how soft Jim is being with the rope, trying to let her figure out that she could settle, and that she wasn't going to get hurt.

Jim spent a good amount of time gently looping the rope around her hind legs until she understood that she could just stand there, and that we weren't trying to hurt her.  Rather, we were trying to help her figure out that in staying calm when something is around her back legs, she will actually keep herself from getting hurt in the future.  It was a very hard and fearful lesson for her, as you can see from how touchy and kicky she got, but you can also see that she was finally able to  stand there with he rope looped around her legs without panicking, and get another well deserved pat from Jim.

Jim's mare (I didn't get her name - she's a sweetie) was so cute during all the commotion going on with River.   She stood patiently by, serving as a companion, but also staying out of the way.

After River's lesson in the round pen, it was the perfect time for another lesson - getting a bath.  We have taken a little time to get her used to the hose, and have hosed her front legs, but not her whole body.  Jim  undertook this endeavor, and helped River feel that cool water can actually feel good on a hot, sweaty body.   

It is not to be expected that River's fears and issues will be overcome in one lesson, so River, Jessi and I will continue to work on this.  Jim helped us get a good start on dealing with these few issues - many thanks go out to Jim for doing this.  In the overall scope of things, though, River's problems that we worked with yesterday are so minor compared to all her positive points.   I feel confident that through these continued lessons of helping her learn how to handle her fears we will be able to help her live a more comfortable and balanced life.  We will, of course, also be progressing with her other lessons that aren't so hard for her to learn - the easier things for her to do.  It's just like our own lives, some lessons are easier and some lessons are harder, but we always come out better people on the other side.  That's all we want for River, too - for her to become a better, happier and more well rounded horse.  

(Remember that you can view all these images in their original size by clicking on them) 




  1. Really good session. She should progress nicely once she has had a day or two to think about it.

  2. Important lessons for River to learn. Looks like a good start.