Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Rehabilitation of Storm......Back to the Trails.....

Part 1

Ideally the best thing to do for Storm would have been to get him right back out on the trails the following day but as usual the weather was not cooperating with that plan. The winds were hollowing and the rain going sideways, not good for any kind of riding at the park.

By the time the weather did cooperate I no longer had a friend available to ride Dandy. That meant if I was going to continue any kind of trail work with Storm I was going to have to do it on my own.
Considering Storm's reaction to that troll grabbing his hock, I was pretty sure I shouldn't be trusting Storm to carry me safely even on these little trails at the park. There were just too many places for gremlins to hide and it wouldn't be smart to test fate. Storm may have reeled himself in pretty well the first time but there were no guarantees he'd do that again. I sure didn't want to be dealing with him alone in what could be a dangerous situation.

Still, once I get something in my head, I pretty much stick to it. I was determined trail riding was a good plan for Storm and I was equally as sure, for it to be effective, it needed to be a regular thing. Waiting for someones help just wasn't going to cut it if Storm was to get the full benefit I expected trail riding to provide so I conjured up a plan to get Storm used to the trails and to keep me safe.

I figured the best way to go was to do my arena work with Storm first. That always began with lunging the horse bitted up until he got totally responsive to my cues. With these intermittent training days, a totally responsive horse could take a while but at least he was fighting with himself and not me. Once that was done, I would ride the horse working on the exercises I'd gotten from Wendy Potts and the lateral work I had already incorporated into his training regimen.

That first day back to the park after I got done with this arena work, I led Storm off to the trails. I kept his bridle on and just walked beside him heading back towards the woods. If there was going to be any spooking, it was going to be in hand with me having both feet on the ground and where I could control the extent of Storm's reactions.

Because Storm is barefoot there is a part of the park I wanted to avoid. It goes through a nice open area that would be good but it is hard gravel road which is very wearing on unshod hooves so instead of going my usual route, I headed behind the caretaker's RV spaces and up to the woods through a big grassy open area.

To get to his location meant we had to cross over a log. Even though Storm is not an experienced trail horse, he has been turned loose here on our farm in the back pastures. These fields have a creek running through them and the appropriate flora and fauna you'd expect. That means we get downed trees and such that I figure Storm has played with just like every other horse I own. I figured a log to walk over should be small potatoes for Storm.

Of course, Storm had other ideas. He may have seen logs on the ground before BUT that was at home. This log was different. It was in this scary place where trolls lived and even dragons lived. He wasn't going anywhere near that thing. Snorting and blowing with those eyes bugged out of his head Storm refused to take another step closer to that log.

When he realized that I was insisting he shook his head at me trying to tell me I should be scared. I laughed at the intensity of his refusal and immediately saw the expression change on his face. I could see the wheels turning, "Mom's laughing at me.......that means I'm being silly..........aw shucks.........." as he lowered his head and snorted at the log. I took another step closer and Storm very cautiously followed me. His head was still lowered and those snorts were still quite audible. The horse was stretching forward trying not to move those rear feet again but eventually he did. Then he leapt over that log and cleared it by at least two feet. I almost lost hold of the reins he so caught me off guard.

Back and forth across the log we went until the horse finally quit snorting and he stepped over it normally, well, normally, for a troll searching horse. Storm was not relaxed by any means but he was doing as asked so we continued on towards the woods.

Walking across the open space was not much problem but he did look like an Arabian horse on parade. His tail was flagged, his head elevated and his nostrils flared as he pranced beside me up the small hill towards the woods. His snorts were there but rather subdued. I'm pretty sure he didn't want to look silly again but he wasn't quite convinced he shouldn't be on such high alert.

As we walked by the RV spot where the troll had grabbed him, I turned Storm and walked he through the scary place. The horse was not going to be tricked this time. The brush grabbed his hock and he only scooched his butt down but did not leap or snort or jump in the air. We were making progress.

To be continued......................

The Deer Trails.......

This picture is Dandy with one of my all time favorite dogs, Hobie. This guy was a rescue blue heeler. He was so awesome around the horses and as you can see he and Dandy were good friends.

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  1. Oh my...you literally have your hands full. I'd rather re-train a horse that is full of himself then one that has lost his confidence :( and the fact that he is a stallion on top of it all - Mikael, you really have your hands full!!!

    Good thing that the auditory communication is still there - he can rely on your voice when all else fails in his world...

  2. Good work, and great that you took the "safety first " approach and did what you SAFELY could do

  3. Great idea to do the work from the ground first before mounting. Better safe than sorry. He does sound like he's really scared but working with you will give him the confidence he needs.

    Cute picture. I think pictures of dogs and horses are so sweet.

  4. Sounds like he is coming along. Once it all sinks in and he 'gets it' life will be good again. Getting there is half the battle. You have a good plan of attack too. Keep it simple and stay safe.

  5. feralwoman, I never really thought he might have lost his confidence overall but he sure didn't have it when it came to working on the trails. He's definintely been a handful and it's taking some time to figure him out.

    fernvalley, I always try to make safety first for both of us and in this case I think about John Lyons saying years ago that the more steps you make it, the easier it is for the horse. It just seemed to make sense that this would be easier for Storm as well as for me.

    Arlene, I think that me being on the ground made it all safer for Storm. When I'm riding him I think he's worried and doesn't know what to expect.

    The dogs and horses sure seem to have a lot of curiousity about each other. I don't know now many pics I have of these two sniffing at each other. Same with Legs and Brandy. They were always checking each other out.

    CNJ, now if the weather would just cooperate so we could string some of these rides together we might get to make some real progress.