Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Rehabilitation of Storm...... Riding Solo........

Part 1

By the time I got Storm off that section of trail I was ready to get on his back to see what I had. I knew he would be different with me astride because there has just been something different about him since I got him back.

After feralwoman's comment about Storm lacking confidence, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe that is it. He sure had no confidence at all when he first got back here. He climbed the walls even in his stall and we'd put him back into the stall that used to be his so he'd be more comfortable. Everything about he screamed "nervous wreck."

Much of that behavior is gone but he still is different under saddle than he used to be and he does a few things on the ground. Challenging any horse that gets into the horse trailer with him is one of those things he never used to do and then there's the tussels we have under saddle. He always had attitude but it was in a good way. Now I'm still trying to figure out what is pushing his buttons to make him fight. I never really know for sure what I'm going to get when I throw my leg over him.

Now on the trail I was hoping I was going to get the same cautious horse under saddle that I had just experienced picking this way through that deer trail. I figured that was a good possibility when I asked to horse to move closer to a big boulder so I could use it for a mounting block.

Storm looked at me. Then he looked at that boulder. Then he looked back at me, sidepassed up to the rock and stood there. He got a little bit close to it so I asked him gently to move off a step and he did it without over reacting or pouting. That was definitely a good sign.

As I climbed onto the top of that boulder my foot slipped and I slipping off making a screechy kind of racket in the process. Storm looked to see what was happening but moved only a little step sideways so I was able to try again. This time I did better getting myself to a position of top of this hurkin rock and I stop atop it to get my balance before I tried to mount the horse. If Storm was going to step away, this would have been the time he'd pull that stunt, but he didn't. He stood quietly and let me put my foot into the stirrup and throw my other leg over his back. Even when I searched for my off stirrup, the horse stood solid.

Then when I asked him to move, the horse still stood solid. Storm wasn't sure he wanted to proceed in the woods with me on this back. With Dandy in front of him, the horse had moved out at a pretty good clip, now he didn't want to move at all. When I did get him moving it was at a snail's pace. Storm definitely had little confidence about going down the trail without following whether it be Dandy or me.

I guess if I had to pick whether I'd ride a horse that wanted to run when frightened or one that wanted to be super cautious, the cautious horse would definitely be safe. Although I didn't feel all that confident about having a horse this restricted in movement between my legs. It was hard to tell what was going through his mind and it was sooooo obvious that something was. It was like waiting for the other shoe to drop knowing it had to fall sometime.

I had really hoped that Storm would relearn some natural movement out on the trails but he sure wasn't going to do that moving like this. This little walk was every bit as intimidated at the worst western horses I have ever seen but it was going to have to do. It was obvious to me that Storm was going to have to grow his comfort level if we were ever going to accomplish in the woods what I hoped.

To aid in that I did a lot of talking and stroking to keep him moving and get us around these trails. Storm did keep moving for me but he was definitely resistant about it and the farther we travelled it just didn't get any better.

I decided we would make the same loop around these trails as we had done that day with Dandy to see if that would build his comfort just a little but to no avail. Before I gave up for the day, I took him on one more deer trail that led back to the one we had entered on. Then I took him back out the same way we'd come.

Storm inched his way along even when he knew we were heading for home. The only thing that broke him loose at all was going up that steep hill we'd previously gone done. The horse could not do that mincey little walk and travel up that hill. He was forced to drive underneath himself if he wanted to get out of those woods. The steeper the hill got, the lower Storm dropped his head checking out the ground and looking for trolls but as he did so he stepped up underneath himself and pushed his weight up the hill.

It was probably the slowest ascent on that hill I've ever made but I knew it was the best work that Storm had done on the whole trail. To be honest, it was probably the best work the horse had done in the last two years. Once we hit the top of the hill, he sucked back into a slower walk but it was better than what it had been the rest of the ride.
Instead of going out through the RV spaces, I turned one trail up which left us a log to maneuver before we hit the road back to the barns and my horse trailer. I wasn't sure what Storm was going to do about that log but I was hoping he would remember the other log we'd gone over and do the same.

As we came closer to that log, Storm did not fish tail or do any other kind of evasive maneuver. He just kept moving towards the log as directed. When the thing was right there in front of him he stopped dead in his tracks but square. I put my legs on him and he dropped his head down and tried to push it with his nose.

Now in fairness to Storm I should tell you this log is a pretty big log. The other's we'd gone over were at least half the size if not smaller. I knew I was pushing it when I took him this way because that log was surely above his knees so seeing him try to push it made me laugh.

I don't think that Storm was amused at my laughter but he did try to go over the log. His first attempt he did not step high enough and his hoof banged into the thing. The horse shook his head as I put my legs on him again. This time he stepped high enough to go over the log with the first foot and the second one drug a bit.

To make it with the hind two, he did a funky hop that caused me to lurch forward in the saddle and jarred my back. However, Legs has done the same on more than one occasion over that silly log so I was not totally unprepared for this method of maneuvering it. I leaned forward and hugged Storm. He really had come through a difficult test and I wanted him to know it was appreciated. For the first time on the trails, I heard that deep sigh that tells me we have progress.

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

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  1. Wonderful progress in my weyes , he may have been mincing along but he was going and responding to you !!! Every step is a step ahead

  2. That is so awesome!! I've been through a lot of that kind of trail riding on Brandy the first couple years I had her. I never knew what to expect!
    Can't wait to hear more!

  3. Sure sounds like he's getting there! I agree that Storm absolutely lacked confidence. I'm betting as soon as he reconnected with you and saw that you wouldn't put him in a dangerous situation that it would get better.
    Too bad we don't live closer, I'd ride the trails with you:)

  4. Storm made nice progress on the trails even if he was mincing along. At least he was moving and getting over that big log was a nice achievement.

    I think you're right and Storm does need his confidence built up. While he was 'away' whatever sort of training he had took his confidence from him and he needs a steady kind hand to show him he's still smart and can think for himself in some situations. The trails are a great learning arena for him. Good luck.

  5. Please be careful, I was seriously hurt by a mare who was "scared" of everything~ So strange when this happens.

  6. fernvalley, yes, I was really pleased with how hard he tried for me.

    Paint Girl, sorry to hear that Brandy is a fraidy cat too. That sucks. Hope she is better now.

    horsemom, he's coming along but the hit and miss nature of the work has made it slower than I think it would have been had it been more consistent.

    Sometime maybe we will get to ride trails together. I am such a wimp about going to trails I don't know alone.

    You blog is one of the ones I am unable to comment on because some blogger bug puts me in a loop asking me to sign in but not letting me. I have been reading though.

    Arlene, I was very pleased about the log. I really expected him not to even try.

    I don't know what to make of his unsure behavior. It would sure be easier to fix if I knew what caused it.

    HHmstead, I am definitely wearing my helmet riding Storm since I don't know what to expect of him. Sorry to hear you had such an injury. That really sucks.

  7. A horses confidence levels can be shaken just like ours. They need someone to lean on be it from the ground or in the saddle. Once you get them boosted back up to where they belong- things really change. Sounds like you are headed in that direction. Even if they are going slow- they are still moving forward. Glad he is making those positive changes. That's awesome.

    And pat yourself on the back since the horse wouldn't be progressing had you not brought him home or taken it upon yourself to make it a priority in the list of projects you have.

  8. Much of Storm's success is your doing. He sounds like he is coming along very nicely and will make a great little trail horse.