Thursday, April 21, 2011

Girl's Night, Horse Addiction and Sinatra Update

I actually got to go out last night "with the girls". Only two of my friends could make it but they are two friends that I really like and don't get to see that often so it worked out well. Other than lunch with BFF on days I'm downtown at work, I can't remember the last time I went out just with my friends. We went down to the International District to see an acquaintance do a one man show called All My Children about a middle-aged man who tells all his ex-girlfriend's kids that he's their real father (which he isn't). It's actually a really good, mesmerizing story. As a writer I was really impressed! I know Matt because of Improv because I've met him and some of his friends in his Improv troupe at some parties and one of his troupe came with some friends camping with us last summer. But this was a very developed and really great story. The enjoyment of the evening was helped too in that we got downtown early so we had some time to walk around Chinatown (as it was called when I was a kid before everyone went P.C.) It really hasn't changed at all since I was a kid. Except China Dragon is closed.

I'm convinced now that it is as difficult for me to be on "stall rest" as it is going to be for Sinatra. I think I mentioned the series of events that has caused me to have a horrible headache and messed up shoulder/neck since last Thursday. Thrown off Rolls onto my left side - did NOT listen to my instructor and take care of myself like she recommended and instead powered through because I wasn't that sore - led Ziggy the bad-ground-manners-giant-thoroughbred out to the pasture with Girlfriend a few days later holding Ziggy with my left arm (what was I thinking? Why didn't I hold Girlfriend-of-the-perfect-ground-manners with my left arm and Ziggy with my right??? Duh!) ... did lots of shoveling in hard clay in the garden ... picked up lots of toddlers and swung them around ... lifted heavy boxes ... mucked out eight stalls and five paddocks last Thursday and ... boom. As of Friday morning I was toast and wimpering in pain. So, I told myself that for at least a week I would not lift up kids, not lift any heavy boxes, not do any gardening and not ride any horses (or use my left arm when leading them). And takes lots of ibuprofen switched off with tylenol and use ice and heat and rest.

All this would've been fine except I went out to the stable yesterday with T. who is going to do a 3-day a week lease with Girlfriend in May. It will be great for Girl because T. is a more advanced rider than me, and it will help me a lot with the expense of fostering Sinatra. Anyway, I went to just be there with T. and help groom before she rode Girl (this is only her third time riding her) but I flipped out a little after we had Girl saddled and said, "Ok, I know I said no riding for me, but I just want to go out and warm her up. We'll only walk for ten minutes. No trotting or cantering for me!" T. understood my obsession and despite my better judgment I hopped on Girl for a warm-up.

Girlfriend hadn't been ridden in a week though so of course as soon as I got on her back she took off at a trot and tried to bolt. I reminded her it was me riding her and she slowed to a prancy trot, and she's so hot I just let her get it out by trotting for one lap around the arena and then quietly asked her again to walk and this time she heard me above the "RUN! RUN!" in her head and we did a nice quiet walk for the next few minutes. Emotionally I felt that huge sigh of relief I feel whenever I get on her back which is "Aaaaah! This is where I belong!" but even with just a few minutes of walking, I hopped off of her and felt my back/neck/shoulder starting to seize up again. Aargh. So, I had a bad headache the rest of the day.

Sinatra is moved into my stable now! A volunteer from the rescue showed up with him at lunch time. He had apparently had a tough time entering the trailer but to our relief he exited just like a big boy with no problems! He was a little shaken when he got out of the trailer and seemed very disoriented but despite that he seemed like his spirits were still high. He was very interested in the other horses - and they in turn were very excited about him. Especially my instructor's horse, Gabi who is the same age as him (although at least two hands bigger). I had thought Gabi was pure Arab but the SAFE volunteer guessed Andolusian and it turns out she was right - part thoroughbred, part Andolusian, part Arab. No wonder he is so pretty. Sinatra is three quarters saddlebred and one quarter Arab. I remember him as such a scrawny, bumbling little baby but he's definitely maturing into a beautiful horse.

I walked him around the grounds slowly and let him eat a little grass. His front legs seemed a little sore - I imagine having to ride in a trailer stressed them a little bit where he's injured. I showed him his stall which he seemed to like just fine, especially when the owner threw in a flake of grass hay. After he ate and had some downtime I took him out to the grooming area to groom him and spend some time with him. He wouldn't go in at first and seemed very wary of the space. So - big mistake - I bribed him with a carrot to come in. He did fine in the cross ties but then my instructor brought Gabi in (who is the same age) and he's like a big kid. He just lost it and was all, "New friend! I want to play!" and practically ran down my tiny little instructor, who was none to happy about that. Someday when Sinatra is all heeled he and Gabrielle can be friends.

Sinatra did great with the grooming and loved the attention and the "ooohs and aaahs" over how pretty he is. But then when I went to take him back to his stall he got to the door, almost walked in, then I could just see in his eyes that something clicked in his head and he backed out and refused to go in. I could just tell that he had decided, "If I don't go in, she'll bribe me with a treat so I'm not going in without a treat." I cursed myself for using that to get him in the grooming area (which looks just like a stall but with no door) and tried to gently coerce him into his stall. Did no work. I'd back him out, walk to the end of the aisle, turn around and try to walk him in and he'd balk right at the door. There was still some hay on the ground he wanted to eat and could almost reach from the doorway, but I wouldn't let him eat it unless he came in the stall. But he wasn't going to go in the stall without a treat. So, we ended up standing there for quite some time, me in the stall with the lead rope and him standing outside the door. Every now and then he'd lower his head to eat hay and I'd correct him and say "No, not till you come in the stall."

Finally the owner came by and suggested, "Try backing him in," so I said ok and turned Sinatra around and tried to back him into the stall. That actually freaked him out and he balked and let me know I was scaring him. So, I stopped, turned him back around and calmly led him into the stall going forward and this time he walked right in with no problem. I guess he figured I had won and if he had to go in it'd be better to go forward than backward. And of course I showered him with praises and pets and hugs.

He has a jolly ball to knock around and I'm going to try and get out there every day to at least groom him and spend time with him. Plus he gets his 15-minutes of walking a day up to five days a week. I'm also researching ground work exercises for horses on stall rest to keep him stimulated and help him to remember his manners. I can tell he's a good boy, he just gets bored and mischevous. The nipping seems to be a combination of testing the handler, a bad habit, and something to relieve some of his pent-up energy. The poor boundaries as far as body space goes just seems to be not having someone consistently working on ground work with him and a lot of it is just that he's so young and still a big clumsy and not totally aware of his body space. He's already had some great training though, you can tell when he's in the mood to show it. And he listens and responds really well once you can get that flighty 4-year attention focused on you!

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