Tuesday, March 20, 2012

One last try ...

There is a girl who is kind of interested in buying or lease-to-buying Toad.  She's the only one of the numerous queries I've gotten on Toad (from Craigslist and Dreamhorse) who has actually made it out to meet Toad.  The majority don't even get written back to because their query email is so freaking outlandish and not at all going to work out as a new home for the Toad.  Then the people I do email back I lay out all the issues very clearly:  hard keeper, super-high-strung, needs to be worked 6 days a week or she goes koo-koo-for-Cocoa-Puffs, has major trust issues and is a pain in the ass for people she doesn't know so it takes patience and time to develop a relationship with her.  Of course that is all they need to hear to not want to pursue even meeting her.  But this one girl said she wanted to meet her and came out and hung out with us for a couple hours and said, "Wow. I expected a lot worse.  I mean A LOT worse.  She is a really sweet girl."  Which is true.  When all the stars are aligned and she's being worked and cared for every day she IS a really sweet girl.  But she takes a lot of work.  I can't just let her hang out in the pasture for a week and then jump on her without lunging her.  And I can't just take her on a leisurely ride on the trails.

But hanging out with this potential-buyer for a couple hours was kind of eye opening.  Toad was being very much her sweet self and when she was on the lunge line she was doing very well to voice commands.  While I have her I'm just going to continue to make the best of it and enjoy who she is.

Today was crazy windy out at the barn.  I was riding Misty for a practice ride and it was completely not bothering her.  She was a little wound up and after I was out riding her I realized I had been advised by Trainer K. to lunge her first and hadn't.  But we did lots of trotting and I worked a lot on posting correctly and a lot on maintaining contact with the reins and helping remind Misty to stretch her neck.  We also did some cantering and that was fun.  I think we were cantering too fast though.  Misty is - like Girlfriend - an old gaming horse so she likes to tear around the arena.  I did manage to keep her on the wall, but I didn't know how to slow her down to an easy, quiet canter.  I have learned to keep her at a nice even slow trot which feels like an improvement on my part.

I have to admit while riding Misty and listening to branches pounding across the roof the arena and the stallions in the stalls on the other side of the wall screaming and flipping out over the sound of the wind - and Misty completely ignoring it - that I did wish that Toad were so unspookable.  Not that Misty is perfect.  When I brought her out in the arena to lunge her before my lesson on Friday I accidentally dropped the lunge line and Misty was dancing a little from excitement, stepped on the lunge line and reared straight up in the air.  Surprisingly, Trainer K. was riding Toad who did not freak out - but I got a sharp reprimand for not paying attention and causing that to happen.  It could've been really bad! But on the plus side, Toad did not freak out and Misty did something "bad".  That said, it seemed today like it would've been suicide to try and ride Toad with all the noise from the wind in the arena.

After my practice ride I took Toad out to free lunge her.  I asked Trainer K. if that was incredibly stupid and she said, "Well, what's the worst that will happen? She'll run around like a lunatic because of the noise from the wind.  And how is that different from every day?"  Actually, she's been kind of tired from getting worked so much so she hasn't been quite as much a lunatic during free lunging.  Her routine now seems to be roll - jump up with a squeal - give a few huge bucks in a circle while farting like crazy - then run around the arena once - then attempt to stand at one end and socialize with other horses until I chase her.  Anyway, I figured it would be good for her to be in the arena with me while it was loud so that she could get used to it without having to worry about focusing too much.  And as it was she seemed unaware of the wind and noise.  She went about her usual routine, although in the last week she has added wanting to walk up to me in the middle and ask me to pet her nose for a bit to "check in" before I ask her to go out and run some more.  When she's done running I snap the lead line back on and we practice walking together.  She's gotten really good at just lowering her head and following me like a puppy.  In fact, the test for her today was that she did that for me coming in from the pasture! Outside is a much different story for her then in the arena because there are so many things happening and so many opportunities for "monsters".

What freaked her out was before free lunging when she was in the groom room and I was putting on her bell boots.  All the sudden she went straight up in the air and flew backwards.  I stood up in a huff because for a split second I thought she was just being a spaz, but then I saw something waving out of the corner of my eye and a roll of paper towels had been blown off the shelf in the wash room and was flying down the aisle like a giant streaming white banner dragon.  Ok, that was definitely worthy of a spook.

I picked up the paper towel roll and pulled off the streaming paper towels and took the roll over to Toad.  Of course she flew backwards into the wall and started shaking really hard.  But we talked about it and I just stood there with it talking firmly and calmly until I was finally able to put it up to her nose so she could sniff it.  Then I "brushed" her with it and let her sniff it again and she decided it was all right.  But that awful paper towel stream in the aisle - that was the real monster!

So, I picked that up and crumpled it and then let it drop open, and crumpled it again.  I slowly waved it around a little, all the while talking about how it was not dangerous or scary and the scariest thing about it was that a whole roll of paper towels had just gotten dirty and was totally wasted.  Toad seemed mildly interested until I crumpled it up and brought it into the groom room with her and she smashed herself back in the corner again and started shaking even harder.  Same thing - just talked to her and held onto it until she started to come over and investigate.  Finally, she stuck her nose on it to smell it and the minute it touched her nose she squealed and tried to rear up and go backwards, which made me laugh, which was apparently embarrassing for her.  Finally she let me lean over and touch her with it and she tried smelling it again, then licking it, until eventually she took a big bite of it and started waving it around in front of her.  That was all she needed to know she had conquered the paper towel monster!  The whole thing only took probably less than a half hour so I thought she did really well going from "OMG! Monster!" to "Hey, cool toy!" in such a short amount of time.

The only other thing she spooked at from the wind was when we were coming out of the arena and a big gust came through the back door and made all the extra blankets on the stall doors billow up and fly around in the wind.  But that kind of spooked me too!

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