Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pressure washers, angry bulls, and big blue brushes, oh my!

Yesterday I made it out to the barn to ride Panama, since I hadn't had a chance on Sunday and since today's weather was supposed to be a little nasty.  I had a limited amount of time, as usual, so I decided to just hop on bareback.

There was a lot going on at the barn, though.  When I arrived one of the owners was washing out their stock trailer with some kind of pressure washer, which was quite noisy, like an air compressor.  Initially when I put Panama in the cross ties, he was fine, because he had a buddy in there who wasn't at all fazed by the noise — but as soon as the other horse left, Panama started having a mini-meltdown.  He was actually threatening to kick and rear!  He got more than a few swats for that, and settled down enough that I could pick his feet without worrying about being kicked.  We finished grooming and headed inside about the same time the guy finished washing out the trailer — how's that for timing?  But I don't mind, because it's good for Panama to be expected to stand through something scary like that every once in a while.

We rode inside even though the weather was nice, because I figured Panama had gotten amped up enough that I wanted a minimum of distractions, especially since I was bareback.  You know what they say about best laid plans!  The property owners keep cows, and since it is apparently calving time, they had put the bull in one of the turnout pens just outside the indoor arena.  While Panama and I were riding, therefore, we could hear him bellowing for his ladies and either kicking or running around.  There was a lot of noise, and Panama was quite anxious about it.  Once he started to bolt, but luckily for me he responded to the rein when I pulled him up short.  I suspect he also remembered that I was bareback — he seems to know I'm not as secure that way — because he responded to the rein much faster than he usually would.  Not the best day to decide to ride without the saddle, I suppose!

We finished our 30-minute bareback ride without incident, partly because I kept him on the other end of the arena from the bull.  (I know, I probably should have made him just get used to the noise, but hey, I was bareback, and I didn't think me falling off in a spooky moment would teach him anything except to reinforce his fears.)  We worked a bit on leg yielding, and then I worked with him a bit on stopping more on a verbal whoa instead of requiring so much rein.  He did well, as distracted as he was by the bull noises, but I think we'll have to work on it a few more times before he understands what I'm asking of him.  He stops on a verbal whoa when I lunge him, so I know he knows how, he just tends to rely too much on the bit when we ride (as do I — a habit I need to break in both of us).

Once we finished riding, I decided it would be good for him to see what was making so much noise, so I dismounted and we headed out to visit the bull.  At first he danced around and acted nervous, but after a moment I realized it wasn't the bull he was afraid of — it was the giant blue brush that was tied to the rail in the bull's turnout pen, so he could scratch himself on it I guess.  (They have them in the cow pasture too.)  Panama was terrified of that brush!  I did get him to approach it and sniff it a few times, and then he sniffed noses with the bull (whose nose was bigger than Panama's, I might add).  Apparently bulls that are at least two times your weight are nothing more than potential friends — it's the giant blue brushes you have to be careful of!  Silly pony!

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