Saddle-Fitting Day, 6-10-13

Okay. Today’s session. I almost can’t call it a session, but in reality, it’s a training session whether I like it or not.

Today was Saddle Fitting Day. Atticus absolutely had to get on the trailer to travel to the barn where the saddle fitting takes place. It was raining. It’s been raining all day. It’s not raining cats and dogs. It’s raining elephants. Flood warnings in effect by the time we were coming home.

The boys had breakfast, and then I let them stay in for naps. I didn’t load Atty until about 12:30. He marched right up to the trailer and then wanted to be shaped in. He got on and I closed him up. He dropped a cow pie almost immediately. He knew something was up. The engine was already running, so we left. (Silly me, though. I forgot to let the others out!)

It poured the whole way (an hour drive). If I didn’t absolutely positively have to go, I wouldn’t have, it was raining that hard.

We got to the barn and Atty got to hang out in a stall for a couple of minutes. I realized then that I forgot my grooming bucket. We checked the saddle for fit and went to walk him around and longe him a little. Dope slap #1. I attached the longe line through the bit and back to the billets. The problem with saddle fit has been that the saddle slides forward. Not the best plan to attach the longe line to the billets. It pulled the saddle forward and Atty had a rodeo day.

Got him quieted down, fixed the saddle placement, and re-arranged the longe line. He was better and the saddle fitter said she saw something already that she needed to change. She asked me if I wanted to ride him first or let her make the change first. Duh. Make the change first, please. 🙂

On the second longeing, he started bucking again and left town – through the far end of the arena’s open door! He found an open paddock with grass and went right in. We caught him and there was a round pen in there. So I took him into the round pen to finish his longeing. Then we went to the indoor for riding.

He was still tense and kept spooking at the middle window. Once it was a rather big spook. Then the elephants came down again, machine gun style. It was so loud, you could hardly think. Atty started to feel like he was going to explode. I managed to slip my feet out of the stirrups and bail before he actually did. He stood still then.

When it got quiet again, I got on again and rode around. I did get some trot out of him, but he was still very, very tense. The saddle fitter said the saddle looked good and it didn’t slip. So, I took it home and attempted to load Mr. Atticus for the return trip.

He must have had other plans, however, because he wouldn’t load. I could shape the front feet on, but no farther. He spooked once at the roaring sound of the elephants hitting the trailer roof.

I even resorted to a longe line from him through the front door and back to me and used a dressage whip to tap his hip. I’ve done this before with him, but it was less than helpful this time. Not only did he not go any farther in, he probably was a bit less cooperative and even shut down. He wouldn’t take treats during this period. Bad, bad me.

Finally, the only thing I could think of was to get in ahead of him and show him what other goodies were in the hay bag – carrots and Stud Muffins. The carrots got his attention and he perked up again. Still only the front feet on, a couple of times, but only the fronts.

Then I started giving him bits of Stud Muffin. That’s the ticket! Dope slap #2. When the criteria have risen through the roof (rain, loud, actual travel, riding for the first time in seven months), the treat value needs to rise to the occasion! Duh.

I gave him all the Alam pellets and Stud Muffins I had hoping he’d stay on long enough for me to get the butt bar up. He did, the saintly boy. 🙂

We did make it home. And he waited for the back-off cue before backing off!

And my waterproof jacket? Failed after about an hour and a half. And I left my bridle behind. 😦

We’ll see about tomorrow, tomorrow. 🙂

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About Laurie Higgins

I play with clicker training - with my horses, dogs, and cats. I also attempt to grow vegetables with the hope of one day being able to feed my family from my garden. My daughter and I are learning ballroom dancing. Well, we were. But she left me for a paying horse job, so now my husband and I are learning ballroom dancing. I'm also now helping Peggy Hogan, of Clicker Training Horses (and The Best Whisper is a Click) to teach people how to train their own horses using "clicker training".
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