Sunday, April 25, 2010

Three Times the Charm

Charlie is adorable. He's cuddly, cute, and energetic. He's got a wonderfully happy personality when he is with us (not so with visitors - he has fear issues from not being socialized properly). Charlie is the newest addition to our dog family. We picked him up from a rescue located in Montreal. He's very smart (he had to learn English!) and believes that he is the size of a Mastiff when in reality he is 10 lbs. of Tasmanian Devil. It was a bit of an adjustment for everyone in our household. He came to us with attitude. There was a lot of fighting at the beginning, which we were not used to. Our dogs had always gotten along, even when new ones were introduced. The difference here was that Charlie was an adult dog (3 yrs. old) when we got him, was not neutered until he went to the rescue group and although loved by his previous owner, Charlie had lived a solitary life before he came to us. Our three dogs have sorted it out amongst themselves. The similarities between Charlie's story and Gem's prior to becoming part of my life is actually quite amazing.

When I ask my dogs to "come", my older girl and male will come immediately. Charlie will pretend that he didn't hear you. He casually looks away (she doesn't mean me) and may even start to saunter off in another direction. You ask him to come a second time in a sterner voice...maybe he will look at you (wonder if she means me?) and start to slooooowly walk in your direction. You ask him a third time in a much sterner voice and he will look at you (oh, she does mean me!) he will pick up the pace and come right to you. Having to ask Charlie 3 times to do something is now the norm. Unless, of course, there is a C-O-O-K-I-E involved, then it reduces the number of requests to 2. Why??

I have come to recognize the same pattern with Gem. When we first start our session, he's not bad. I think he's more excited about hanging out with the other horses than he is with hanging out with me. :-) We do our warm up. OK, now it's time to work.

Me: OK, time to to do crazy 8 patterns. Let me press my leg against you to show you which way I want you to go.
Gem: What?
Me: Come on, now. I am pressing my leg against your side. Move it.
Gem: You talkin' to me?
Me: LET'S GO!!! Move it! I want you to curve this way!
Gem: Oh! You want me to do the crazy 8 pattern.
Me: sigh

This scenario is usually played out throughout our session. It might only happen sporadically, or it might happen every single time I ask him for something. Of course, it usually happens when I am having a lesson. LA seems to regularly see the worst of him. I am at a loss on how to make him more consistent with his response. On a bad day, it can be exhausting.

But, when we have a good day, it rocks. Today happened to be a good day. The sun was shining and the temperature was around 12 degrees Celsius. It was windy and the dust was flying, but we didn't care. Gem and I rode out in the front paddock. The moment I put my foot in the stirrup, I knew it was going to be a good ride. I could see it in his eye. His trot was amazing; steady, consistent, his head slightly tilted to the inside, his chin was down. Another rider commented on how good Gem looked. My seat was solid, my hands fairly quiet and I was conscious of my breathing which was easy and strong. At a walk, we did squares to practice turning and bending. He stood patiently when I asked. We worked together for well over an hour. Today's ride erases the last bunch of exhausting rides. It was an awesome afternoon. Wish LA could have seen it. :-) BTW, I wouldn't recommend dust as an exfoliant.

What was I thinking....?


  1. Charlie is adorable. I'll bet even though he doesn't listen very well now he will with time. What a lucky dog to have found you and a loving home.

    Gem sounds like a lot of the horses I have ridden too. Once they figure out you really mean it they do the job and not a minute before. I had one horse who would do nothing enthusiastically until someone handed me a crop to carry. I never used the crop because carrying it was enough motivation for him.

  2. Do you mind if I live vicariously with you on that nice ride? I'm going through a bit of withdrawal...

    I'm sure that all Gem needs is consistency and time. Old habits are hard to break you know.

    I personally ride worse during a lesson because I'm trying to do too many things at once, maybe that's why Gem has issues during them?

  3. Good morning!

    GHM - Charlie is adorable and it's hard to stay mad at him with a face like that. :-) I need to find that place in Gem's mind where he realizes that everything I ask for is a serious request. I am hopeful that it will come with time.

    Shannon - You will be riding before you know it! Your comment about riding worse during lesson is interesting. I do find it a little intimidating during lesson because I am riding with much younger classmates and they are a bit more advanced than I am. Also, LA has commented a number of times that I am very stiff during lesson (I come straight from work after sitting at a computer all day). Perhaps Gem is picking up on these things. Hhmmmm......

  4. Charlie is a cutey. How long have you had him? It took me about 3 months to just get use to having a 2nd dog in the family. It's been almost a year since we added Miley to our family, and now it's like she has always been here.

    Glad you had such a wonderful ride on Gem. It is those kind of rides that keep us plugging away during the not so wonderful rides! I have good days and bad days too. Sometimes I am stiff. I try to do some stretches and deep breathing exercises and about the time the lesson is over I limber up ;)

  5. Hi wilsonc - Hope your back is starting to feel better. We have had Charlie coming up 3 years now. I have always had dogs or cats in my life and I can't imagine having less that 3 companions at home at any given time. :-) Getting limber by the time the lesson is over? LOL! I feel that way, too, more often then not!