Thursday, June 20, 2013

Horse Training Log

Ahh, another horsey post!  Avert your eyes, if ye be disinterested, because this post contains no photos of our darling baby.

So, the horses.

First, there's an Arabian gelding I've been working with named Ben.  Ben is a special character, even for an Arabian.  (Traditionally, I do not like Arabians but this one is ... unique.)  Ben is eight years old and had never been saddled, much less ridden.  His owner is an older woman who bought Ben as a ripe three year old and then decided to put off starting him under saddle.  She kept putting it off and putting it off, likely because she was intimidated by him, and now it's been five years and he's just a chubby pet.

Ben has always enjoyed getting out and learning new things.  He seems to like having a new person to get to know, and enjoys certain challenges.  Other challenges however... he'd prefer I'd just not throw at him.  For instance, he did amazingly well with his first saddling!  Better than almost any other horse I've started.  No blowups, no being crazy, no bucking even.  He just walked off like he'd been wearing that saddle his whole life.

But you want to put a bridle on him?  Oh heck no.  Ben panics at the sheer thought of ANYTHING being above his scaredy Arabian ears.  You can barely get your hand up there.

So Ben needs some work.  But he also has a flair for the dramatic, and tends to overreact to everything.  We've learned that Ben just needs a little bit of bullying, and he'll huff and puff about it but then allow you to do what you want.  Oh, except the "things above his head" issue.  We're working on it.

The other location has several (and by several I mean a lot) horses who need some work.  The Paint stallion Abe is doing well, coming along nicely.  He had his long hooves trimmed last week and he's still a little tender on his toes, but that'll fade with some more time.  Today Abe was being more ornery than usual, but it's been a week since he's been worked so that isn't unexpected.  Abe enjoys seeing how much trouble he can get into without getting into REAL trouble, you know what I mean?  For instance, I've been working and riding this horse for awhile now and he is excellent under saddle.  No mean bone in this horse's body, and he's certainly not afraid of anything.  But today, I saddle him and send him around the round pen and he rears and plunges and hops around like a giant copper bunny rabbit.  All the while, looking at me like, "See?  I'm a big bad stallion.  I don't HAVE to wear this saddle.  I do what I want."

No, son.  You do what *I* want.  I picked up the lunge whip and encouraged him to move out, which typically stops bucking and rearing because it's harder to do those things while you're running around.  He sees that whip in my hand and immediately took off around the pen, all the bravado and buck was gone.  What a turkey.  It wasn't long before he was feeling pretty sorry for himself, as it was hot out and he'd been working for awhile and was sweating up a lather.  I bridled him and stepped up into the saddle and he plodded around the round pen like a kid whose toy had been taken away.  You might have thought he was eighty years old, the way he moped around after I'd beaten him at his own game.

Abe cracks me up.  He is very much like a young child, and I cannot help but be charmed by his ornery, naughty ways.  He's going to be a very good riding horse, indeed.  I'm hopeful he'll find a good home where he'll get a partner and good, regular exercise and a job to do.

The chestnut mare Jane that I mentioned last time has been coming along, too.  My friend Kate has been coming with me to help with the horses, and Kate has taken over working Jane.  Kate has been teaching her to lead nicely without running you over or stepping on your feet, as well as to lunge correctly.  Jane's feet are in pretty ugly shape and badly need some attention from a farrier, so we're hoping that'll happen soon.  She'll be a much happier horse when her feet are taken care of.

I started "refreshing" a horse for the son of the owners of this property.  She's a gorgeous buckskin mare named Shakti (I didn't pick her name.) and she was started under saddle by some cowboy horse trainer, but it was at least eight or nine months ago.  She's been sitting in her stall, doing nothing, since she was started.  Shakti is an extremely nervous, jumpy, scared horse.  She also doesn't like new people and takes awhile to trust them.  Needless to say, she's been a challenge.  The second time I worked with her, she seemed to possess much more of her brain than the first time, so I figured it'd be okay to get on her back.  She was skeptical but allowed it.  She walked around and stopped and turned for me, and was fine with it, so I asked her to trot.  She was trotting along confidently, when for no reason that I could discern, skidded to a stop.  Since she'd stopped so suddenly, I was thrust forward in the saddle and instinctively my calves gripped her sides.  This was a motion that Shakti was NOT expecting, and she blew up like a firecracker.  I got left in the dirt as she flew around the round pen.  I got back up on her, but she was noticeably more nervous about everything.  Today she did well with being saddled and bridled and exercised, but I did not ride her as my back isn't quite 100% yet and I'm just not THAT stupid.

I think Shakti just needs plenty of time and reassurance.  She's so nervous and requires constant encouragement.  Honestly, I don't think this is the right horse for the owner's son, because I doubt he is able and willing to come out and work with her every single day.  She needs a confident person who can devote a good amount of time to her.  She's not a horse that you ride a couple times a month and call it good.  I hope that I can develop a good enough relationship with her that she'll trust me, but time will tell.

And finally, sweet Luna.  I noticed today that she looks to be gaining a bit of weight, and I felt a good amount of relief seeing that she wasn't as skinny as when I first laid eyes on her.  Her hooves were supposed to be trimmed last weekend, but they weren't done for whatever reason.  I'm starting to see a crack develop in one hoof and I hope that her extra long toes get trimmed soon.  I myself tried to trim some of the length off her toes, but her hoof wall has grown so thick and strong that I couldn't nip any of the extra hoof off.  I'm hopeful that the farrier's well-practiced and stronger arms can do the job.

I have not worked Luna yet, and I'm not even eager to do so until her feet have been worked on.  I fear that working her in the round pen would further encourage the crack in her hoof and I certainly don't want her going lame.  Though I am really interested to see what this little mare is made of.

Today, as we walked up to Luna's stall, she turned around to see who was coming and upon noticing who it was, she called out a greeting.  That was the first time I've heard her utter a sound, and it was a sweet throaty little nicker.  I stood in her stall with her and we chatted for awhile with Kate and Yvonne, the owner.  Luna was her charming, affectionate self at first, loving all the scratches I was giving her.  She also thought Kate's phone was terribly interesting and wanted to bite it.  After a few minutes, Luna pulled out all the stops and was even cuter than she'd been before.

She stood behind me, chest pressed into my back, and arched her neck high over my shoulder so she could nuzzle at the screenprinted heart on my tshirt.  The sound that the printed part of the shirt made against her lips must have amused her, because she did it several times.  She craned her neck around to sniff my ears and my face and then she turned her long head sideways and stuck it through the fence panels to thoroughly sniff Kate, as well.  She just wanted to be there with us, and kept wiggling her lip against my face and whuffing warm air into my ears and nose.  Finally, she decided that she was very interested in my visor.  She lifted her head up and carefully took the brim of my visor between her teeth and just tugged a little bit before letting go.  Luna did seem terribly pleased that we were letting her explore us, and that we were loving on her.  I combed through her uneven and tangled blonde mane with my fingers while Kate tickled her soft muzzle and she just seemed so relaxed.

I can't wait to see what Luna has in store for us.  She's a sweet girl.  Yvonne even commented on how much she seemed to like us.  Amazing, what caring a little and giving a creature a chance will do for their affection towards humans.

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