Monday, December 31, 2012

Horse Stuff


Last week, Chelsea and I went out to visit the horses and have their hooves trimmed.  I’m pleased to say that Orion’s feet are coming along nicely. :)  They’re not at peak condition or anything yet, but so far he has no new cracks. He’d been getting them regularly, but Aric’s floated the worst of them the last couple of times he’s been out.  They seem to be finally going away.  The change in ground softness might have something to do with it too? I need to look into that to see if it’s right. That’s just my theory at the moment.

His grooves aren’t nearly as deep as they were.  As he gets trimmed regularly and his feet grow out according to how they were trimmed, they seem to be adjusting back to the way they should be.

It helps all this that he’s mostly good at having his feet messed with now.  He still has his moments (usually when I haven’t been out there for a few weeks) where he gets cranky and swings his head at me while pinning his ears when I ask him to pick one up, or my all-time favorite reaction of putting all his weight onto the one foot I’m asking him to lift, making it impossible to get it off the ground.  I’ve found using the brush on the other side of the hoof pick to tickle the bottom of his heel usually prompts him to lift the foot if all else fails.  I got frustrated one day when he wouldn’t listen to anything else and figured why the heck not try?   Nothing else was working, so I tickled his foot.  He stomped it in irritation and then lifted it up for me, just like that.  I was ecstatic. One more trick up my sleeve when he decides to be a stubbornhead.



That day was too cold and windy for a trail ride.  We probably could have pulled it off, but neither Chelsea nor I were in the mood to freeze our fingers off, so we decided to hang around the barn and do stuff.  She did some ground work with Kit, and I did some with Orion.

He and I worked on his issues with the mounting block. Again.  I got him over them this summer – or so I thought.  But after a few visits with no issues, he wanted nothing to do with it again, and I had other things I wanted to work with him on, sooo…we back to using the lawn chair to help me mount.  Now that it’s muddy and nasty though, I really don’t want to dirty up Linda’s chairs.  So I decided since we had the time, I’d get him to accept the block again.  (I will eventually put up a picture of what the block looks like, since this probably sounds weird.  It’s about as high as Orion’s back, and is permanently in place next to the fence, meaning he has to walk between the block and then fence and stay there while I clamber up to the top and slip onto his back.)

Usually when we do this, he follows me through to stand between the block and fence, but the moment I move to climb up, he shoots out from between them and back around behind me like, “Haha, can’t get me now!” and then refuses to go back in.



So, the way I decided to do this was to lead him in once, make him stand there, and love on him tons – ear scratches (his favorite), neck scratches, and lots of praise.  Then I led him back out without attempting to get on him, and did it again.  Each time he refused to go behind the block or tried to run me over and get out of it, I lunged him for a couple minutes.  Then we tried again.

After I led him out the first time he’d successfully stood there without balking upon entrance or trying to run back out, he refused to go back in.  So we lunged.  He got all uppity and feisty and threatened to kick, crow-hopped a couple of times, and was just generally acting bratty.  I kept him going until he settled down.  It took long enough that I had to switch directions to keep him from getting dizzy.  Once he settled, we tried the block again.  He refused.  We lunged.  This pattern happened 4 times.  The fifth time I tried to lead him behind the block, he’d figured out that his refusal meant he had to work. Bingo! He walked right in.

After that, I repeated the process four more times to make sure he had the idea.  See, standing here isn’t so bad! You get lots of love and attention when you do it right! He understood the concept, so I moved on to actually getting him to stand while I climbed up the block.  He stood there like a champ, so instead of actually getting onto him, I decided to just reward him by getting down and leading him back out while praising him the whole time.  He was one happy horse.



The next time I led him in, he stood quietly while I climbed back up to the top of the block, and this time I leaned a little weight on his back to make sure he knew what I was going to do and not run out on me.  He turned to look back at me, then sighed and turned back around and stood patiently.  I slipped onto his back, and for once in his life, he stood still instead of instantly moving off. (That’s another thing we need to work on; the second I get on his back, he usually starts walking.)  Yay!!!

I let him stand for a minute while I continued to praise him and scratch his neck.  He signed again, completely content and without a care in the world.  I tapped his sides a little and clucked, and he immediately moved out.  I only had a couple of lead ropes attached to his halter.  I used them as reins, and he listened to everything.  

He was a bit hard-headed about it at first.  There were a couple moments where he pinned his ears and instead of going where I directed him, he plowed ahead to where he wanted to go.  After the first few minutes though, he relaxed again and listened to everything.



We rode around the paddock while Chelsea worked with Kit.  I rode bareback at a trot for the first time and didn’t fall off! :D I was so proud of myself! The one lesson I’d had from Liz really helped my form, which in turn really helped me with that experience.

Eventually I started getting bored. There’s only so much you can do in the paddock.  So I just let him graze while I sat on his back. Chelsea wasn’t done with Kit yet, and sitting on him bareback was like sitting on top of a furnace, so that’s where I stayed!

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A Preview of What's to Come: