Friday, October 16, 2009

First Snow

Today Ace got his first good look at snow. Only out the door, not in it. But it still made an impression. As soon as I turned him loose in the arena I could tell he had noticed that the entire outside world had gone..... blank. Yikes! The end of the world as we know it! Or at least an infestation of something! He did an immediate about face and tried to climb in my pocket, but I was ready for this, and was already slipping out between the gates . He wasn't quick enough. It took awhile for him to get bold enough to go near the doors, but he finally did. ...With a lot of snorting and tail flagging.

Beyond that... I'm tired. Tired of this weaning thing. My belief is that the less you handle a colt, the less chance you have to create bad manners. Yes, you need to handle them, do things that need to be done like grooming and hooves, and teach them to tie and load. But excessive handling beyond the day to day necessity just creates more situations where the colt will test you.... and that many more times for you to fail to appropriately train them. As a handler or trainer, you have to choose your battles. Discretion is the better part of valor. Timing is the better part of horse training. So, Ace gets 10-15 minute training sessions once every week or two, depending on both his mood and my frame of mind.

Now I've worked with a few "outlaw" or supposed "outlaw"horses. All but one of them were not really truely bad if handled correctly. But, if you frequent the internet chat sites, you will hear all kinds of stories about horses who border on being downright vicious. Some turn out to have physiological problems ranging from brain tumors to hidden pain issues. Most of them are just dominant horses who have never gained respect for humans, or fearful horses who have never gained confidence. Both ends of the spectrum are the result of poor handling. Either too much or unfair discipline, or no discipline at all.

After reading one new story today on COTH, the nagging fear that this dominant, high spirited colt might have the potential to grow up to be a real darn handful, prompted me to give him a five minute session. After his decent behavior for the farrier yesterday, I was willing to give him (and me) a day off. But his anxious pushy behavior today changed my mind. All I have to do is put a lead rope on him to judge whether he needs to be taken down a peg or not. Today was one of those days.

I want him to walk on a loose line and follow at my shoulder. This is something he is perfectly capable of and has already learned to do. Today, he was shouldering into my space and trying to shove with his head. Armed with only a rope, and my beloved "Whapper Stick" I circled him once to the left with not much trouble, just a bit of nippiness. To challenge him, I then switched sides and asked him to lead off with me on his right side. First he flat out refused. I turned to face him and on a longer lead pulled him to unlock his brakes, first to the right, then to the left. I expected him to follow me and the rope around each direction in a circle. He did. Then I tried to cross back over to his right side.

He didn't want me over there and backed around to keep me on his left. He stomped first his right hoof, then his left, not really striking, but thinking about it.... "Whap Whap Whap" in the chest, I backed him off 10 feet. Try again. From his right side (I won!) I asked him to step forward. He bulled into me with his neck and right shoulder. "WHAP" high on his neck. Look of suprise from Ace. Ask again. Rear up and start to run backwards. OK, "whap whap whap" on the chest again. "NO rearing." Rear up and run backwards again. "Whap" on the ribs. Submission. Ace sighed, began to chew and walked off on a loose lead with me on his right. "GOOD Boy". "Pet pet pet."

I walked him about for another minute. Stopping twice to pet. He was a bit nippy. Each time he reached for the rope he got poked in the nose with the whapper. "Eh.. no bite". The battle line had been drawn. Ace had challenged my authority. I had responded immediately each time with a startling yet painless form of aggression. Ace had submitted, and was praised. Life was fair. I am boss. Ace is not. End of lesson. Time to go in for lunch. I'll say it again. I'm tired.


Kaede said...

Oh my. You are stating all the reasons I am a rider and not a trainer. I can buffalo a class of students, but I'm no good at buffaloing a horse.
Ace has seen something I never have, snow.

SmartAlex said...

What state do you live in? We can send you some! I'm sure there's plenty more where this came from.