Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No I won't.... Yes you will

When I went to catch Ace to lead him in for lunch he was horrible. So, we went for a walk-about in the indoor, and in and out of the sacrifice pen. He was still horrible. Threatening to bite, or rear, or bite me and THEN rear. Copy was in her stall screaming her head off while worrying that I might be sneaking him out of the barn without her knowledge. Guess who's in heat? Suprise suprise.

I marched Ace back in, tied him to the nearest post, and headed back to the tack room to gather my thoughts and more equipment.
Whapper... check
Lead with chain... check
Helmet? I thought about it for a moment.
I went back in, threaded the chain over his nose, unsnapped the rope he was tied with, and gave him a few pre-emptory whapps to let him know I was now officially in charge. Gosh he hates me today. We spent about 5 minutes leading in the arena, and in and out to the pen. Gradually, he settled in and remembered his manners as I doggedly circled and made soothing noises as if he weren't acting like the worst mannered colt in America.

As we were walking, Mom came to the barn... "trying to train Putrid?" Boy she had him pegged today. He was plodding around on a loose chain with his head low.... but certainly only for the moment. I brought him to the cross ties to work on his tail. I've got the rubbing slowed down, but not completely stopped. The vet did fecals on Friday... no worms. Now it's just habit and shedding. He was fine on the crossties, but you could tell he still really hated me and thought I needed a reminder of who is boss. Mom suggested he needed to run around a bit, so back to the arena. I grabbed a longe whip and headed in there with him.

He rocketed around happily.... remember, when I got to the barn he was already out and had had all morning to run around... but he headn't realised how much he hated me yet. After a few minutes I started with the "Whoas". It took four or five, but he remembered and pulled up. I approached him, and he let me stand beside him while he snorted. Snorting is something he picked up the same day he learned "whoa". It's his expression of how proud he is to be obeying a command, and being praised for it. I never heard him snort before that day. Now he does it everytime I praise him for "whoa". Very neat.

The next "whoa" I tried to approach him from the right eye. Not happening. He rocketed off in another direction. As he passed me I snapped him with the whip, made him circle a few times, then "whoa" again. This time he allowed me to approach from that side, snorting proudly as he accepted my authority and was rewarded. What was an unruly wild stallion had become a mannerly trained horse. Each time I could come up to his side or head on, pet his nostrils and forehead, and put my hand on his back without being challenged or even nipped at. Who would think this obedient and docile animal had threatened to pick me up and shake me not 20 minutes earlier. We did this a few more times, then my goal became to "whoa" in each of the four corners of the arena. We had the front two down pat, but the rear corners were tough. I kept him in the back half until I got one back corner stuck. We "whoa"ed two or three times in that one then worked on the last one.

No I won't... Yes you will... the first few times I got him stopped in that corner, he did not allow me to step forward before he barreled past me headed for the gate. Each time I snapped him as he bombed past. No I won't... Yes you will... Once he seriously looked like he was going over first me and then the gate and probably would have had Mom not been waving her arms and hollering.... back to the backside, and you're not coming out until I say so. A few minutes of me immitating a cutting horse, and he finally gave in.

Now mind you, while this "natural horsemanship" (which I guess I was practicing back before it was called that and we referred to it as "common sense" instead) approach has gotten him trained to "whoa" and accept my approach while he stands like a statue, he has certainly not "joined up". There is no calm drop of the head, no relaxed chewing of the jaw, very little submission. He waits proudly for me to come up and tell him what a smart cookie he is and his pride in himself grows to the point where he has to snort to let off some happiness. But hey, he's standing still, and he's letting me touch him all over his head without him having to warn me off with his dominance so it is a resounding success. Testosterone successfully rechanneled.

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