Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Battle of Hormones

When I got to the barn today, Ace was standing calmly in his stall and put his nose through the bars in a friendly invitation for petting and nose-kissing. I thought perhaps I would just slip in while he was quiet, and see if he would remain calm and friendly. I immediately discovered that this sweetness was merely a ruse to lure me in so he could get down to his real agenda which was to rape and pillage. Well buddy, if it’s a battle of hormones you want, two can play that game. I went back out for the whapper stick and returned to his shoulder.

He gave me the hairy eyeball and would duck and dodge, teeth barred, frothing, looking for an opening. Each time he made a move to grab at me, I thwacked him in the chest with the whapper. As his frustration increased, he began to shove with his shoulder, and loom over me. If I reached for his halter he pushes towards me, not away and whe I protested, he swung his butt at me. We went a few rounds with the whapper and relearned the “face me” rule. Back to the attempts to bite, and the whapper thwacking. After a little while, Ace wisely conceded that it was still a bad idea to try to bite a human. He opted instead to channel his aggression on the water bucket and the hay net which suffered several attacks. He accepts human dominance, but he hates it.

Last Saturday I gave him another short longe session, and he was just as smart about it as the first time. Two days ago he banged an ankle (most likely pawing at dinner time) and was a little sore and had Bute for a couple of days. He's very good about taking medicine, whether you shoot it in his mouth or mix it in his grain. Today the swelling was done, and he was ready for another learning session. I got the line clipped on him quite easily. I guess he retained the “don’t bite” lesson for at least half an hour and I was rather pleased. Mom showed up at the barn and told me Copy is in heat again. That would explain the rape and pillage agenda, as well as the wall thumping coming from her stall.

Ace’s main focus when I am leading him from his stall to the arena, is oddly not the mare’s stall, but the cross tie area. He is enchanted with it. That’s where he gets fussed over and then he gets a carrot so it’s his favorite place. This is how things go when I allow him in there:

Ace heads for the back corner and the door to the tack room
Ace: “oooo kitty…. I wanna pet the kitty. Here kitty kitty....”
Me: “Ace, no. You can’t go in there. You’re like a bull in a china shop.” I drag him to the left as he reaches for the fly spray bottle, knocking it off it’s hook.

Ace swings around, he sees a double bridle hanging from a hook on the opposite wall, and his eyes widen
Ace: “ooooOOoo That's so cool... what is it?.” He grabs it by the caveson pulling it off the hook. The double bridle unravels into a net of leather, tangling in the lead rope.

Me: “Ace, no. That’s not yours. Please look with your eyes, not your mouth. Let. Go.” Have I ever mentioned that once he has hold of something it’s impossible to remove from his mouth? I pry a finger inside his mouth, poking under his tongue “Let. Go.” Ace loses interest and drops the bridle in a pile on the floor, his eyes moving on to the next interesting object.

Ace: “Hey’s what’s this?” turning off the light switch.

I manage to separate him from the light switch “on-off on-off on-off... look, it moves!” and fasten one cross tie.

Ace: “Ah a SNAP. I loves snaps!” Ace makes a wild grab for the rope.

I struggle to snap the second rope as Ace resorts to a game of keepaway. “NahNahNah you ca-an’t catch me.” AAAAGGGGHHHHH!

So, today we skipped the grooming routine and went straight to longe lessons. Once again, he’s brilliant. He “gets” it. He even seems to enjoy it. I begin introducing planned gait changes and more word commands. He understands “Whoa”, and “Whoop-Trot” (which only applies to downward canter-trot transitions). Today I begin to introduce the others. “Walk” this is a toughie but he finds it somewhere between "whoa" and "trot", a trilling “trot” which is an easy concept and “ca-anter” in a sing songy voice. He begins to catch on. The key to teaching gait changes is timing. You watch what the horse is about to do, and you use the right word.

Ace is getting a big kick out of this. He forgets about rape and pillage and happily lets me approach either shoulder, and pet his face taking credit where credit is due for his excellent obedience. He needs to work on “front and center”. He can’t seem to keep his eyes straight ahead today, but it’s a huge improvement from the vicious stallion attitude he had in his stall. He is a dychotomy of personality. He hates human dominance, but give him a task and he is fully absorbed. His eyes soften, and he looks to his handler for approval glowing with each "good boy".

After about 10 minutes of perfect obedience, he has a hormone surge. Suddenly he is cantering around grabbing for the longe line. He can’t seem to catch it, and it’s making him mad. I stand in the center chuckling at his little melt down. “Ace. ‘Whoa’ !” He comes back to earth a bit dazed and confused. “I don’t know what came over me.” I think learning is over for today. Time to quit.

I turned Ace loose, and he went on patrol of the arena. He found a fresh pile of manure from the Grey Horse, and in the course of five minutes, had pooped on it twice. That boy just isn't right!


Jason said...

Your light-switch-in-the-crossties description had me rolling on the floor; our horse Bonnie was EXACTLY this way straight from the womb ! Even at age six she remains EXTREMELY curious, and doubly so when she's bored (ie. while in the wash rack, crossties, etc, etc.). We have a picture of Bonnie meeting Bugle the border collie at 1 day old that completely summarizes her personality.

Good luck with Mr. Studly over the weekend.

Bif said...

This is why I like older, unhandled horses! Less to no mouthy stuff, and understanding a clearly stated boss, with no drive to keep checking that status...
Devlin Pony was the worst about mouthing/nipping for a while, because he thought corrections were a "game", as young males like to play spar and jab in the field. I had to convince him that biting was truly NOT A GAME. He was a perfect angel after that.

Diversion over, back to your world... Ace sounds awfully smart and inquisitive! He's growing into such a special boy! I second the laughing, perfect picture of the crosstie experience.

You know, if you laugh, it only encourages them...

SmartAlex said...

We may have found the second nut... I will keep you posted!

Yes, Ace sees most handling as sparring. God help you if you touch his girth. I swear he drops to his knees and starts neck-wrestling. All boy this one.

phaedra96 said...

Sounds like a severe case of ADHD! Think he may grow out of it? Or grow up?