We are finally haltered!
Right off the bat last night, I tried feeding Smokey a carrot. He’s taken to them pretty hardcore now. After dispensing with one rapidly, he followed me around the pen lipping my shirt and practically crawling into my lap to get more. Hopefully a little bribe here and there will directly translate to me being able to catch him in a paddock.
Within about five minutes of being there last night, I had tempted him through the nose band with a carrot several times with no complaints. I gave him his space for a minute to take the pressure off him and then just walked right up, slipped the noseband on and tied his halter on!
I expected he would probably pull back on it or throw his head some, but neither happened. He literally just stood there. So anti-climactic.
Check out my new headgrea, ma!
So instead of stopping there, I decided he was ready for a little more. I looped a lead through the halter and began trying to lead him. This was really me just pulling on his head and hoping. At first, he didn’t do much other than just stand there pulling back, but eventually he gave in to the pressure and started following me. We did a few laps around the pen.
The last two pictures are a circle in motion!
After a few laps, I took his halter off and let him munch on some hay and relax. He typically would come find me when he was ready to do something again. I think little breaks in the learning are essential for him. Keeps him calm and gives me some time to think about next steps and evaluate the ones we have just taken.
While he was still in good spirits, I re-haltered him and looped his lead rope over the fence panel, without tying it, and made him stand there. He tried to walk off once, but I grabbed the end of the lead and held it. He pulled back a little, but eventually gave in to the pressure on his head and stepped right back to where he started. I think this is a great sign that he is less likely to spook when he pulls back on something and more likely to just wait it out. Granted, he wasn’t panicked when this happened so maybe that’s a stretch.
Continuing on last night, I managed to groom all of his legs and get a ton of hair off him. He’s still shedding. I brushed out his mane again. I had to use a substantial amount of Vetrolin detangler because his hair is just so darn thick! He doesn’t care about me pulling on his mane at all. I tried without the detangler first, but had to call in the big guns for some of the longer parts.
No really, he’s still shedding.
His tail is a hot mess. There are dreds (mats) in it that I suspect no amount of Vetrolin are going to touch. Last night, as I stood staring at this mess, I decided it was time to make friends with his rear end. So I set about grooming his back legs with the curry and running my hands all over his backside. I even grabbed his tail a little and swished it around with almost zero reaction. He did turn around once to scope me out, but never made any more to do anything.
I’m calling this one “The Situation”
After some vigorous grooming, I realized that he was getting frustrated with the flies that seemed to be all over his legs. I decided that now was as good a time as any to break out the fly spray. I use Bronco because it’s cheap and it killed the ants that had infested my mailbox the other day, so I have faith in its ability to get rid of flies. Plus, I secretly love the smell. I got out the bottle of spray and let Smokey smell it. He wanted to eat it, so I let him get it into his mouth. He was not pleased with the taste and it was probably the only time all night he really pulled on the lead rope with me. He kind of trotted off and wanted to do a spin of the pen on his own, but I made him come back.
Sidenote: This little guy has the cutest trot – it’s so animated! That’s something I’ve noticed from a lot of the mustangs. Their leg movement is just so fluid and natural, and they back up better than I have ever seen a domestic horse do. It’s really neat.
While he was trying to clear his mouth of fly spray taste, I sprayed it away from him a few times, moving closer each time. He was cool with it until the spray actually hit him. He got a little nervous and backed away. A little pressure on the halter and he came right back. We started again with the spray away from him and moved back in. After doing this several times, he relaxed enough that I could spray his whole front end. Once again, I’m saving the back end for tonight, just so I don’t push him too much. I think the front legs were plenty for one night.
Handsome boy’s new hairdo (mane AND forelock!)
The last thing I did last night was put his halter back on (I was moving hay around and letting him relax prior to this) and stroll around the paddock again. He’s got the concept of backing in the halter, which is great. I learned from the 7 Clinics DVDs that rocking your hand side to side if they don’t yield to straight pressure really seems to work. It sure worked for Smokey. I highly recommend this if you have a horse that isn’t typically the best backer on a halter.
I think we’ve passed the easy part and we’re about to enter the hard part where he will be putting up some resistance. Thus far, he hasn’t been resistant to much other than the few times I have pushed too hard with touching his face and ears. Even then he just walks away, so nothing dramatic. I think once I get him into a proper round pen and start in on the training while moving we’ll see a little different side of him. I can already tell he’s stubborn, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays into his moving groundwork.
Tonight my unofficial, official life photographer, Jenn, will be coming to the barn to take some pictures and play with Smokey. I fully expect to take him down to the small arena and see if he’ll go for me. I don’t yet have the training flag, which is a total fail on my part. I think that will help immensely in getting him to move. That seems to be a harder thing than getting him to stop right now – A good problem to have in a horse I plan to ride, I think. I’m also going to ask Jenn to hold his head while I pick up his feet. He’s been a bit mouthy about that and I can’t quite get his foot up and smack his mouth away at the same time. Logistically, I’m just not that talented.
I’m looking forward to tonight and what we can get done in the arena, if anything.