Day 8: The Sweet Taste of Grass

Sunday was an exciting day!

First off, it was Mother’s Day and I got to have all of my furry kids in one place. Secondly, Smokey FINALLY got to eat some grass.

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My menagerie

I got to the barn relatively early and only had a few hours to mess around with him. I decided after walking him down the arena with very little resistance, etc the other day, I could let him go out and eat some grass finally. I’m not really ready to let him loose because there are places he could do himself some damage, but if he’s on a halter he’s perfectly able to go just about anywhere in the small paddock next to his pen.

I groomed him from top to bottom again and got out probably another pound or so of hair. I combed out his tail again and found that the hair that was in alomost-dredlocks previously hadn’t tried to return to that state. It did, however, require a substantial amount of Vetrolin. I put some in his mane and forelock as well. Both of those have fared much better and I can usually run a comb through them without any problems.

All groomed up

He’s still a little sensitive about his legs being touched, but we’re working on it. A tidbit that has thus far proven very valuable form the 7 Clinics DVDs is just running a hand over whatever area is bothering them over and over until they don’t move, then slowing it down gradually without causing them to flinch or move away from your hand. This is how I got Smokey to be ok with me touching his ears (which he loves being groomed now). He likes his pole scratched, so I would just run a hand up his ear while he was enjoying it and very rapidly, he realized I wasn’t going to hurt his ears, just touch them. He’s still a little shy about having hands put directly onto his face or ears, but we’re getting there. There’s less and less turning away every day.

Ok, so I know grooming is boring now that I’ve talked about it endlessly, but it’s important. I’m not ready to just walk into his pen, halter him and go for a spin yet. I think we’re still working on confidence and trust which is being built and earned through some of the grooming. He’s still pretty needy and I can always tell when he gets uncomfortable with something. He definitely tries to stay close to me in those situations.

After I groomed him, Dad came over and helped me move the pen so I could walk him over to the grassy paddock next to his pen. We made it through two gates without much snorting or shying and he led pretty well the whole time. He loved the grass, but I can tell he’s a picky eater. He moved around a ton and wouldn’t quite settle into a grazing location. He was pretty restless, so I walked around with him some and scoped out bushes and clover and took a long look at the mare and foal out in the adjacent pasture.

Finally out to graze!

I didn’t let him eat too long for fear of colic or something like that, so we moved some more gates and I walked him down to the arena. He led great all the way down and walked straight to the gate, sniffed and then walked through it with no scoot to his step. We did a few circles (he was showing signs of being gate sour, so now we don’t walk directly to the gate without turning away from it a few times).  I also stopped and tossed the step stool around some more. He seems even more comfortable with it this time than last. At least he’s remembering these things. He walked right up to it and sniffed it and looked like he was about to step up on it, but didn’t. Someday I’ll build him a box to stand on.

When we left the arena, he walked through the gate with absolutely no hesitation. I need to start opening and closing it myself (Dad has been doing this) so he gets used to the swinging. I don’t think that will take too long. We walked up the walkway that leads to both the grass paddock and his pen. The entrance to the grass paddock is just before the gate to his pen, but on the opposite side. When we got to that he understandably but up a little resistance. When we got to the gate at his pen, he flat out refused to move any farther. I tried pulling, I tried waiting him out but it really took having Dad stand in the grassy paddock gateway to get him to move forward.  I immediately rewarded him with a carrot (in his bucket) when we got into the pen. That reminds me – I need to buy some more.

Thankfully, when he puts up a fight like this, he doesn’t typically do anything dramatic, he’s just stubborn about it and won’t move. He did spin just slightly, but only to about a 45 degree angle to me and positioned a fence post between the two of us. But he never offers to kick, bite or paw. I worry that it’s possible he might learn his strength and just drag me along, though. I think learning to lunge will really benefit us both in this. I’ll at least be able to get him to move forward on a lead if he stops.

So that’s about all we did for the day. I pet him a little more and moved some of his hay out into the pen so he could be out from under the shelter and in the sun to eat. I think that made him mildly happy. It’s supposed to be sunny for the next few days, so he should enjoy it.

I bring my dogs with me almost every time I go to the barn. Tucker is about 5 and Belle (Jezebelle) is about 2. Tucker seems to want to try to be alpha to Smokey and will nip at his nose form time to time between fence slats, but Belle pretty much avoids Smokey at all costs, unless it’s to bark at him. Smokey, of course, would very much like to smell them and figure them out, but they don’t have too much time for that. They’re busy with very important dog things. I’m not a big fan of having dogs around horses anyhow. I think there’s a lot of potential for the dogs getting hurt and the horses getting spooked. I’m totally fine with the dogs being on the opposite side of the fence or watching from the very convenient viewing deck, but neither of mine is smart enough to not get stepped on or kicked, so I’ll pass on having them loose while I’m at the barn. I know some working dogs are both durable enough to take a beating and horsesmart enough to know how to avoid it, but my dogs are clearly too urban for that.

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This is my handsome Tucker

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This is my goofy Belle

This is a normal interaction between Smokey and either dog.

About smokeythemustang

I'm just a girl who loves horses, who's asking horses to love her back. Right now I'm training a wild mustang. Or he's training me. You decide.
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