Today makes three weeks that I’ve had Smokey!
We’ve come so far, and I’m so proud of him. I know I could be pushing much harder on him and be farther along in our training, but I think we’ve set a good pace and he’s not going to be a “workhorse” anyhow, so we can ease into more strenuous stuff in the coming weeks.
Yesterday after work I went to see Smokey before I left for vacation this weekend. Currently, I’m speeding towards Charleston and for once I’m not the one driving.
Last night, Smokey was really great. When I showed up to the barn, Colors was doing a lesson, so Smokey was more than happy to let me lead him out of the paddock and into the arena where we have been doing all of our work, both moving and standing still. He’s doing a really good job of learning to “tie” while I groom him. He doesn’t pull on the lead much other than to itch his legs or look at me. I’ve continued to just keep the lead rope looped over the fence and hold the end of it when possible while grooming. The only complication is it’s nearly impossible to hold on to the end of the lead an pick up his feet, so I’ll have to be brave one day and actually tie him so he can’t get his face down there to nip at me.
I stopped by Dover Saddlery last night on my way to the barn to pick up a few things (there’s always a million things to buy). I got better fly spray, the Pyranha Spray n Wipe which says things like “do not apply directly” and “don’t get into runoff water” so I’m sure it’s great stuff and won’t give either of us cancer. I sprayed it on a rag and wiped him down pretty much all over and the flies just disappeared, so I think I’ll stick with it unless I find something more environmentally friendly that still works.
After shining the told steed up (the flyspray is oil based and actually does shine up their fur), I pushed him out on the longeline. He was actually pretty willing to work, but I can see some laziness that’ll have to get worked out of him showing through from time to time. He does slow by the gate and pays less attention there, but for the most part behaves himself. Even when Colors got turned out in the paddock adjacent to the arena, he kept working for me, so I can’t complain too much.
Gettin’ dolled up before work
He’s getting really good at changing directions on the longeline and waiting on a command to know which way to go. He’s also gotten better about keeping a steady cadence to his trot on the line. I’m really happy with how smooth and confidant he seems to be while trotting. I’ve pushed for a canter a couple of times, but I think we’re just going to have to duke it out when I get home and probably make a scene in the process. I think he thinks I’m mad at him when I ask him to move forward more, but we’ll get there. I also have noticed that he trots around the pasture more than anything else, so perhaps he’s just a pro trotter and doesn’t like to canter in the first place.
I have a list of three things I want to accomplish when I get home: firstly, I want to wash him. I think this will be pretty easy to accomplish this as he’s pretty chill about anything I let him look at before I throw it at him. I expect that a hose will be fairly easy to introduce to him. Based on how much he likes being groomed, I think a bath will be right up his alley. Secondly, I want to be able to pick up all four feet. I’m fine with doing the fronts right now, but I think he may try to kick out a little with the backs. He still pulls the fronts out of my hands when I lift them, but not as violently anymore and doesn’t put his head down to inspect me while I’m doing it either. Thirdly, I want to get a canter out of him. Once I can get a canter out of him, I think a saddle is very close on the horizon and then we both get to see how we can get along with me on his back.
I think my initial stab at putting a saddle on him will start by ponying him with another horse. I’m hoping to borrow Colors one evening and saddle him up while Smokey watches and then pony Smokey around the arena a little. That will give him some idea of how it all works and surely Colors will be happy to help out. That will also introduce him to me being up that high in comparison to him. I’ve been working on that by sitting on the fence while letting him take a mental break from working, but I think me being on another horse will really help as well.
Speaking of breaks, typically when I’m working him and see him struggling and suspect it’s due to not understanding or mental fatigue, I usually take him off the longeline and walk him around the arena in hand. I use that time to work on pushing his body around and am still “training” him, just giving him both a mental and physical break from the longeline work. Below is a video of one of those breaks which, unfortunately, followed a much more successful one that wasn’t videoed. He’s learning to move off pressure on his side, haunches and shoulder and pretty much follows me around if I click to him at all. He also backs up like a pro all the time. I very rarely have to even touch him to get him to back up with me.
That’s all for now – Happy Memorial Day weekend! I hope you get to spend it at the barn with your favorite four legged friends!