Last night we made some meaningful progress in Smokey’s training. I finally got him to canter a little on the longeline (though still very unwillingly) and I got to hear about how he acts when I’m not around.
When I went out to get him, I was surprised to find him in the back corner of the paddock by himself. Colors was in a different pasture and not even where Smokey could see him. I could tell he was tense, but he was willing to move along with me and only stopped once to let me know he wasn’t happy about working, but he would come anyhow.
We got down to the arena and I wanted to switch it up a little, so I started off by putting the step stool near him and leaning on him again. He was a little better this time around, but would still move off if I wasn’t fast enough or put too much weight on him. I can swing my leg around next to him and lean over him, but not quite put my full weight on him yet.
After that, I put on the longeline and asked him off. We did really well in both directions at a walk and trot, though the gate is still worrisome at times and sometimes he cuts in closer than I like him too. By and large, though, he is doing exceptionally well. Lots of small mental and physical breaks keep him interested. I usually get him breathing pretty heavy going on direction, ask him to stop or walk a lap and then get him to follow me around the pen on a lead and do pivots and backing exercises. It keeps him engaged in what we’re doing and breaks it up a bit.
During one such break this time, I asked for him to pick up his front feet. He bent down to bite me on the first one, but a light pop in the muzzle got his face away and he let me break it loose, but not pick it up. I’m happy with this since he wouldn’t even let me rub them before without trying to bite me. The second leg was even easier. He didn’t offer to bite and let me break it free pretty much right away. I backed off and I’ll save the actual foot pickup for another day. We’re getting there.
The other thing that I’m really antsy about getting him to do is canter on the longeline. He’s got that fancypants trot down pat, but I want a little more from him and haven’t been able to get there. Last night I FINALLY got him to give me a little canter. Now, let me say this: sometimes, when you’re training a horse, you have to do things that look ridiculous. Trying to get Smokey to canter has required that of me. I’ve chased him, I’ve let him have a long line, I’ve free longed him…nothing has worked. So last night I kept at it and got a little reward.
This video shows one of those moments where I’m just chasing him around. I never run when I’m holding a longeline with a horse – until now. I haven’t quite figured out the right place to put the pressure to get him pushed up into the canter without doing that. He’s got a sweet super extended trot, though.
The next video is one of the ones I’m less proud of. I’m trying to walk the line between getting him to move forward into a canter and follow him with the flag to keep pressure on him. I think I stumble over into too much pressure and that’s where the kick out at the end comes from. Neither of us was particularly pleased with this performance.
The last video will illustrate how he acts about the gate from time to time. He’ll skid stop in front of it and sometimes try to spin. Thankfully, I’ve started catching on and can stop him generally before he does anything to get the line twisted.
Pretty much exactly after we stopped filming, he took it upon himself to do a perfect circle of a cute little controlled canter. Of course. But that’s basically where we stopped for the night.
There was a lot of commotion at the barn last night with a lesson going on in the other ring, other folks arriving and a large tree snapped and fell while we were longeing. I was very impressed that Smokey just stopped, faced it and stood snorting, but not moving. He handled it as well as the other horses that were being ridden, so I’m pleased.
I was actually planning on washing Smokey last night, but was thwarted by a combination of people being around the barn (which is actually nice sine I’m usually the one there by myself late) and commotion. The wash rack is up near the barn and Smokey hasn’t been up there before. I walked him up there and while he was pretty snorty and danced a little bit, he was surprisingly calm about the whole thing. I think I was more nervous than he was at times. I think the next time I walk him up there, he’ll be pretty easy to deal with and we’ll have fewer issues. So, I passed on hosing him off for the night and just turned him back out in the pasture.
Best friends always drink together! (Thanks to Mary for the pic)
While we were up by the wash rack, Colors was brought in from a lesson and tied up. I think it was probably good for Smokey to see him there and with how calm he is, I’m sure it helped bolster Smokey’s confidence in the new surrounding. Mary was standing up near the barn and told me all about Smokey’s pasture shenanigans. Apparently he like to nearly assault anyone carrying sweet feed in the pasture by running at them and then stopping about six inches from them. If it’s skid stops, I’m almost happy, but I can’t have him being a nuisance horse. He’s also been a little too friendly with a few of the horses and tried to mount Colors as he was being led out of the pasture the other day and another mare that he took a fancy too as she was being led out. Maybe one of them will teach him a lesson (without inflicting too much harm) and he’ll stop that. He isn’t afraid of people waving hands at him, so it’s kind of annoying for folks having to walk through there with him being so “friendly.”
On a sadder note, I was informed that the young foal at the barn was found deceased this morning. Smokey and my condolences to The Farm at Pamelot family and I know Boss will be frolicking in the big pasture in the sky tonight.