Instead of barraging you with three post for the past three days, I’m going to combine them into one long post! Hurrah!
I went out after work and did some basics with Smokey. I got a little more canter out of him in both directions and he was pretty good about everything. I was in a bad mood, so it was a pretty short session. I didn’t want my bad mood to hinder our progress. I’ve been super patient with him while he learns things thus far, so I didn’t want to push it too much.
We spent some time walking up by the wash rack and he seems to be getting more comfortable being led around to new places. I think he’s really making progress.
One thing we’re still sticky on is maneuvering around the swinging gate to his paddock. It’s like he doesn’t want to go in or out of it, but just stand in it. He doesn’t like to move off pressure to spin around either inside it or outside it and plays dumb when I ask. It’s rather frustrating since I’m used to horses that just go ahead and move out of the way of the gate as it opens. I have to tell him where to put each of his feet or he just stands there with it hitting him. Silly boy.
I messed with his legs again Friday night before I put him away for the evening. He is still shy of me holding on to them, but is making steps in the right directions every time I spend time doing that. I think it’s one of my least favorite things to do, so clearly I should be doing more of it to help him along. I’ll keep that in mind tonight when I go see him.
The very talented and brand new camera wielding Jenn came out for a visit Saturday morning! With her fancy new camera in tow, she helped me document Smokey’s first foray onto the wash rack. I had brought him up and was standing around letting him sniff everything when she arrived and she caught him hopping up with his front end. He had been sniffing as far as he could without hopping up and I was terrified he was just going to Superman up there with me all at once, but he pretty carefully placed on foot and then the other and stretched out and sniffed. Then he casually hopped back down. He didn’t seem too interested or upset by anything, so I didn’t press it. That was a pretty big step – literally and figuratively.
I clumsily braided his mane because it was approximately 100 billion degrees already at 10:30AM, so I thought I would do him a favor and get some of the ten pounds of hair he has off his neck. It’s also black, which can’t be fun in the sun. He was rather impatient with this and wanted to walk off or go check out other things while I was doing this. I need to man up and really tie him to something to teach him to stand. Correcting him all the time is probably teaching him bad habits.
We took Smokey down to the arena where we had placed the assortment of things we were going to introduce him to that day. I had put my western saddle in the middle of the longe circle so he could scope it out while it was on the ground without being so intimidated. He sniffed it and snorted at it and was generally not too happy with it, but didn’t freak out.
I longed him a little bit to get some energy out and let him check out the saddle while on the move and farther away from it. It didn’t really seem to bother him much once he was out of scary range of it (approximately 3 feet).
I stopped him and got out the boots that Jenn brought with her. They’re a pair of hand-me-downs that are getting handed down again. This time, I was just using them to gauge where we were with leg boots in general and how we’re dealing with legs being touched and moved and sizing. Smokey is pretty stocky and has pretty solid legs, but he is small, so I think these were a bit big and I’ll have to find some that fit him better, but these were definitely fine for the purposes of today. He let me put them on after I made Velcro sounds all over the place in front of his face. He winced when I touched them to his shoulder, but was fine with them once I got to rubbing them on his leg.
After putting on the boots and walking him around (his legs didn’t seem to work right at first, or so he thought), I longed him a little to make sure he could properly place his feet without falling over in the boots. It seemed to go alright.
I picked up the saddle and brought it over. He wasn’t particularly happy about it, but didn’t spook too much unless I moved it after he stopped paying attention to it. So I hung it up on the fence and let him sniff it there and picked up the western saddle pad and began getting him used to that.
It seems like my original tactic of just pushing him around with something or getting in between something he wants with something he needs to learn really works. I pushed him around the arena for a good ten minutes with the pad just getting closer and closer to his shoulder.
I also made him walk on it. Just in case he was afriad it would do something to him. Here’s a video of his crazy reaction to me tossing it on the ground. What a wild horse! (Just kidding)
Finally, he really just kind of gave in and let me put it over his withers and then onto his back. It was really uneventful – Just a LOT of backing up and spinning and then backing and spinning until he gave in. I walked him around for a bit with it on and he seemed totally cool with it. Just not a big deal if I give him some time to digest these things.
Jenn and I were roasting in the sun, so we decided to take a break and go to a local horse supply “store.” Hamp is a local legend and basically just has a few sheds and trailers full of horse supplies he sells on the down low – I guess. Back in the day, his prices couldn’t be beat, but I wasn’t as impressed this time around, though I was impressed that someone who chews that much tobacco hadn’t aged a day in years since I had been there last. We went to pick up a beater saddle or bareback pad and some other miscellaneous items. I got a bareback pad since there weren’t any cheap saddles to be had. Hamp’s is always an adventure and this time, the trailer full of saddles really sealed that for us. It was like heaven.
We returned and got Smokey back out of the paddock. He was waiting for us. I hung the bareback pad on the fence and tempted him over to it, but he was having none of it. I think it smelled too much like plastic or not enough like other horses (my old western pad smelled like my old horse), so he didn’t trust it. I could never even get near him with it. I tried the same thing I had with the saddle pad by pushing him around the arena, but he never settled into it. I’m sure if I had tried for longer he would have eventually given in, but did I mention it was as hot as the face of the sun and I’m VERY white? I just didn’t have it in me. He tried to hide behind me every time I held it out to him for very long.
So I tempted him to get close to it by making him eat carrots off it, which he did very reluctantly.
I played with the western pad again by putting it on and walking around, but the heat was just so intense and both Jenn and I were about the color of tomatoes (still am!) so we decided to call it a day. Smokey was more than happy to head back out to the pasture. All in all, I think it was a very successful day: got sport boots on, got a saddle pad on and walked with both – even at the same time!
I managed to pry myself out of bed before the sun turned on too much and head up to the barn. I removed Smokey from the far corner of the pasture where he was attached to Colors’ side. He walked with me reluctantly up to the arena. I had the whole spread of options to work with, but I was far too lazy to lug my super heavy (but super comfy) western saddle down. The English one would have to do for the day. I rebraided his mane where it had come undone and put on his leg boots which were absolutely no big deal this time. I pulled down the bareback pad to see how that was going to fly today and found out that it wasn’t going to, so abandoned that plan pretty quickly. That’ll be for another day. I got the western pad down, which was only a little scary when it came off the fence, and rubbed it on him and then put it on him.
We walked around with boots and saddle pad on to make sure we were cool with both, which we were, and then we prepared for the fun part.
There was a dog incident at this point: The neighbor whose black dog I had seen early that morning limping back to their house after presumably getting kicked by one of the horses it was harassing has a second brown dog. Both dogs are pretty big. Brown dog got loose and was running around the pasture bothering the horses. I saw it coming and quickly undid the saddle pad from Smokey and hopped the fence to where my two dogs were tied under the viewing platform. I tried to stop brown dog from coming through a gate to them, but couldn’t catch it and it took of under the platform and got all over my dogs. I have no idea if it was being mean, but Belle was losing it and making horrible noises til I dragged them out and got brown dog on the leadline I was holding. I dragged it back to the neighbor who thought it was fine to let his dog on the property and let him have a piece of my mind. Belle is ok, just traumatized. Hopefully we won’t have a repeat. It shook me up pretty bad, so I knew my day was probably about over at that point.
After giving Belle the once over, I got back in the pen with Smokey and hooked him back up to the leadline and continued on my session for the day. I walked him back over to the fence and grabbed the saddle off the fence. He was skeptical, but lipped all over it and snorted on it a few times. I walked back to his shoulder, which he was surprisingly ok about. I poked him with the saddle a few times in the shoulder and got minimal reactions the lessened each time. I guess he was in a pretty chill mood. So I raised it up, swung it a little and then put it back down again. No reaction. So I put it on him.
He was feeling pretty donkey-ish right here. Sorry.
It only took me four weeks to put a saddle on him! As far as I’m concerned, I’m ok with this timeframe. He’s had a good foundation of trust built up with me and we’re learning to keep that going, even when things are scary. I’m hoping this transfers to him trusting me on his back as well.
As soon as the saddle was on, I walked him off and around the round pen while praising him and generally just making a scene. He was pretty much in donkey mode and didn’t care a whole lot about anything. I messed with the saddle, made it make some noises and jiggled it around some and he seemed pretty ok about the whole thing. I didn’t let the stirrups down yet, but we’ll get there.
After making such a big deal about it, I walked him back to the fence and got the girth down. Jenn is graciously letting me try out an English girth while I figure out just how tiny my pony really is (I’m so used to big horses, I have no idea what his sizes are). I latched it on the offside and let it hang for a minute. No reaction. I reached under and pulled it up. Ears slightly back. I buckled it super loosely and pretty much lost it praising him. We walked off around the round pen. We got a little ways around and he stopped and acted like he was going to roll. I pulled his head up and made him stand while I unbuckled the girth and took it off. I know that was probably the wrong thing to do, but I didn’t want to mess with it. We were approaching sun temperatures again and I was still pretty shaken from the dog incident earlier.
I decided that at this point, I should call it a day. I was too far shot to be of any use to getting the saddle thing worked out, so I admitted defeat, took Smokey’s tack off and turned him out.
I’ll be back at the barn tonight, but I’m instigating my three day a week rule this week. Hopefully this will keep the pressure on to get him under saddle as well as give us both time to relax a little. The farm is hosting camp this week, so he’ll have plenty to look at all day long.
Hope you had a great weekend!