I got to the barn after work and talked with Mary and Anna for a while before going to fetch Smokey. It had been a long week and I hadn’t been out to the barn in a while. I got Smokey from the creek pasture. He still had a few bands in his mane from when I banded him in an effort to get his mane to stay on one side. It seemed to have worked a little bit. I still need to pull it.
We spent some time longeing and doing some general “get re-focused” work before I tried to hop up on him again. I wanted to make sure he hadn’t forgotten EVERYTHING I had taught him thus far. He hadn’t really, though he was MUCH more ADD than before. Something we’ll have to work on when he has time off, I think. I need to find what makes him focus more.
I sat on him a handful of times, but didn’t get him to move at all. He still backs up a little right off the step stool or spins away from it slowly and very unbalanced, I might add.
I called it an early night and headed back home to the puppies. I also re-watched some of the first DVD of the 7 Clinics which is essentially groundwork. I think I have to take a step back and really focus on getting Smokey to yield to the training flag on the ground. It’s about the only thing in the world he’s actually afraid of – other things he’s skeptical of, but not afraid. I’m starting to see some of his assertiveness come out in the form of refusing to do things and challenging me while on the longeline. Not things I’m happy he’s doing and I need to nip in the bud.
Hey, no joke, that’s Smokey and Bandit out in the pasture together (Bandit is scared of Smokey, who is approximately half his size. Rude pony.).
In the evening, I came out to see Smokey with Dad. I had voiced some of my concern about not being assertive enough with Smokey to Dad and how I was kind of a chicken when It came to pushing them [horses in general] around and really making them back off of me and do what I want for fear of getting hurt. I groomed Smokey and we kind of discussed it a little more.
I tried to pick up his feet, but he is REALLY stubborn about them being picked up. He starts to paw and then slams them down out of reach of your hands still. This is something that I thought he would mellow about with time, but it seems to have stayed exactly the same since no one can really even hold onto him while he tries to get it away: Jenn tried and he reared, Dad tried and he (Smokey) almost fell over onto him, I try and he just pulls it right out of my hands. Something’s gotta give. I’m trying to back off and give him a little release every time he does something positive with them, but it’s really hard when it’s a continuous motion from the ground into pawing. I keep thinking he’ll put it together that I let go at a certain point, but I think he’s just testing me now. We made a little progress, but definitely not much.
I longed him a little and worked in a tighter circle while trying to get him to yield his haunches to me. He’s having a hard time either understanding or being willing to do this for me; part of it might be that I’m not entirely certain that I’m standing in the right places in relation to his shoulder to get the right ask. We’re learning together.
I sat on him a few times and Dad tried to get him to lead while I was on him with no luck. He may have taken one step, but it certainly wasn’t because he wanted to. He actually acted as if he had fallen asleep a few times and stumbled sideways a little like he was going to fall. I’m not really sure if he would have or not, but I wasn’t taking too many chances of having him lay down and roll with me on him.
I spent the morning grooming him and generally loving on him some before I did anything. We kind of ended on a tough spot on Saturday and he had had a mentally taxing day, so I wanted to show him some love. He really loves being groomed, I think. He seems to enjoy me brushing his mane and ears most of all, but definitely enjoy his tail being brushed out as well. Maybe he knows he can swat flies better that way. Either way, it was affirming that I need to wash him really well sometime soon since he is pretty gross at this point and could use some medicated shampoo to get the rain rot taken care of and dandruff that he seems to have a little bit of washed out.
I was at the barn alone again, so I decided to get some longeing done and then it on him a little just to keep the good juju going with the not moving when I hop on him at the mounting block. He sure knows what that thing is for! He tries to bite it every time I bring it near his side.
I pushed him out on the longeline and starting getting his butt moving out, which he was much better at this time around going clockwise, but still having trouble going counter (which is typical). He seems a little stiffer on that side, so I’m sure it has something to do with his muscle memory or non-flexing on that side in general. Also, while I was trying to break his front legs off by picking them up (his words, not mine), I noticed that he has a bit of a bump on the inside of his left front leg that I’m wondering if it’s an old injury or nothing at all. Probably the latter, so I’m not too worried. He’s never come up lame, so we’ll keep an eye on it and see. I still need to get a vet out to take a look at him.
I worked on getting in closer to him with the flag so that he might move off it better and my cues might be a bit more intelligible, but he seemed to get a bit aggressive towards me and acted as if he would kick out at the flag, should it come closer – but never did actually kick. I need to keep that in mind since the chicken in me says “Give him to someone else to teach him this so you don’t get kicked” but the trainer in me says “He DIDN’T kick. That’s what matters.” Internal struggle aside, he did alright with the whole event. On the ground I started using the end of the leadrope to swing at him to get his butt to move off me and he picked up on it a little.
I sat on him a few times and rubbed all over him. I have been asking for the back since I got on him since that has been the go-to for something he is very good at and understands very well. I need something to get his feet moving and then I think we’ll be fine. At the moment, I’m willing to stand for one or two backwards steps that are very unwillingly thrown my way. He made a move like he would walk forward with me, but didn’t. I think the next time I try, he might actually oblige. I’m just afraid Mr. Sleepyhead might fall asleep and lad on his face while we’re moving for the first time.
This is what it looks like when you sit on Smokey. He is not a tall horse.
He got tired or annoyed or just decided he was done for the day after a while and wouldn’t move. One thing I have been religious about is opening the gate and then turning him back into the arena and doing a circle, re-approaching the gate, making him back three steps and then walking out so there’s absolutely no gate incidents on the way out of the ring. No bolting and no misunderstanding as to who is telling who what’s happening there. Thus far, he has always been very easy to do this with: always light as a feather backing up and leading in the circle. This time, however, his fall asleep when you sit on me carried over into this maneuver and he just flat out wouldn’t back up for me. I got a little up in his business about it and made him do quite a bit of backing and spinning on the ground before he was allowed to re-attempt his exit from the arena. It seemed to have worked since he was a bit more spirited and willing this time around. I knew he wasn’t asleep…
Smokey, not asleep, after a “hard” day’s work.