It’s been a while and really not too much has happened.
Last night I saw Smokey for the first time in a few days. He’s been getting beat up pretty well in the pasture by the other horses and his own clumsiness. He has several bite makes that are hairless and several scrapes, one of which was recent enough last night to still be oozing blood a little on his side, but nothing major. He’s also had these mystery bumps all over his top half that almost look like rainrot, but aren’t and almost look like ant bites, and might be, but haven’t been confirmed. Right now, they seem to be growing out and healing, so I’m not too worried about him, but they do seem to be somewhat tender, so I’m trying to stay off his back and give them time to fully heal before I ride him too much again.
A fresh, new wound for you to dress, mom!
Aside from his minor disasters, he’s doing really well. I think the cooler weather that has come in is making him more active and he’s a bit more willing to fight me on things from time to time. We had a sort of spat for about a week where he was being naughty and I was probably overreacting to his naughtiness by popping him in the halter or smacking his muzzle, so he’s gotten a bit head/face shy again. He’s never been too much of a fan of having a hand on the flat part of his forehead or on his nose to begin with, but I’m working on repairing the damage I did this past week by tempting him with carrots and letting me pet him while he’s got his halter off in the pasture. And don’t get me wrong, he’s not headshy like I’ve been beating him, just more of an evasive maneuver when I get near his nose and he’s doing something wrong, or a head raise when he thinks I’m going to pop the halter (also when he’s got his head where it shouldn’t be) – I’m just willing to admit that maybe I was taking some of my own issues out on him by overreacting sometimes. He’s really such a good boy!
On Monday, I had gone out to see him and work on a few things that had been bothering me. He was always really sticky on his left pivot, so I wanted to clear up any confusion he had with that. I assumed it was probably that I wasn’t clear or didn’t work that pivot enough more than anything else. We had a bit of a row out in the arena working on that. He wasn’t too keen on it and was being stubborn and unwilling, so there were lots of fast backups and general pulling and pushing each other around. In the dark, none the less. We worked each other so much that he was a bit sweaty by the time we got back up to the barn – and we didn’t even ride! Granted, he has a pretty substantial winter coat on him right now and it doesn’t take much to get him sweaty, but it was already dark and the temperature was pretty low.
So after our little scene Monday, I was pretty worn out on him and needed a break. So I didn’t see him again until last night. I was happily surprised at how responsive he was to me the whole time. Where my tack cabinet is is also where all the feed is kept, so he always tries to step into the barn and get to the feed, which is understandable, though not ideal. Part of our spat last week was about standing still while I’m grooming him and prepping to go out to the arena and last night he was much, MUCH better about standing while I was getting things out of the cabinet. He also responded very well to my verbal commands to get away from the feed bags and to stop moving when he did try it a few times. Overall, I was very pleased with his behavior. It really just takes time for things to sink in with him and then he remembers it.
In addition to his better attitude while grooming, he was also more responsive to all my groundwork out in the arena. He’s picking up much faster on the longeline how to move his shoulder away from me when asked, versus moving his whole self. It’s really night to have him being lighter on the line than he has been. My injured shoulder really appreciates it.
I was also THRILLED when I asked him to pivot and he responded to a gentle tap on his left side and crossed over immediately. A similar gentle tap on his right side produced the same result which impressed me even more! It seems like he is really willing to do what I ask, he just has to understand what it is that I really want. Below is a video of his pivoting. Notice that I’m barely having to bump him with my hand to get him to do a really nice crossover!
One of the downfalls of him being so sensitive to my ask for the pivot is that now he does it all the time. Literally when I’m grooming him, when we open a gate, when he comes to get a carrot… if I so much as touch his side, he tries to pivot. It’s pretty cute, actually. He’s such a sweetheart.
As it was getting dark, I decided it was now or never to get on him last night, so I hopped up on him and walked a few steps. He kind of ducked his head and acted like he was about to bolt, so I hopped off. Since he’s had a few days off, I figured it was ok to have just gotten what we had done for the night without pushing him too hard. We did some at liberty playing around and he’s getting to where he might be able to learn how to shake hands or hug (depending on which I choose to teach him) and learning to come when I call him. It’s fun to just let him play for a few minutes after we do some work. Especially when he’s been a good boy!
I’m looking forward to putting him back in the roundpen tonight and doing some more riding. I’m still a bit gunshy about it because of the fall, but I think I’ll get back in the groove pretty quick.