Saturday, May 31, 2008

Horse-Eating Fly Spray

Yesterday was a busy day. I woke up and hung out with Brian for a while, then said good-bye and headed for the stable so I could get a ride in before work. Shortly thereafter, he left to spend a few days in Kansas.

I arrived at the barn just after a significant thunderstorm had rolled through, so Steen was a little wet. I took him inside and noticed he was swishing his tail at some flies. I brushed him down and pulled out my all natural fly spray. I squirted some on his leg, and he freaked out.

Given his behavior in the past, I assumed this was like other things. He just needed to be persuaded it wasn't going to hurt him, and the best way to accomplish this was by forging ahead. So, I kept spraying him. He kept trying to barge past me into the barn aisle, but I kept pushing him back.

After a few sprays through, I noticed he wasn't getting any calmer. He was, in fact, shaking all over. Not good.

I let him sniff the bottle and rubbed him all over with it. That was okay. I sprayed away from him. Okay. I sprayed towards him but not on him. Also okay. I sprayed onto him. Not okay. Not okay at all.

So, I decided I needed a bottle with water in it,a longer line and a different setting, and much more time to begin getting over of the spray bottle fear. I put the fly spray away and talked to him and petted him until he relaxed. Then I tacked him up and took him to the arena. He seemed calm following me in there, but as soon as I hopped on, I realized he was still totally wigged out. I walked him around for about fifteen minutes, and he showed no signs of calming. He wasn't resisting any of my commands, but he was just so keyed up I was afraid something could push him over the edge into genuine panic any moment.

I got off. Poles and barrels were set up around the arena, so instead of riding through these things, I led him through them. He was fine with this. Then, I started jogging and making him trot with me. We went over poles, wrapped around barrels, came to sudden starts and took off at a trot again suddenly. After a few minutes he seemed to be enjoying himself a good deal - really watching me to see what I would do next. We kept this up until I was thoroughly out of breath (and he had not yet even broken a sweat).

Then, I got back on and he was great for the rest of the day.


Today, the farrier came, so Steen got a trim and then I took him up the road with another woman and her horse, Lightfoot. That didn't really go so well and the gravel was clearly irritating to Steen's feet and the other woman was having some problems with her horse. So, we went back to the stable before long where I had a pretty good ride in the arena and Cathi gave me some pointers on ways to get Steen to stay more consistently in the correct lead at the lope and engage his hindquarters more in turns.

So, I've had Steen for five weeks now, and have managed to ride/work with him at least five days out of each of those five weeks. He's put on huge amounts of muscle and shed a good deal of hair. I'll have to take some updated pictures of him soon.

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