Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Long Monday at the Barn

Yesterday morning I headed to the barn. My first barn-task was to hold Doc, my friend Gay's horse, for the farrier because Gay took a tumble while dismounting on Sunday and broke her collarbone. Big time bummer.

We got Doc's feet done without incident and I brought Steen indoors. I thought he might need a trim (hopefully by mid-summer we'll have Sham and Steen on the same hoof-care schedule), but Duke said Steen's feet aren't growing much just now, so we can skip one. I did my best to clean the mud off Steen and decided to do some groundwork on the big grassy strip by the cornfield to prepare for the outdoor riding I hope to start doing this week. I thought Steen would be inclined to kick up his heels and frisk on the rope seeing as how the sun was out and shining and he was on genuinely good footing for the first time in a very long time. He was a bit sleepy, though, and didn't seem inclined to frolic. He was also stiff in the hind end. When it gets muddy like this the horses really don't move around much and his rear ankles were a bit swollen like they were the months I had him in a stall. So, we just worked on getting limbered up and paying attention in a space other than the indoor arena. He was great - not at all distracted or nervous.

I returned him to his pasture and considered Sham. I wanted to make the most of Brian's huge Sunday effort and since Brian works a long day Monday, I knew he wouldn't have a chance to continue the lesson himself until Tuesday. However, I'd been on the go for hours already thanks to a morning appointment followed by a meeting. I'd changed out of my 'business' clothes in the barn bathroom so I could be there on time for Gay's farrier meeting. I'd already been at the barn for two and a half hours and knew I had a good chance of being there a lot longer if Sham was feeling at all inclined towards evasion. I was hungry and thirsty and almost called it a day. But then I thought of all the people who'd helped me when I was a new horse owner, and I went into the pasture.

Less than fifteen minutes later, I had a halter on Sham. It was easy. Either the staring game worked wonders Sunday, or Sham was just feeling friendly. I gave him plenty of time to say hello to me and get used to my presence before I tried to touch him. He was shoulder-deep in a brand new bale of hay, so even had plenty of incentive to ignore me. I worked with the same principles Brian used Sunday. I stayed passive and non-threatening when I moved into his space. I stared directly at him when he ignored me. When he turned or moved in my direction, I turned soft and approachable. Before long I had him off the bale and focused on me. Not long after that he was exploring the halter with his lip. After he did that for a while I started stroking his face with the nose-band. I then slipped the lower loop around his jaw and removed it a few times. Then I put the halter on all the way. He took the whole thing with remarkable equanimity.

I told him how wonderful he is, led him around the pasture a bit, disengaged his hindquarters a few times, petted him lots, and took the halter off, slipping him a treat as I did so. He didn't bolt away this time. He hung out for some more love. I walked off before he could grow disinterested.

So, we'll see how things go for Brian today. There very well might be some more forward and back on this, but I think we are over the hump, and a little more patience and effort will see the catching problem behind us.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, my horses don't like to move around much when it's muddy either. Which is pretty much all of spring and most of winter.

    Grats on the easy time with Sham. I'll admit I often just go home when I'm tired or stressed, or not really feeling committed. If I'm already tired/stressed I just find that I don't have the patience to deal with poor behavior, which usually just makes everything worse. I'm happy to hear that your story went better.

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