Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The First Day

We found Laredo seeming pretty settled in this afternoon, but not keen on letting us close to him. We were expecting this and had a plan. He was out in the big lot, so we pushed him into the winter lot and closed the gate. Brian then used himself and the windblock to break the lot in half. This gave me an area to work Laredo that was small enough to ensure running away wasn't going to get him any release.

It also helps that we've had ample experience catching horses that don't want to be caught, and also recently teaching our guys to come to us. My new baby running away from me is the type of thing I might have taken personally a few years ago, but now it's just another opportunity to practice some basic concepts. I could really see Laredo's youth while I worked him. Steen and Mo were both in the winter lot as well, and they both appear to have decided they are not Laredo fans. They would pin their ears at him when he got close. That meant the only place he got any relief was next to me. When he started to figure this out, his whole face and demeanor began to change.

My strategy was simple. When he was moving I stared at him and walked right at him. When he held still I dropped my gaze and approached him more slowly from an oblique angle. If he looked at me as if he was considering approaching, I looked away from him and took a step back, but if he didn't move towards me within a second or two I started to approach him again.

It only took about half an hour, including the time it took us to drive him from the big pasture into the winter lot, before I was able to slip the halter on. Once I got close I stroked his nose with the halter strap and took it on and off several times, until he would accept that without moving.

Once caught, he was a doll. He leads very nicely. Brian haltered Steen and we took them to the hitching post. I tied Laredo and he was content to stand while I groomed him. He's a bit sticky lifting his feet. I had to free them up by asking him to move with the halter a few times. But once they are up he has no problem letting you handle them.

After grooming, I saddled him. He got a little tense as I tightened the cinch, but I was gentle and he relaxed quickly. The first hitch came when I tried to bridle him. We had noticed at the breeder's that he is touchy about his ears, and while he took the bit just fine, he started bracing and sticking his head in the air when it came to getting the bridle all the way on. I stopped trying and we went to the indoor arena to do some groundwork and ear desensitizing.

It is fascinating working with another horse. I am so used to Steen. And I have to admit I'm actually a little surprised at how physically and mentally immature an (almost) three year old is. You can just tell he processes everything that is happening to him differently than an adult does. He's quick to pick up on what you're asking him to do, but also prone to forgetting something you've just "taught" him.

With the ear issue, I just set my hand on his head. If he moved, I moved with him. I left it there until he started to relax and drop his head. We worked on this in between working on other things. At times it seemed like he got better, but I do think it will be a while before he's totally over it. Luckily, we are in no hurry at all.

Brian had an ok ride on Steen. Steen was picking up the trot unasked a bit. I was trying not to pay too much attention to them because it is difficult for me to watch someone else ride Steen and not turn into a micromanager.

With Laredo I worked on forward, back, giving to the halter, stepping over in front, stepping under behind and basic circle work, and spent quite a lot of time standing there with my hand on his head. After 45 minutes, Brian and I switched and I rode Steen for a little while and Brian worked with Laredo. Steen was great for me. Soft and pliable. We loped around and he felt very much like his normal self.

On a random note, an unforeseen consequence of the new guy's name: I have had this song in my head for days.

Ride Time: 0:15
Horseback hours YTD: 49:50

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