Sunday, May 17, 2009

My good deed for the day

I went out to the barn again today, but I realized when I got there that I didn't feel like doing anything — even taking pictures! So instead I hung out, talked with the barn owner, and watched the horses pick through their hay for the best bits.

I did accomplish one thing, though it wasn't with Panama. I've recently come to realize that if the alpha gelding is going to get certain care such as worming and fly spray, I'm probably going to have to do it — his owners have pretty much left the barn owner in charge of his care, who is, alas, a little clueless about some things. I know another boarder (who has since left) used to worm the horses for him, so I'm going to ask if he wants me to help him with it. I'm willing to bet he'll say yes.

Of course, since the alpha is rarely tied or worked with, his ground manners are atrocious. Getting fly spray in his ears (his flies use them as a breeding ground, poor boy) will be a real challenge, and worming him will be nearly impossible unless I start working with him now.

So since I wasn't doing anything else today, I decided to start working on the alpha's ground manners. I've already taught him to let me rub his nose without pulling his face away — so I did have something of a foundation to start with.

I stood exactly how I stand with Panama to worm him: on the left side of the alpha's neck, facing the same way as him, with my right hand over the top of his nose. Then with my left hand I reached up and gently curled my left hand around the base of his ear, talking to him all the while. He was okay with this, until I started running my fingers along the edges and around to the open side.

This is where the advantage to this approach lies. When he would lift his head or try to back away, I squeezed his nose a little and moved with him, making little scolding noises. I had my hand a few inches up from the muzzle, so I was basically pinching the airways shut a little. As soon as he stopped fighting me I relaxed my hand and praised him. After a minute or two, he tolerated a few gentle strokes around the edges of his ear — and as soon as he did, I praised him like crazy and took my hands away.

Then I went around to the other side, but he started moving off before I could get my hand over his nose. So I clucked and drove him forward, and then followed him all around the pasture for a couple of minutes. Panama watched contentedly, hay trailing from his mouth, no doubt enjoying the show because he already knows Mom doesn't give up. Then the alpha abruptly stopped in his tracks, turned his head to look at me, and just waited while I walked up to him. It was obviously an aha moment for him.

The other ear went faster, as I encountered much less resistance. The alpha may have gotten a bit wild from not being worked with, but he's still smart enough to know when he's no longer in charge!

I was very pleased with the progress I made with the alpha gelding today, and I'm planning on practicing every time I'm over there. If I'm going to be the one worming him, then by George, he's gonna learn to respect me!

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