Thursday, November 12, 2009

Note to self...

...Avoid the indoor section of the barn at Prime Time.

Horse bath

I was planning on giving Panama a bath early yesterday afternoon after riding. But then Michael hurt his back (by sneezing, of all things), so I stayed home. Bath time was postponed until today.

Voodoo's owner and I were planning on meeting so our horses could play, so I decided to bathe Panama afterward. Unfortunately, by that time came, the barn was unusually busy: Several horses in the indoor section had farrier appointments, and there were loads of people around.

So naturally, Panama didn't want to cross the Line of Death, despite the fact that he'd done so for me with very little problems just a few days before. After trying for about ten minutes, I asked Voodoo's owner to stand behind him and wave her arms at him a little bit. I normally would have waited it out, but I was worried about it getting too late for the bath.

She did, and he started to walk forward, but then everyone descended on us and he stopped. Someone told me to give him his head (obviously not understanding, as I do, that my horse will stare at me across the Line of Death until he drops of exhaustion if I don't apply a little pressure, so I can give him that release when he steps forward). Then — and this part is my personal favorite (hear that sarcasm?) — one of the other boarders chased Panama across the line by waving an empty gallon-sized plastic jug (like what you buy windshield washer fluid in) at him. Problem was, she didn't stop once he crossed the line, at which point he's fine, but by not asking me first, she didn't know that. So I was halting him, she was still chasing him, and poor Panama was just confused.

Great. Now I know what we'll be working on tomorrow.

So I walked Panama into the wash rack, and everyone expressed amazement that he did that just fine. (Ummm yeah. That's why I was trying to tell everyone it was just the Line of Death that scared him! And that he'll be fine once he gets past it!) I put him in the wash rack in cross ties for a few minutes, and chatted with my friend while he worked out how to settle down on his own (there's that patience thing again). It took a while, and a few distractions (in the form of people going in and out of the wash rack right under his nose), but he did calm down.

While I was letting him stand there, another boarder (the jug-waving boarder) was washing out buckets under Panama's head. He was actually pretty okay with that — but then she dumped a bucket full of soapy water on the wash rack floor. I'd been scolding him for tossing his head and pulling back, and here's where I know I'm getting through to him: Instead of freaking out and pulling back to get away from it, he curled his neck, did the head-bobbing-scared-watching thing, and kept an eye on the soapy water the whole time as it went down the drain.

I heard laughter behind me, and looked to see one of the other boarders cracking up. "He is SO CUTE!" she said. "If my horse were that scared of something, she would have ripped the cross ties out of the wall!"

Once Panama was no longer jumping out of his skin at every sound (and with all those people in there, there was a lot of that at first), I gave him a bath. He definitely likes the warm water much better, but he was still impatient and nervous about the whole thing — as you can probably tell by his rigid back in the picture above. Toward the end, he actually started whinnying at every person who passed the wash rack, as if he were begging them, "Please get me out of here and away from my crazy mom!"

The bath took a while, as did rubbing him down well enough with towels afterward that I didn't feel bad about taking him out into 60-degree evening air. It's not that cold, all things considered, but I figured he'd really feel it, coming from a warm indoor wash rack. I rubbed him until the hair on his neck was dry and his back and belly were just damp, and then I threw his sheet on him. I checked back on him a couple hours later and both he and the sheet were dry. Thank heavens for breatheable sheets!

All said and done, Panama did pretty well — once we got him all the way inside. But I think until he can walk over the Line of Death without fear in a quiet barn, I need to avoid Prime Time. It's just too chaotic for him — and I don't think I can handle any more "help" without going off on someone! Once he is better inside, I'll go in when the barn is busy sometime, and let everyone know up front that we're working on training and they need to ignore us. But for now, I think avoiding Prime Time is the best way to go.



At November 13, 2009 at 8:03 AM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Yeah, there's a time for baby steps in training and there's a time for exposure. Back when my neighbors were doing totally crazy things around my horses, people told me I should appreciate it, because they are desensitizing my horses. However, they are also sometimes endangering my life and preventing me from meeting my training goals. My feeling is that they can desensitize my horses all they want when I'm not working with them, but otherwise, I prefer to have a little control over my environment.

At November 14, 2009 at 4:17 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Well, NM, I guess I have more appreciation for what you go through now than I did when I wasn't experiencing distractions that interfered! LOL.

But seriously, I think the problem with your neighbors isn't that they do things to spook your horses sometimes. The problem is that they are WAY over the top and you rarely have a break from it. I'm sure if it were the occasional running truck, the occasional slammed door, etc. you would probably be much more likely to look at it as desensitization.


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