Thursday, September 9, 2010

Two feet down, two to go!

Today was Rodeo's farrier appointment. He was on his best behavior today, a relief after his recent bad day, but even so, we only got the front two feet trimmed. The farrier is scheduled to do the back two in a couple of weeks, after I've had a chance to work with him on the back feet a little more.

When I arrived at my in-laws' house today around noon (the farrier appointment was at 1pm), four of the horses were in the round pen, but Rodeo and Roxy (his mother) were nowhere to be seen. (The seventh horse, my brother-in-law's deaf gelding, was at the vet getting a tumor on his third eyelid removed — I suppose I should blog about that too sometime.)

Anyway, I started walking out into the pasture to look for Rodeo, but he and his mom came to the round pen when they heard me calling. Rodeo watched me approach, and when I got to about 50 feet away, walked right to me and let me halter him! I was so thrilled — it was the first time I'd haltered him in the pasture, where he is completely at liberty and doesn't have the round pen to keep him with me.

It was obvious right from the beginning that he was back to his usual sweet self. There was very little crowding — I walked him along the fence line a little, and he was perfectly fine with being led (although he was a bit concerned about his mom following us — she is a very dominant mare, and the horses are all wary of having her near their butts, for fear of them getting bitten!).

The farrier arrived early, and we played musical horses to get Rodeo into the round pen, and the horses that weren't getting trimmed out. He stood fairly quietly with me and watched the first horse get trimmed. I know patience is hard on a horse this age, but he is doing remarkably well — other than a little bit of shifting, which I expect and don't mind, he was fairly content to stand with me. (I'm sure it helped that he was getting lots of pets and praise and the occasional treat.)

Next it was Rodeo's turn. He did pretty well with the first foot, although he would start hopping around a bit if the farrier lifted his foot too high — he hasn't quite figured out yet how to balance on three legs. But when the farrier walked around me to do the other front foot, Rodeo shied away. The farrier put his hand up to Rodeo's nose, to try to let him smell him, but Rodeo isn't completely desensitized to people touching his face yet (he lets me but I suspect I'm the only one he completely trusts around his face). He shied away even harder — and started rearing!

I let the lead line slip through my hands enough so that I wouldn't get kicked, but I hung on. I was determined he wasn't going to learn he could get away using that trick! I was growling at him to quit, and after several rears, he did, and stood there looking at me. I reeled him in on the lead line, the farrier came back, and we went right back to what we had been doing.

After that little stunt, though, the farrier decided it was best not to attempt the back feet just yet. We were able to end on a positive note — Rodeo stood quietly for that second food, and there were no further incidents — so we called it quits, and scheduled a couple weeks out to allow me some time to work with him on his back feet (as he's still a little iffy with them being picked up).

The farrier had one more horse to do, so Rodeo and I stood and watched that one, too. I swear he is mentally taking notes when he watches!

After the farrier left, I brushed Rodeo for the first time. I discovered he doesn't like the super-stiff body brushes — he likes the medium-stiffness dandy brush better. I also brushed his mane, and with a little bit of coaxing, was able to brush his tail — standing at his hip, of course, as I don't yet trust him enough to stand behind him! I did all of this with him at liberty, so there was a lot of working on standing still, too — I haven't tried tying him yet, though I will soon.

After I groomed Rodeo, I had my mother-in-law hold him so I could work on picking up his back feet. This was an hour or more after the farrier had left, and Rodeo was in a willing mood, so I was pretty confident that it wouldn't be overkill.

I picked up the first hind hoof — he jerked it and shook it a bit, trying to shake off my hand. I waited until he stopped shaking it before praising him and putting it down. Went around to the other side — same thing, but with less shaking. Went back to the first side — he lifted it smoothly, no jerking, no shaking. Lots of praise and a treat. Went back to the second side — same thing, but with more confidence.

He is SO smart. He figures out what I want quickly, and is more than happy to give it to me. I was satisfied with that, so I turned him back out. He waited for a minute to see if I had one last treat for him (I did), and then headed back out to find his mom once he was sure I was done with him.

It was an extremely satisfying day, with lots of progress!

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