Thursday, July 28, 2011

Colt day: First shots and some grooming

Yesterday I went over to my in-laws' house to work with Rondo, my mother-in-law's 2-year-old colt — the one I halter broke last summer.  The vet was coming to see her friends' horse, so while he was there I had him give Rondo his very first round of shots — my mother-in-law hasn't done that yet, and I think it was deterring people when we were trying to help her sell him earlier this year.

Considering they are the first shots he's ever gotten, I thought he did very well — certainly better than Marine, who threw a minor hissy fit while the first needle was in his neck.  Rondo, on the other hand, stood stock still.  The vet rubbed on him while I talked to him and told him he was a good boy, and his head only came up a couple of inches for each shot.  He'll have more in a couple of weeks, but at least he's gotten the first couple now.

After the vet left, we went inside to get something to eat, and then came back out to do a little more with the horses.  Marine and Rondo had decided to heck with people, though, and ran from me when I approached with Rondo's halter and lead rope.  (I think Marine, who can sometimes act rather scared of being caught, was the ringleader, but Rondo was more than happy to follow suit.)  I just walked Rondo down, following him back and forth across the pasture until he got tired of running.  His behavior when I finally caught him was funny — he stood facing somewhat away from me, but with his head twisted around to look at me, and sniffed my outstretched hand.  I could practically see him trying to remember why he'd decided I was so scary!  I was careful not to startle him when I haltered him, since his blood was up, but he offered little resistance.

As an aside, my mother-in-law was pretty amazed by this whole thing.  She told me afterward, "You have determination!"  I laughed and told her I think most horses have to learn that lesson at least once — that haltering isn't optional.  That's a pretty revolutionary thought for my in-laws — my brother-in-law tends to leave his horses' halters on 24/7 to make them easier to catch, and my mother-in-law only recently stopped doing that (possibly because of my influence).

Anyway, once I'd caught Rondo, I tied him up and groomed him a little.  Nothing much — just brushed him with a dandy brush, and then combed the knots out of his mane and (ridiculously thick) tail.  He's getting better about being brushed, but I still find he does better if I go slowly and stop occasionally for pets and praise.

I also picked his front feet and worked with him on picking up his back feet.  He still fights a lot with the back ones, so instead of trying to pick them, I just worked on him holding them up for a few seconds without trying to shake me off.  Each time I asked him to hold them up for a little longer; hopefully next time he'll let me pick them without making it into a fight.

Our biggest achievement of the day, however, was the fly spray.  I never blogged about the last time I tried to put fly spray on him — he got really upset about the feel of the spray landing on him, and started rearing in response.  He got into a lot of trouble for that, however, but it was a lot of fighting over just spraying his front legs and shoulders.

I decided after that incident that sometimes I'm expecting too much from him — such as spraying the whole horse when he's never been sprayed before.  So this time, I just sprayed his front legs.  I started at the bottom, spritzing the air next to his fetlocks a couple of times to give him a chance to adjust, and then sprayed his fetlock.  I worked my way up each leg a couple of sprays at a time, giving him short breaks in between to praise him for standing still, and reminding him a couple of times with a quick jerk of the lead rope to not fuss.  Overall, he was good, but I stopped when I got to the top of each front leg, as I could feel he was getting antsy, and I wanted to end on a positive, "nothing bad happened" kind of note.  I think I'll go a little farther each time, and extend his comfort zone slowly.

I thought shots, grooming, feet work, and fly spray was plenty for one day, and let him go shortly thereafter.  On the whole, he was quite good, and I was pleased with his behavior.  Hopefully I'll get out there next week, though I'm a little worried that we're overdue for another "terrible twos" kind of day!

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