Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lunging Rondo, riding Panama

On Monday I had a chance to go over to my in-laws' house and work with Rondo some more.  When I first walked out into the pasture, he started to walk away from me — possibly remembering me walking him down last time — but when I scolded him, he stopped walking and waited for me to halter him.  I'm hoping that means he remembers how much work it was (and how ineffective it was) when he ran from me last time.

I started out, as usual, by grooming him — I'm trying to develop a routine he can recognize and feel comfortable with.  This time, however, I curried him before brushing him.  This was a first and I wasn't sure how well he'd do with it, as I could only find a plastic curry.  Panama hates those (he's really ticklish), but Rondo couldn't have cared less.  This is a really good sign since he was still jumpy about having his hindquarters brushed as recently as just a few weeks ago.

After brushing his body, mane, and tail, I picked his front feet and held up the back for a little longer than last time.  I didn't try picking them yet, as he still tried kicking or shaking me off with the first rear foot, and I'm trying to enforce the idea that he gets them back when he holds them still for me.  When he gets that, I'll start picking his hind feet again.

After grooming, I put some fly spray on him.  He's doing better with it now — still tense, but no rearing!  I sprayed a little farther than last time — each front leg, but also his chest, each side of his neck, and his shoulders.  Once he thought about freaking out, and thought about it hard enough that he almost started to, but he controlled himself when I told him, "Quit."  Next time we'll work on spraying his sides and back!

I also lunged him briefly.  It was the third time I've lunged him, and the first time since he freaked out earlier in the spring (which I didn't blog about).  I decided then that I was rushing him, asking him to lunge before he'd even really learned his ground manners, so I went back to basics.  Monday, however, I decided that he was relaxed enough, and that he's been minding me well enough, to give it another go.

He walks in a circle around me with very little effort, but he's reluctant to trot, so we worked on figuring out that command on Monday.  I tend to move with the horse a lot — less when I want them to slow down, and more when I want them to move faster — and I found that with Rondo, it helped him to figure out what I wanted more quickly if I took exaggerated trot steps when I was asking him to trot.  It probably sounds silly, but hey, whatever communicates what I want!  And actually, I find it rather interesting that he can look at what I'm doing with my legs, and translate that into his own movement.

I didn't lunge him for long, but I was sure to do both sides evenly.  I'm already noticing a preference for going to the left.  We'll see if that changes as he learns.

I'm pretty impressed with Rondo's progress.  He's as gentle as a kitten with me now — when I worked on leading him on Monday, I only had to correct him once for not staying with me.  Whether we're walking or just standing there, he always gives me a respectful amount of space — which is great, considering his size (he's already about 15.2hh, and still growing!)  But what I find most endearing about him is how much he likes to nuzzle me.  He loves to put his lips on my shoulder, in the crook of my neck, or on my ear.  Sometimes he'll but his mouth right up to my mouth, so that he's breathing my breath as I breathe out, and just hold it there.  He has tried lipping at my ear once or twice (I put a stop to it immediately), but has never tried biting me.  Rather, he seems to be exploring or showing affection.  It's very slow and gentle the way he does it, and so sweet!

I do like Rondo a lot, and I am pleased with his progress, but don't think I've forgotten Panama!  I made sure to get out to my barn and ride him in the evening.  He was so happy to see me, and nickered when I brought out his bridle.  (What better sign that he loves his work?)  I practiced cantering in the indoor, then did some trot work, riding all in all for about 30 minutes.

Usually when I ride at night, just my husband is there with me, but Monday night his mom came, too.  The funny thing is — and this will tell you something about Panama's personality — Panama was totally showing off for her.  Panama lived at my brother-in-law's house until he was a little over 2 years old, and she was often the one to feed him treats or help with him (she was there for his gelding, and helped whenever he had wounds that needed treatment — he got tangled up in a fence when he was just barely 2, before he came here, so he saw a lot of her then!).  He's also seen her a few times since coming here, but not often, so I think he knew that her being there was a rare occurrence.  He was definitely excited!  The best way I can describe it is to say he had tons of energy in all of his gaits.  This is noteworthy because usually when I ride at night, he is very relaxed.  The first time I asked for a trot, he really popped up into it, which I corrected him for — but even once he stopped doing that kind of thing, I could totally tell he was showing off.

Riding Panama with my mother-in-law there caused me to try to see him through her eyes.  When he was living with my brother-in-law, he was fugly (I think his growth was stunted in his first year), wild, and virtually unmanageable.  Now, he's sleek, gorgeous, extremely well-behaved, and he and I share a level of communication that none of us could have predicted four years ago.  I couldn't have done it without my trainer, of course — not just the initial training she did with him, but also (and probably most importantly) the guidance she has given me over the years — but to my mother-in-law, the transformation must be virtually miraculous.

I'm very proud of how far Panama and I have come, and though I'm not supposed to be wanting to keep Rondo, I can't help but wonder what he'd be like in four years if I did keep him.



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