Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rondo: Several big achievements

Yesterday I went out to my in-laws' house and worked a little with Rondo.  We had several big achievements, and all in all I think it was a very successful day.

I started out with just grooming him, since a storm was blowing in, and I know last time I tried lunging him in the wind, it didn't go so well.  But he behaved excellently while I groomed him.  The first big achievement was being able to pick all four feet with little or no hassle.  He consistently gives me the front feet and lets me pick them, and has been for a while, but I just started picking the back ones in the last couple weeks.  I'd been lifting his back feet with my hand on the front of his leg, just above the fetlock, holding them low, and letting them down as soon as he held them up without fussing.  (He's had a bad habit all along of trying to shake my hand off by kicking a little bit — not at me, but in a forward-and-back motion.)  Then, in the last couple weeks, he finally got to the point where he'd hold his back feet up still enough and long enough for me to reach over and quickly pick them — but he wasn't permitting me to switch my grip so that I was holding under his pastern and supporting his foot.

Well, yesterday he did finally permit me to switch my grip and pick his back feet out correctly.  He let me do the first one without fussing at all; with the second one, he fussed a little and was scolded for it, and when I picked it up again he let me do it without fussing.  And it wasn't a fluke, either, because later in the afternoon, when I caught him and groomed him all over again, he gave me both back feet without fussing at all.  It's like it's suddenly clicked in his brain, that this is just part of our grooming routine, and I'm not trying to hurt or annoy him!

The other big accomplishment was fly spray: I was able to spray the whole horse yesterday, FINALLY!  For weeks now, I've been spraying just a little more of him each time, pushing the boundaries of his comfort zone just a little every time.  At first all he'd permit me to spray was his front legs and shoulders, then his legs, shoulders, and neck, then the front section and the back legs.  Well, yesterday I was able to do his sides, as well, which has been a really touchy point with him — I think that's where he's most sensitive to the spraying sensation.  And he didn't threaten to rear, either — he had his head up about as far as it would go, but no bouncing on his tippy toes, like he did last time.  As I've been doing all along, I sprayed just a bit at a time, pausing to praise and pat him before continuing, and I think that also helped to keep him from going into overload.  He is beginning to see that when he doesn't fuss, it's over quickly, and then he gets praise and attention!

At that point, it was really starting to get quite windy, so I released Rondo and we went to the feed store.  I got him a few cheap grooming tools of his own, and put together a little tote for him — my in-laws' stuff is pretty disorganized and shared between all the horses, and they don't have a body brush I really like, so I wanted to get a few things just for Rondo.  I also got a lead rope for him to match his halter (which was an extra I had that was far too big for Panama, so I gave it to Rondo), which is nice because they didn't have any lead ropes I liked either (most of theirs are nylon and rather short, so I got a 10-foot cotton one).

When we got back, I caught Rondo again and groomed him all over again (except for the fly spray).  He was good with his feet again this time, but obviously showing signs of thinking, "But I already did all this!"  I wanted to lunge him before I left, though, now that the wind had calmed down.  He wasn't as good as I would have liked with the lunging — he was annoyed by having to be caught and "work" a second time in one day (even though I didn't lunge him the first time, I think he's young enough that behaving himself while being groomed is still "work" for him).  He was reluctant to trot, and on the second side, turned his butt to me a couple of times in a little show of threatening to kick.  Each time I gave the line a good yank to get him to turn his butt away from me, and drove him forward again.  After the second time of that, though, when I asked him to trot he did it right away, no fussing whatsoever, so I gave him lots of praise and let him be done with that.

I didn't blog about it at the time, but several months ago Rondo and I had a big showdown on the lunge line, with lots of bucking and kicking out to express his annoyance at being asked to trot, and then trying to run off.  He never kicked near me and never succeeded in getting away from me, but still, WAY unacceptable.  That's when I decided that I was rushing him a bit, and the basic ground manners needed to be more firmly in place before we worked on lunging.

Yesterday was the first time since that showdown when he actually didn't want to work when I asked for it.  He's usually pretty willing, if uncertain.  I thought that the fact that he didn't kick out yesterday was a really good sign.  He's showing signs of learning what's appropriate and what's not, and having disciplined him for even threatening to kick yesterday, I don't think I'll continue to have problems with it.

I'm enjoying seeing the changes in Rondo as I work with him more and more.  He's becoming much more respectful and responsive, and showing signs of turning into a really sweet pocket pony!

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