Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rondo shows improvement

Young bay roan gelding

Yesterday I went down to my in-laws' house to work with Rondo a little more.  Most of our "work" consists of tying, grooming, and working on him permitting things such as picking his feet and putting on fly spray.  I am starting to (very slowly) lunge him again, though — mainly focusing on teaching the commands.  I'll start using it as exercise a little more once he starts getting the hang of it a little more (and once I no longer feel that our grooming routine is taking up so much of his attention span), but right now "short and sweet" is our theme.

Rondo was pretty easy to catch this time, though he did throw his head up and back up once or twice, trying to avoid the halter.  I always keep the halter on his face, move with him, and tell him sternly to "quit."  (My mother-in-law is under the impression that continuing to try when he resists haltering would be "threatening" to him, so she usually lets the halter drop and waits for him to allow her to try again, which is why I think he still attempts this trick with me periodically — it works so well with her!)

Once I had him haltered, though, he was pretty excited about what we were going to do, so I had to work a bit on leading, stopping and backing him every time he got ahead of me.  I tied him in our usual spot and we started out with a nice little grooming session with a rubber curry I'd brought, one I no longer use on Panama.  He seemed to like it all right.  I haven't started grooming his legs yet, but I think I'm going to start fairly soon, and see if maybe that helps to get him used to having his feet handled more.

Next I picked his feet.  At first, he fussed a bit — he just had them trimmed the day before, and was probably remembering that.  He'd done better than usual with the trimming, my mother-in-law said, but it still sounds like he was a bit of a prick.  He has a habit of rearing to try to get out of a situation — I don't think he does it because he's full-out panicking, but to try to get something that worries and scares him to stop.  In other words, I think it's pretty deliberate, and I need to get him to stop before he hurts someone.  I think I'm going to try to be there for his next farrier appointment, because considering my mother-in-law's attitude about haltering, I'll bet she isn't exactly demanding good before from him during trimming.

Anyway, I told him to quit his fussing, and was able to pick both front feet without any problems.  Then I moved to the back.  At first, he really fussed, forgetting what we'd learned in my last few visits before the farrier came — picking up his foot and holding it quietly, even if it's low.  He kicked and managed to shake me off, and got a whack on the rump and a growled "Quit!" for that.  Then we tried again, and he remembered, and held each back foot up quietly for me in turn.

After giving lots of praise and rubbing his neck, we did each back foot again, and this time he held each one up long enough for me to pick them out.  It's still a little awkward, and like I said, he's holding them very low — but I don't care, because I'm quite all right with taking things slow, and letting him find his comfort zone.  As he gets more comfortable with me picking his feet, I'll start working on lifting them higher, which should help with the farrier, too.

(I should also note that I'm not too impressed with what I've heard about their farrier.  My mother-in-law told me that when Rondo misbehaves, he corrects him, then "rubs on him" and makes friends before going back to work.  Rondo is probably thinking, "Well, getting into trouble isn't so bad if I get petted afterward."  Also, this isn't directly related, but I fear it demonstrates his attitude toward horses: Apparently the farrier told my sister-in-law that her new horse should have "gone to the glue factory" instead of being rescued.  WTF?  Who says that to a client?  I would have asked him to leave right then and there!)

We also made some major progress with the fly spray.  I was able to spray his legs, neck, and shoulders like last time, and although he was fairly nervous, I sprayed once or twice on his ribcage on each side.  I also sprayed his back legs, and he didn't seem to mind that, so apparently his barrel is the only place where he's still ultra sensitive about the fly spray.  That's okay — each time gets better.  I can also tell that he's starting to control his urge to rear with me — he starts puffing up in front, like he's bouncing on his tippy toes, really thinking about rearing, but a tug on the line and a "Quit" brings him back to earth before he achieves liftoff.  This is a vast improvement over the first time we worked with fly spray, where there was no bouncing on his tippy toes — he just went straight up, with little or no warning.

I'm pretty impressed with how patient Rondo is when he's tied.  I can walk away, even out of sight, and he's fine — a big achievement for a baby who hasn't been tied at all until this year.  He does have a habit of untying himself (he likes to play with the lead, and fairly quickly figured out that he could liberate himself) but even after he's done so, he usually just stands there with the lead dragging on the ground.

Finally, I did a little bit of lunging, only about ten minutes' worth — right now I'm focusing on teaching what walk, trot, and whoa mean.  When I had difficulties lunging him a couple of months ago, it was because he wasn't understanding what "trot" meant.  I tend to get "louder" with my movements when I'm asking for an increased pace, and a couple of months ago we had some issues with what this meant.  He'd resist moving into a trot at first, and then buck and kick and canter, like my "louder" movements had accumulated somehow in his brain and as a result he got frustrated and gave me way more than I asked for.

Last time, I found that if I trotted a little when I was asking him to, he figured it out much faster, and without the "buildup" he was exhibiting before.  This time I didn't have to trot — he's starting to understand what I'm asking for, and gave it to me without much fuss (though I did have to ask a few times in each direction before he picked up on it).  Each time, I kept him trotting for only a brief spell, then asked for a walk before he decided to walk on his own.  He's fairly good with the walk and whoa commands, so I didn't focus on those as much, and once we trotted a few times in each direction I called it a day.

I have to say that Rondo's personality is really growing on me.  He's more independent and less eager to please than Panama, but he's also calmer and more affectionate in some ways.  Last time I blogged about him, I described something he's started doing, where he puts his nose to mine and breathes my breath.  He'll do that for as long as I let him sometimes.  Now he's doing it in other places too — he puts his nose to my hair, my ear, my neck, or my shoulder, and just holds it there, or moves it slowly from place to place, like he's breathing my scent.  Other times, when he puts his nose on my face, I'm fairly certain he's "kissing" me — I like to kiss his nose, and I think he might be returning the show of affection.  Sometimes he moves his lips a little, but he knows he gets scolded if he tried to lip me or bite me, so usually he keeps them still.  It's very sweet.

I got a few good pictures of him — the one below shows his striking color really well.  He's just over 2, if you can believe it, and already a good looking horse — I think he's going to be big, too, since he's already about 15.2hh.  It's the picture at the top of the post, though, that I think shows his personality the best.  Doesn't he just look sweet?

Young bay roan gelding

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