Saturday, June 16, 2012

My horses are polar opposites

I might have mentioned before how different my horses are.  Everything from their temperament (Panama is hyper and reactive, Rondo calm), to their attitude toward work (Panama wants to please, Rondo gets angry or resentful), to their favorite directions in the arena (Panama likes to go left, Rondo prefers it to the right).

The last couple of training sessions have served to emphasize their differences yet again.  I have my trainer working with both horses each Thursday right now, because I am working so much over the summer that I'm anticipating Panama will need the work as much as his brother-in-training.  Last week on Thursday, my trainer brought a plastic grocery sack to work with Rondo -- we've never done any plastic bag desensitization with him.

The results were comical, not because of his reaction, but because of his lack of reaction.  Rondo simply DID NOT CARE.  He stood still, resting a foot, and never so much as took a step away from the bag.  In fact, it hardly even seemed important enough to him to make him pay attention to the bag.  And remember, we've never done this with him before.

Can you imagine, if we can get him past his resentfulness at having to work, what an amazingly bombproof horse he will be under saddle?

My trainer tried for a good five minutes to get a reaction out of him.  The bag was tied to the end of a lunge whip, which she shook next to him, over him, under him, ran all over his body, between his legs... even put the bag on his head and between his ears, and he still did not care.  Finally she gave up and we worked on him with other things, such as fly spray (which made him rear last summer, though not anymore, even if it is still scary).

Then she pulled out Panama, my 7-year-old trained (supposedly) horse.  This is the horse that has taught me to canter, taught me to jump at the same time as he was learning himself, and has been on many miles of trails.

And he completely and totally melted down over that plastic bag.

Panama spent an hour running circles around my trainer, bucking, kicking at the bag, and tucking his butt so far under him that he looked like he was trying to sit down (or curl up like a roly poly).  Even by the end of the hour, he was tolerating the bag, but only barely -- he was rigidly waiting for it to go away.  Obviously he knew we wanted him not to react, and was trying to give us what we wanted, but was not actually relaxing.

Panama obviously needed more work, and we wondered if Rondo's lack of reaction was just a fluke, so we repeated all the bag work this past Thursday.  Rondo's reaction was definitely not a fluke -- once again, he didn't care one bit.  My trainer even covered his eyes with the bag and he didn't care.  It was incredible.

And then there was Panama.  I had to go to work, but she stayed and worked with him until he finally relaxed (even if it was out of sheer exhaustion from running away from the bag).  It took an hour and 45 minutes to break through that barrier!  The crazy thing is that he was pretty much fine when the bag was on his left side, but he could not handle it on his right side at all.  It would be almost enough to make me question his vision on that side, but when we're riding, it's actually often stuff on the other side of him that causes him to shy.

Anyway, I have more news from Thursday, so stay tuned... but that is best left for a different post!



At June 16, 2012 at 5:31 PM, Blogger TxFarmhouse said...

you have a good point about questioning his vision..seems to me that he might have visual loss on the right side since he could hear it but when you're riding and he sees spooky things on the left, he would be leary. Sometimes, don't you wish they could talk?

At June 17, 2012 at 7:00 AM, Blogger Fantastyk Voyager said...

I would say that Panama's reaction is more typical of my horses. Be proud and thankful for Rondo. He is a real treasure.

At July 5, 2012 at 11:08 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

More comments that Blogger only just notified me about! I am so sorry for the delayed posting and response.

Fantastyk Voyager, Panama's reaction is a bit over the top -- this video was only the beginning. He tends to work himself up into a frenzy -- it's quite ridiculous. I have a post on that upcoming. Anyway, I definitely know most horses are NOT like Rondo -- and I am extremely appreciative, trust me! -- but Panama is definitely on the other extreme!

RiverBend, I have more to tell on the question of his vision... and I definitely think he may have some problems on the right side. Obviously it's nothing major, like flat-out blindness, as it's never caused any serious concern until now, but it's good to know about! I will likely ask the vet to try to verify my suspicions next time he is out, but since there is no evidence of recent trauma, I don't think it warrants a special trip!


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