"Post from the Past"
February 18th, 2008
Yesterday I took Catlow for a walk. We went all the way to where the creek crosses Dry Creek Rd. I figured the mileage to be 4 miles round trip. It was a good walk for me, but it was unnerving for Catlow. She was good for parts of the walk, but there were places (namely the red barn and all the way to the creek and back) where she was very nervous and snorty. She would start doing the horse sneeze thing, and when she was nervous, it was fast and bursty. A couple of times, she actually did the alarm snort, like a deer makes when you startle them in the woods. The very first part of the walk consisted of me basically pulling her. Then once she started getting nervous, she picked up the pace and I had to make sure that she didn’t get too far ahead of me. Pretty much for most of the walk, she was not very cooperative with the lateral flexion. She would do it, but it was really forceful and as soon as she gave to me, she’d whip her head back straight and stiff again. If I tried to get her to keep her head around, she just kept pulling it back till she hit the lead rope, and then flexing and pulling it back again…violently. When I wouldn’t give it back to her, she would get kind of upset and then start circling. Once, she actually tried to pull the rope out of my hands instead of flexing. When she did that, I yanked on the lead rope to ask her to back up. Actually, I had to do that a lot. When I ask her to back up, she does focus on me, but if I let her stand still too long, she starts to get anxious. She did a couple of times, refuse to back up and instead would go from side to side and try to walk forward around me (my back was facing home). I did take Cody past the places where I walked Catlow, and Cody was on edge for some of the time as well, so I guess that I can’t blame it all on Catlow. I wrestled with trying to decide if I should continue her training or give up on her today. After all, I have two other horses that progress easily when worked with, and they both need additional work too. I ultimately decided that I will continue her training, but now that she is getting better inside, I need to take her for more walks. I’ll give her a couple of weeks of walks, and if there has been no discernible improvement, then I’ll have to re-evaluate what I’ll do with her then (give up, or continue). I’d like to be able to ride her alone, but at this point I’m accepting that this might not happen. I think that I need to ride with another horse (hopefully Cody and Doni) so that Catlow is calmer. She might be able to gain confidence doing all these things with another horse, then maybe we can progress to working alone. I rode Chico alone for the first several times, but Cody spent her whole first summer riding with other horses, and they are both doing well, although I’d say Chico is more confident than Cody about being alone. So, the current plan is, keep her going on the walks and practicing all our moves out on the road, and at the same time, I am going to work her up to the saddle on our indoor lessons (this shouldn’t take long, since I have sat on her before). Then, after a few weeks, I’ll begin ponying her under saddle with Cody. Then, depending on how she does, I’ll ride her with Doni on Cody. I’d also like to continue working Chico in this time, as he is getting lonely in the field.
Catlow is getting better about trusting me in the field. I didn’t work with her today; instead I worked Cody and Chico, but I did take Catlow’s blanket off so that she could enjoy the warm air on her skin today. And she did let me put the blanket back on without haltering her later.
Today, I worked both Chico and Cody. First I worked with Chico in the round pen. I let him loose, while I picked up the plastic bag on the stick and walked around nonchalantly waving it. He snorted and ran around the pen. Tango (2 year old filly) and the two weanlings were in the barn, and Tango started snorting and blowing and scaring the babies. They all ran back and forth through the barn and Chico tried to run with them. Every time that he stopped and looked at me, I put the bag down and praised him. Finally, he walked up to me, to sniff the bag. He just needed to get a little spook out. When that was over, he ignored the bag and approached me for a treat. He was nervous about the bag a little bit, but he adjusted to it well. He didn’t like it over his head, but he accepted it by the end. The only thing that really worried him was when I was flapping it up and down on his sides. He did panic and run away. I think he partly didn’t know what I was asking him to do, and once he decided he was to stand there, he did accept it, although he wasn’t super pleased with it. This was his first time with the bag like this, so I thought he took it really well. Then we did some lunging and flexing and yielding the hindquarters. He remembered this all well. Then I tried to teach him to yield the forequarters. This took quite a bit of repetition, but I think that with continued future lessons, he’ll catch on quickly. It was all brand new to him and he wasn’t sure what I was asking. We’ll continue to work on this, because I think he will be the one to make the connection under saddle.
I worked with Cody next. First, I trimmed her feet up a bit. Her right foot was more upright than her left, so I took heel off of both front hooves, but a bit more off the right. The right front is still just a bit more upright. The left hoof had a longer toe, so I just rasped the tip of the toe off (didn’t make it shallower, just shorter). Her back hooves appeared to be too long in the toe and low at the heels, so I just rasped the toes shorter so that it’d be easier for the hoof to break over. I rasped until the hoof wall surrounding the white line was the same width on the toes as it naturally was on the side (it was thicker to begin with at the toe).
In the round pen, I did the same order of events as with Chico. Cody ran around a bit at first with the introduction of the plastic bag, but very quickly, she was stopping and staring at me to figure out what I was doing. When approached with the bag, she smelled it, and didn’t flinch at all when I touch her withers with it. All in all, Cody was not at all afraid of the bag. She was even fine with me sliding it over her head. The flapping it on her side did bother her at first, but she only flinched and made to move off, but I bumped her nose and told her to stand and she got over it really quickly, and then just stood there looking at me. I flexed with Cody, but she is really bad at it. Always has been. She’s actually pretty good when I’m out riding, but if we are just standing around and I ask her to flex, she is really heavy. I have to pull her around, and bump on the rope to get her to touch her side. She doesn’t seem to get better with repetition; she gets worse. It’s not the same thing as with Catlow, where she shuts down. Instead, I think that Cody is just testing me, and being a bit lazy. I’ll have to try getting her to really move her feet, then asking her. Maybe if I use the dressage whip, she’ll give better. I think that I should try to teach her to bow or lay down. She’s pretty comfortable with herself, so I think that she’d do it once she understood what I was asking. She remembered the yielding the hinds well, but teaching the yielding the fores was completely a new thing. She wanted to walk forward at first, and I had to really get after her, bumping the rope to prevent her from walking forward, and I had to hustle my feet to keep at her head. She wasn’t getting the girth pressure, as the cue to step across, but I think it’s because I was rushing it. I need to start from the very bottom with this step, since Cody has not done it before. We will continue more with the next lesson.
After that, I lunged her and used the plastic bag to ask her to move. Wow, did I have a breakthrough! She has always been really lethargic about cantering on the lunge line; in fact, in lessons, Katie was having me just try to get a few canter strides out of her before stopping her so I’d catch her before she stopped on her own. Using the plastic bag, she took right off into the canter, and I even had her on a fairly short rope (she wasn’t at the edge of the round pen). I was able to get her to canter in both directions. I didn’t push it too much because I want didn’t want to tire her too much (she was puffing and worked up a sweat). A couple of times, she’d face me as asked, but when I asked her to go back out, she’d just stand there and I had to really get after her. Over all, she was really hustling. She was also being a bit disrespectful, as a couple of times when I asked her to go out, she’d hump her back and kick out, and start bucking. I didn’t get upset about it because this was really the first time she’s been worked since she colicked in October. She was just testing me, and making sure that I knew that she was going, but she didn’t like it. She quit trying to kick out after she got tired. Then I bridled her, and we went off down the road for a trail ride. She did the same as always, although she was a little uncertain in some areas (same ones that got Catlow worried). I rode bareback, so after our 4 mile ride, I was pretty tired.