Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some firsts for the wild ones

Today was a day of firsts for Griffin and Kachina. I didn't have a babysitter this morning, but my mom was willing to bring Wren over to the farm and sit with her while I did stuff with the horses in the afternoon. I trimmed Chico first. Then I caught Kachina. It was easy to catch her since I've been getting all my horses accustomed to treats lately. This comes after a frustrating day when it took me a while to catch Kachina even though she was closed into the smaller paddock area. I finally had to shut her into the 24 ft by 24 ft mustang pen in the back of the barn and "mini-roundpen" her until she started to face up instead of avoid me. She was terrible. And all I wanted to do that day was put fly spray on her! And she's not afraid of the fly spray...once I start I think she is happy about it having figured out it gets rid of flies. So today, I caught her easily as she was already following me looking for a treat.

Then....

I led her out of the pasture gate!!!! I've never taken either of the wild ones out of the gate before! They weren't ready before, and then, as you know, I was pregnant so not about to handle wild mustangs who were sure to spook at things once they were out of the familiarity of their pen. But an amazing thing happened while I left them alone these last couple years. They've both grown up (mentally and physically) and relaxed into their stable herd environment. In the little interactions I have with them every day, they've learned to trust me...and I hardly did a thing! And now that the round pen is up, I am so itching to work with them. To get them to that round pen right now I have to lead them up to it outside the pasture. So, I led Kachina out the gate. She hesitated at the gate, having stood at it, but never crossed through it, but then, she stepped right though. She was alert, but really, she was a lot better than I expected. I even convinced her to step her front feet onto the rubber pad I have down in front of the hitching post for trimming hooves. She did just about jump out of her skin when Griffin suddenly impatiently pawed the panels though. Then I led her up to the round pen. She was looking all over, but she followed me and went right through the round pen gate with no problem. I left her there to get used to it. My mom reported that she rolled in the sand, then followed my mom around as she walked around the outside of the pen.

I went back down to the barn area and this time caught Griffin. Griffin so wants to be messed with now that he's more used to it with his twice a day handling with the treat reward. He pretty much met me at the gate, and earlier in the day, I actually caught him way out in the pasture for the first time and led him down to the barn. Previously, I'd been able to approach him and rub him out in the pasture, but not always, and definitely not if I was holding a halter and leadrope! So this is a big difference! After I caught him, I took his fly mask off. Griffin really is a non-spooky secure horse. The loud obnoxious velcro ripping apart has never worried him (it drives Kachina crazy).

Then....

I tied him up to a sturdy post dug deep in the ground. I've never tied him before. I've never had a need to. Today, I decided he needed to learn to tie because I foresee taking him out and I want him to know to really give to the rope, and I also would like to perhaps start trimming him outside the mustang pen area. I always trim Kachina and Griffin in the mustang pen because they are comfortable there, but all the others get trimmed tied to the hitching post. So, there Griffin stood tied, and I walked away and left the pen so he could figure it out. I knew he would try to pull back to test it, and he did. He pulled back HARD, and then just stood there hanging on the halter for about 20 seconds. Then, he slowly leaned forward and took his weight off the halter and stood upright. He thought for a little bit, then started walking back and forth, then he set back again HARD! But everything held. I didn't have any metal hardware on the rope to break. Then he stood back up and stood quietly at the post...no more weaving and no more pulling!
My mom took all these pictures, and they are a little fuzzy because I think Wren put some fingerprints on the lens.

Of course, Griffin has been prepared for this. He knows how to give to the leadrope with flexing, leading and dropping his head to pressure on it. I've also been loosely wrapping the rope around a post when I trim him, but I'd not tied him tight. So, I think after another lesson or two with tying, he'll get that there is no point in pulling back. Kachina is not at all ready to be tied. She is a flighty spooky horse and I don't think she is comfortable enough yet to be restricted like that...she'd blow and I worry she'd hurt herself.

After Griffin's tying lesson, I led him out through the gate. He too stopped at the gate and was like, really? I get to go out? They always follow whatever horse I'm leading out the gate right to it, then stop when I shut the gate in their face...so this was new and he came out readily once he realized I meant it. Griffin stepped on the rubber trimming pad with no problem. He startled a bit whenever my mom stood up from her seat over at the picnic table (he is still very leary of other people) but I lead him around the yard and he did very well. He even dropped his head to eat some grass. I didn't do any more with him than that. I lead him back into the pasture and turned him loose without his fly mask for overnight. I am still concerned about working him with that cloudy eye. The lesion part is definitely getting smaller, but I feel like the cloudiness is becoming more opaque right under the lesion. Once he's healed, even if he does have scar tissue where the lesion was, I don't think it will affect his vision that much because it is in the lower rear portion of his eye. It will cause a minor fuzzy spot to his rear, but that's it.

Then I went up to where Kachina was patiently waiting in the round pen and began working with her. My little desert mustang moved easily through the boggy sand, although she definitely worked up a sweat. I round penned her loose and she came in nicely turning to the inside even with the increased space (compared to "mini-roundpenning" in her 24ft square pen. She got a bit hyped up at first with my "chasing" her, but quickly, she decided to come in and be haltered. I didn't halter her right away though. I spent some time swinging the halter around her since that seems to be one of her excuses to not let me catch her in the pasture. At first she ran but soon she stood and let me rub her all over with the leadrope. Then we did some desensitizing with tossing the rope all over her body and slapping the ground. She was flawless. Now, don't make fun of my outfit in these pictures. We had to buy these green overalls to wear when we are working with large animals at the vet school. I've discovered how easy they are to pull on over my shorts and tank top so that I stay protected when I am trimming hooves...so this summer they have been my hoof trimming outfit.

She learned these lessons well from the first summer she was with me. Then I lunged her attached to the lead line. She didn't quite understand and I had a hard time convincing her to leave at first, but she quickly realized what I was doing and was agreeable.


She remembered things well, so I decided to bring out a new thing to introduce her to. I started tossing a thin light-weight saddle blanket over her back. She was tense and flinching at first, but with repetition, she relaxed a bit and accepted it. When I moved to the other side, she just flipped out. Eventually she stopped moving and freaking out and I was able to toss it over her back repetitively on the other side. Then I went back to the first side. She stood accepting it for a bit, even appearing to no longer care about it, then suddenly she exploded and freaked out about that side...wierd horse. But I calmly kept at it and she stood still again finally, and then was good again for moving back to the other side. I left her lesson at that. She was glad to follow me back down to the pasture.

I had fun with them, and I'm so excited to do things with them. I want to start leading them out on the trails, and maybe I can pony them along soon. But school starts up in a week and a half. I wish we'd gotten the round pen up at the beginning of the summer. But really, I just started riding a lot this last month. The timing is what it is.

1 comment:

Kate said...

That does sound like a really great day - nice that the round pen's in operation!