June 15, 2006 - Day 26
What a wonderful morning! I managed to get up early and get my butt out of bed to go play with my horse. I haltered him and asked him to come in the stall with me, since it was a little nippy and breezy. He wasn't too sure about it but decided to go ahead and come in. He wanted to be facing the door just in case. Coda came up outside and that was especially distracting, but Tonka seemed comfortable once I showed him that I wouldn't let Coda come in and bully him. I groomed him and put some braids in his hair with neat rubbler bands specifically colored to match a sorrel horse. (Thanks for letting me use them, Laura.) Looks pretty good. He got tired of the braiding so I only got about half of his mane done. It was taking a while and I got tired of it too, so I took pity on us both and quit.
Then we worked on "roping" his back feet. He wasn't too sure about it, but he did pretty well. I put a 12 foot soft lead rope around his back leg, with both loose ends in my hand, so that it wasn't a completed small loop that could tighten on his foot. I wiggled it around then worked it down to his pastern. Pull forward, wait for hoof to give, release. Eventually pulled and asked him to set it where I wanted it, forward of where it had been. I couldn't really pull to the side or backward since I was holding the lead rope. Repeated for the other side. Worked on front feet with the rope. Picked up front feet and pulled them forward to rest on my knee as I would if I were trimming.
We moved on to another exercise with the rope. I wrapped the rope around his girth, tightened it and waited for him to quit moving, released. He didn't really do much moving, just kind of fidgeting and creeping forward. But we waited until he stopped to release. Wiggled rope around to where the back cinch would go. Wiggle wiggle wiggle. Tightened it. Moved to the flank. That's where they put the strap to make a horse buck. I tightened it slightly but mainly pulled toward me, with the goal that he would move his flank toward me, giving to the pressure. It took a LONG time. And yes, he did buck a little. But I kept the pressure on and kept hold of his lead so he couldn't end the lesson on his own. I was giving when he'd stop, then asking again. So mainly teaching him to stand for it. When he got that down pretty well I asked for the movement toward me again. I had to put my hand up to his neck and keep him from moving his front end toward me before he realized that he was supposed to be moving his flank toward me. It is a lot like turning his butt to me, which I've made clear isn't okay, and it's a very uncomfortable sensation, so I understand why it would be hard for him. He did it maybe 2-3 times on each side and each time I stepped completely away from his body and released the rope on his flank. He sighed and licked and chewed. Good boy.
Then I picked up his back feet with my hands. Carefully, very carefully. Keeping the lead rope loose enough to not be asking him to move around toward me with his head, but tight enough that if he got scared he couldn't pivot that hind end toward me and kick me. Eventually got his leg stretched out behind him and over my knee. Wow. Then the other one. Very carefully and gently, keeping in mind that this is a LOT to ask and I need to be prepared to immediately give him a break if it was too much for him. He was dozing. I went and got the hoof pick, and I picked out his back hooves! What a good boy! He has very nice hind feet, by they way. I did the fronts too.
Then I just stood with my Tonka, my good friend. He was dozing off. Coda was lying down, nickering and twitching a little in his sleep, with Soxy standing over him taking a nap. I rubbed him in small circles with my fingers all together, like a mama loving on her baby or a buddy giving a nice wither rub. Then I just rested my hands, and pretended to doze with him. It was so relaxing, standing in the mild breeze with the sun shining on us, and my horse falling asleep under my hands. Beautiful. I suddenly found myself with my hand on his withers, my eyes closed and tearful, my head bowed, in an attitude of prayer. Now, I am absolutely not a "religious" person. Religion turns me off. I found myself saying, praying I suppose, with tears in my eyes,
"Thank you. To whoever cares to hear it, thank you for this horse."