Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I couldn't decide if I wanted to go to my sister's today - I could just work at home, and then maybe I could work with three horses.  But there have been a few things that have been bugging me, and I figured I sure could use another set of eyes and ideas.

The first thing she suggested was using treats.  He's been tense, watchful, and kinda introverted.  He would be okay with something one day and then we'd have to start over again the next, because he wasn't really okay at all - he was just surviving.

The treats turned his brain back on and got him interested and engaged.  He was seeking a dialog instead of just letting things happen.  I'm totally not against using treats, as long as you're not rewarding bad behavior.  I just haven't had any treats, and I rarely remember to stick some carrots in my pocket.

One of the things, maybe the biggest thing, he's had trouble with is switching eyes.  He didn't like me reaching over him, although he would tolerate it and even look at my hand on the other side, and he couldn't stand still for me to walk behind him.  That was just too damn terrifying.

He's not sure he likes this game at all.

 I just kinda like this picture.

Here he says he just can't stand still and let me walk around his butt.

Oh my gosh, would you look at this!

Good boy.

Wow, buddy!

I did successfully walk behind him from both directions.  He would still have to move, but not until after I'd switched sides, and it wasn't a scoot and bolt, just a turning around to face me.  At the end, he didn't even do that.  We broke it up with some other stuff so it didn't get too intense.

I mentioned to my sister that he wasn't comfortable yet with me being above him, and she insisted I work him from the fence.  This isn't something I do.  It's really uncomfortable!  But it was sure a good thing to do today.

Once he got to where he understood where I wanted him, I'd lean over and give him a treat from the other side.  So he's not hiding away behind half-closed lids and then shocked when he actually sees me on that other side, he's actively searching for my hand.

 Good boy :)

Not sure about this.

Maybe this is okay.

Ooh, food!

Yes, this is about as comfortable as it looks.  Which is not very.

He's cute.  My posture sucks.  But one day I'll be sitting on his back, not behind it.

Check him out!  Interest, not fear.

What a good boy.

I even put my weight on his back.  He thought that was weird, I thought it was uncomfortable.
At no point did I commit myself to the point where I'd fall if he moved.  I had a good hold on that fence the whole time.  Well, except maybe when I draped myself over his back, but then I could just drop to my feet.  Yes, I probably should have been wearing a helmet, but I assure I was not at risk - I don't take those kinds of risks.

When I got home Bella helped me learn that I have a little PTSD from Tonka's accident.  I heard a big metallic bang, and I couldn't see her, so I hauled butt out to the grain bins with a halter & lead in my hand.  I figured I could use it to find a way to MAKE her get up if she was cast.  But what if she had a broken leg?  What if I had to have her put down inside the grain bin?  How would I get her body out?  I was all business and ready to tackle whatever the problem was, but all sorts of thoughts were going through my head.

This is what I found - Bella's tail knotted around some gate hardware, and her shaking like a leaf, pulling on it.
I took the picture while I waited for her to quit pulling.  I had a knife in my pocket but I really didn't want to have to use it.  It only took her a second to give me some slack and then she was free.  I watched her walk away pretty painfully and I was worried.  I forced myself to get a good feel of it, even though it was hurting her and that bothered me.  It might have had some swelling, but she was able to gently clamp it down, which made me feel better. I kept watching her, on and off, for several hours.  She wasn't using her tail at all, even though the other two horses were pretty actively swatting at bugs.  Finally she had to poop, and she lifted it a little. I talked to the vet and she said that even if the tail was damaged enough that she couldn't use it, there's not much you can do.  If she was peeing and pooing on herself enough to cause infection or flystrike it could be amputated, but it's a big dang deal.  I'll give her a pretty hefty dose of bute for a couple doses, then a normal dose for a few days.  I think she'll be alright but I don't think I'll be riding her any time soon.

And I was thinking about riding her, just a little.  She got this award today:
And I really want to work on Level 2!


Lea and her Mustangs said...

What a good day you had. I don't like to work from the fence either. It really seemed to work for you. Wish you could be at the Mustang Club meeting Thursday evening at 6 same place. Rosie is getting ready to foal in the next couple of weeks. She is getting cranky. Take care. Blessings, Lea

Marissa Rose said...

Oh no about bellas tail!

I bet it's just sore for her, and there's nothing else wrong. Like, haven't you ever slammed a hand in a car door? Especially right after it happens, there's nothing physically wrong but you will absolutely avoid using that hand for anything!

Anonymous said...

Very good day with Joseph. I've also had good luck using treats with withdrawn/shy horses, and also to help horses with fear issues using clicker training. Other than that I don't use them at all, which makes them more powerful when I do. Love all your photos - he's just the sweetest horse and seems to be trying very hard for you even when he's worried.

Poor Bella! Makes you wonder how they manage to do these things . . . Hope the tail feels better soon.

Cindy D. said...

Okay, so the first thing I feel the need to comment on is the fact that you have the word "patience" carved into the side of your round pen. That is a pretty darn good idea, my pen is metal but I could make a few signs to go up there to help me remember. Do you have any other words up there?

I must confess as I looked at the pictures of you working with Joseph, I never once thought, "Oh that is so dangerous" It appeared to me in every picture that if he bolted, you had a way out that did not include getting bucked off or trampled. You are quite the acrobat!

Poor Bella, hopefully it is just sore and will be ok after a little time. The fact that she can move it is a good sign.

PTSD? Perhaps, but a seriously, a less aware person may not have even checked out the noise and then where would poor Bella be? I think a little healthy fear is always a good thing, and your experiences with Tonka, and the fact that you shared the whole story with us, has made me also a little more aware. If I hear loud noises in my barn, I always get up and look now.

froglander said...

Great pics! He is such a handsome boy. I remember hanging off the side of the roundpen getting Cody used to me being above him too :) By the time I slipped that leg over and sat on him he was like "oh, hi" and just stood there.

I also remember having a really hard time getting onto his right side in the beginning. Such a hard time for awhile I wondered if his vision was okay. But we finally reached a point where it was okay for me to be on either side (this was walking around front, behind wasn't really an issue). Horses are funny sometimes :)

Andrea -Mustang Saga said...

Lea, I won't be able to make it to the meeting (yet again) but I can't wait to see pictures of Rosie's little long eared foal!

Cindy, It's my sister's round pen - I never got around to stealing her idea (yet). Some of the words are "patience, harmony, breathe, pray, trust." I can't remember them all. I think she just did them freehand with her router.