Saturday, January 27, 2007

Horsekeeping 101

Ok, so it's been 2 months with George. How is it going, you ask? Have we bonded with a sensual woman/horse relationship as one would see in those Practical Horseman Magazine? Are we schooling flying changes, extended trot, and piaffe well on our way to USDF competitions?


Not really.

It hasn't been all bad, of course, but I am learning George slowly. Slower than I had hoped, I guess. In our defense, let's just say that buying a horse at the onset of winter in the Midwest is probably not the best timing as far as really being able to spend time with and get-to-know each other. It is either freezing, raining, snowing, or all three at the same time. Oh ya, and dark. Ok, I will stop complaining. George is a rather tough nut to crack, I am finding. We are making big progress; however, he is not a horse that gives freely. I am having to work for every little progression. In the long run, it will be good for us. Really good. I must remember that when I get frustrated and feel alone in doing it. What is the problem, you ask? Hmmmm...let's make a list:

1) George was, with his former owner, allowed to be mouthy. No, he doesn't let loose a string of obscenities or backtalk! Well then again, maybe that's what it is. He just always needs to have something in his it my jacket, the leadrope, the brush, whatever is handy for him to grab. It makes him very nippy, which makes grooming and doing things with him quite difficult at times. At one point, he grabbed the boob of a woman at the barn who stopped to pet him. Ouch. Although I did not expect to have to groom my horse with a crop in-hand, it has come to that at times.

2) George refuses to bend. I am working with a trainer (the Trainer from Chicago! - see previous post) who agrees I am going to have to work for every inch I get from him. I'll admit, I was riding some pretty sweet horses at my old barn where I took lessons. Sweet in the sense that they were trained 2nd or 3rd level and knew to listen to my leg even when it wasn't the most educated or experienced leg. George's reaction, for the most part, is "Leg?"..."What leg?". So we turn like a board.

3) George is a pansy. He hates mud, rain, snow, cold, hard surfaces, work, and probably me. He gets his ass kicked on a regular basis by the other horses he is turned-out with. It is such a disappointment! Unfortunately, the barn where I board (the only one I can afford around here!) has a large pasture with probably 8 other horses. When I drive up in the afternoon, ALL of the other horses are usually eating hay from the big hayrack in the field. Except George. 90% of the time, George is standing off by himself or waiting by the gate for me to let him in. If he tries to venture near the hay, all of the ears go flat and a few kicks fly and he moves away. I had his shoes pulled for the winter on the advice of the previous owner. His feet are very sensitive so I have to ride in Easy Boots...otherwise he is all ouchie. I was going to re-shoe him but winter is over in a month or I'll just keep Easy-Booting him til March. Argh.

I would say these 3 issues are the most challenging/upsetting to me at this point. I would also say they are probably all related as far as his attitude. If he is not getting to eat outside he is unhappy and hungry so he will try to bite me when I am grooming get the picture. The folks at the barn are nice enough; however, they have all had their horses forever and don't seem to understand the struggle I am having. I do not need to be told to "Just get after him" for the biting. I KNOW that and I AM getting after him! I was used to, at the old barn, a bit more comradarie (sp?) and a bit less judgement. However, the old barn where I took lessons for years and felt so comfortable and made so much progress as far as learning horses is I am here at this barn which is very close to home and very affordable. And I am trying to make do. And I am trying to get to know my horse. And I am trying to have fun with all of it even when I am cold and frustrated and grooming my pansy-assed horse while holding a dressage whip to fend off his playful nipping and mouthing.

It's going well.


learninghorses said...

Keep up the patience, it takes time. I remember many emotions my first year of being a horse owner, most of them NOT the elation I expected. But over time things have worked out and we are really happy together. Like you, I had to work for EVERYTHING my horse gave me, but now I look at her and think 'wow, she is amazing'.

Keep your chin up and remember, your virtual barn supports you in this learning process.

walktrotcanter said...

Thank you for the encouragement! I appreciate knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel...I know he is a good horse or I probably would have given up already! The virtual barn is a godsend...what a great idea. Happy trails!

Anonymous said...

Instead of taking a defensive\reactive role to his mouthiness (which often simply encourages mouthy horses)have you considered clicker training? He can't be mouthing you if he has been trained to glue his nose to a target - or the floor on cue...

Don't worry about the bonding - it will come with time and commiserations on the 'judgemental' barn - unfortunately it happens, however taking your own path will have its rewards in the end :)