Well, I’m back! I’ve been back for a while, about three weeks. However huge life changes never seem to come at convenient times and I’ve been crazy busy. We won’t go into all these said life changes, but here are the important ones to Bear, and a recap of what we were up to the first week that I got back (first week of August).
I moved! Not far, just else where. The exciting thing is that I will be able to have Bear here with me. We’ll have a barn to use (although I’m afraid he might not think much of stall life!) and an arena and we are just one mile from some of the best trails in the area! So the move will be even more exciting when I actually get Bear here, but for now he’s eating up the summer grass with the old mare, and loving life.
My schedule is weird right now, and it seems like I’m being pulled in all directions. This is part of why I haven’t moved him up here. I need a regular life in order to commit to coming home to feed twice a day, plus find time to clean and exercise the crazy boy. I realize how spoiled I’ve been. The other part is that I’ve been brining him back into working mode very slowly and strategically. It makes way more sense to start over with the familiar and expand from there then it does to move him to a new location where he is going to be nervous, lock him up in a stall for most of the day, and then expect him to act like a well behaved horse after a full 3 months off! So I avoided the urge to hop on him the very first day and take him to a show a week later… and its all paid off.
This is what we’ve been doing (mostly the same as what we did last fall, but just in brief overview format).
First day, I went out and cleaned him up and loved on him, and remembered why I love working with this horse so much: he is genuinely more interested in hanging out with me than doing just about anything else! Haltered him up, and hopped on the old mare to pony him around the pasture. Probably about 20 minutes of walking. Reminding him its not ok to chew on: the saddle, my leg, the old mare, the old mare’s tail, my reins, his reins, the lead rope, or pretty much ANYTHING else! Silly boy has to put everything in his mouth. The plus side is that he hardly ever spooks at things because he makes a bee-line for them to check it out with his lips or teeth! He constantly steals stuff from the grooming kit if I turn my back. Naughty, but he makes me laugh.
Second day, started out by setting up some new logs in the pasture. Newly cut branches mean new trail obstacles for me! Bear of course wants to help, and follows me all around to see what I’m doing, and inevitably puts himself in the exact spot I’ve decided I want the log. Such a pest. It gets even cuter when he starts mirroring me! I was pushing a log forward with my foot, but having a hard time because it was uneven and didn’t roll right. So after two or three attempts of pushing this log, getting enough momentum to roll it all the way over, Bear suddenly picks up his foot and puts it right on top of the log next to my foot, like he's saying “Is this what we’re doing today mom?” Such a silly boy. We continued with the plan of ponying him off the mare, but going over tons of logs and poles patterned across the pasture, probably worked about a half an hour.
Third day, tacked up both horses, and ponied him around the pasture for a quick warm up to see how he was listening, then took them out on the back roads. Just down the road a little ways and back, really only a half hour, but it was good to get them both off the property for the first time in ages.
That pretty much does it for week one. Walking. Why? Couple reasons:
He got his feet done that week, so I didn’t want to do much work before they were done because they should have been done before I left, so by the time I got back his toes were long. Then we waited a couple days after he was trimmed before heading out again, but still at a walk.
Also, I’m trying to make his retraining and reconditioning process really easy and positive. So we are doing interesting things that he already knows, so he is set up for success. He loves when I come out to play with him, and I want to keep it that way.
The biggest reason is that I’m being very careful of his physical condition. He’s young, with young tendons, joints, and such. Lots and LOTS of walking for long periods of time is going to strengthen all those things. If I just concentrate on developing his muscles first, he’s going to hurt himself. He had that stifle issue back in January, and the one word of warning was that these injuries can reoccur when a horse is out of condition. So for the first couple of weeks we’ve taken he’s reconditioning process in a slow, methodical and almost rehab-like manner. Better safe than sorry with a young horse, especially one you want to have sound still at 20! I figured it took me 4-5 months to get on his back when I was first training him, so its not going to happen in a few days after three months off.
He’s been very good, just silly. He’s filled out a ton this summer, and doesn’t look like the gangly youngster anymore! He looks like a real horse. He lost his next set of baby teeth, right on schedule at three and a half years! So happy "half" birthday Bear, he acts like such a mature adult that sometimes its hard to remember that he’s just a baby still. (Although week two brought such obnoxious baby behavior that I thought we were dealing with a two year old again! Nothing serious, but he did uncinch the old mare and chew up the end of the latigo while I had my back turned. He picked up the huge gallon jug of liniment that I was using to bath the old mare, and carried it away by the lid, which of course popped of after three of four good shakes, thus pouring half the bottle out before I ran over the deal with the situation. NOTE: child proof lid, does not mean horse proof! He has untied himself, taken my gloves out of my back pocket, carried away my grooming tools, and had his own reins/lead rope in his mouth more times than I can count! Cute little personality quirks quickly turned into a disaster of a horse the second week, so we’ve set about nipping this in the butt and now have higher expectations. This behavior would never be allowed if it were the old mare, or a horse I was retraining. If I picture a sale horse behaving like this in front of potential buyers, I'd picture said buyers running away from the monster as fast as they politely could! He certainly had manners when I bought him! Somehow he’s wrapped me around his little hoof. Is it because he’s my first baby, and I'm babying him? Or is it because I think of him as my forever horse, so I think I can decide what to put up with? Either way, it’s stopping right now. He oozes with personality, and he’ll have plenty of personality left over even when he starts acting like a gentleman again.
So here’s the official restart of the blog: continuing the goal to train a happy, healthy, well-behaved horse!