Two Steps Forward and Three Steps Back
Despite the horrid weather this week (it even snowed on Wednesday), I found a little time to work with Zeke each day. Living in the single stall with no horses around him, he seemed genuinely glad to see me when I showed up, and continued to approach me and allow me to pet his body and even his front legs. I haven’t tried the back ones yet, though I can run a rope all around them without it upsetting him. When I wasn’t there, Zeke amused himself with a ball and a traffic cone.
Unfortunately he also chose to dig a giant hole near the front gate each night, leaving me to fill it in in the morning. Where, exactly, does the dirt go that comes out of a hole? I never could find enough soft fluffy dirt to push back in to quite fill it!
Since he was leading well in his pen and was obviously bored with his lonely surroundings, on Thursday Cindy suggested I lead him out of the pen to a new stall a short ways away. It was our first time out in the open, and he did well on that short walk.
We did a little workout in the new stall that afternoon, and on Friday morning, and everything went wonderfully.
And then it was Friday afternoon…Zeke was much happier in this stall, with horses on three sides. He didn’t dig any holes overnight on Thursday, and didn’t seem quite so frantic to see me when I showed up Friday morning. But when I returned in the afternoon, he just plain no longer had any use for me, having made friends with the horses around him! He sucked back a little as I caught him, trying to avoid the lead rope being placed. When he realized it was on he did his ‘frustration move’ – a strike out in front with his left leg. Unfortunately I was standing there, and he grazed my thigh, so we immediately launched into a round of trotting to let him know that was unacceptable!
After we went through our routine of touching and leading, it was time to venture outside again. I was apprehensive because I knew if he wanted to leave I really had no way to stop him – but so far he’d never really wanted to leave my side, so we tried it.
We did great at first, moving up and down the aisle in small circles, as if we were still in the pen. Then we took a walk around all the pens, and that’s where the trouble began! We got 3/4 of the way around, then Zeke decided he was done. I said let’s go, he said let’s not – then he turned and got his head away from me in that way you DON’T want, and then he was gone.
So I spent some time following him around, actually getting hold of his rope once but being forced to let go again as he blazed by. Cindy and I finally trapped him in another stall, where he received a lesson from Cindy in turning towards the person at the end of the rope again. When we all walked back to his stall, Cindy, Vickie, and I made a ‘chute’ in the aisleway, so we could practice walking out there without letting him get too far away. He did try to take his head away a couple times, but got pulled back. It was a good lesson for both of us, since there is no way to really see what your horse will do in a challenging situation until you’re in a challenging situation!
This morning I thought I’d just run by and say hello before work. When I entered the pen to pet him, he disappeared to the back. He has decided he does not need me at all now! So we worked in a circle for a half hour, going back to the simple idea of ‘turn and face me’. When he accomplished that, I went off to work. So we are starting now at the beginning, the place he should have been the day he came in! But since I was his one and only BFF then, we skipped all that process in the early days. I guess you can’t really completely skip steps if you want a trained horse!