Hooves, Roundpens, and Saddles
It seems like forever since my last update, but that’s not because Zeke and I haven’t been busy working together! In fact, we’ve accomplished quite a bit in the last 9 days or so, despite bad weather, good weather, and lots of work.
All the short days (as in, days I had to work and only had a short time to spend with Zeke) were filled with grooming. Unfortunately, Zeke has been moved down to the lonely pen of shame – during last week’s rain storm, when everyone was standing nicely under the roof in their own pen, Zeke used the down time to chew his closest neighbors’ tails! So now he has to be in a pen with at least one pen between him and the next horse, so his barbering habits can’t be indulged!
He greets me at the gate each time I go in, and stands quietly for his halter to be tied on. He did have one more tie up session with Cindy, though – the day he moved to his new pen, Cindy went in to catch him and move him, and he waited until she had the halter around his nose to run off. Apparently he partied around the stall then, daring Cindy to get him, which of course is a bad move to make – Cindy doesn’t lose at horse games! So once he was caught, he had to stand tied for a time to think about things. It’s funny how bonded these mustangs get to people – the one Cindy is working with is quiet with her but still suspicious of others, and Zeke is the same way. Luckily they get over all that eventually.
So anyhow, we progressed to getting 3 of 4 feet handled and picked out by Saturday the 24th. The stickier ones I use a rope to lift, then hold them for a short time. It seemed like progress, until today, when I saw what real progress is!
But I’m getting ahead. Yesterday: Big day for us. For the first time, I walked Zeke all the way over to the roundpen for a real workout, and he walked like a gentleman the whole way! Earlier in the week I had taken him back to his original holding pen to start lunging, and he was doing well with trot but it’s a little small for canter, so it was time to be brave and just go over. When we got there, we had a great workout practicing walk, trot, whoa, and reverse. Zeke is so bright and responsive that when Steve, Cindy’s husband, wandered over to snap these pictures of us on his phone, he was surprised that it was his first time lunging in the pen!
After lunging I turned Zeke loose in the pen for a reward for good behavior. Then I walked back in, hooked up his leadrope for our walk back…and at that moment one of the boarder horses was turned loose in the big pasture next to the roundpen. Now if you’ve been following our story you remember that I had never, until this day, successfully led Zeke freely around the ranch. He’s pulled free and run from me whenever he had the opportunity, but since then we’ve done a lot of tying, and a lot of leading work in a controlled environment. But still, watching Sprout running and bucking next door made me stop and worry a bit about how I would get Zeke home. Seeing another horse run free next to him would be a great way to have him get loose from me again, which I just don’t want!
But I decided that life was always going to go on around us, and I needed to suck it up and deal. As Cindy keeps saying to me, you won’t know how he’ll be until you do it. So I opened the roundpen and walked Zeke out. And…Sprout came FLYING up to our side of the pasture, sliding to a stop and spraying dirt on our feet, then running away again. Thanks so much, Sprout. And while I stood there shaking, waiting for Zeke to run off, he stood there looking at me like, “Why did we stop here? Let’s go home.” He was an absolute gentleman the entire time, and never tried to leave. So we went back to the large pen where I tied him up, the normal end to our working day!
I was quite satisfied with our progress, and Cindy, who had seen the whole incident, was pleased too. Then she suggested that today would be a great day to hobble train Zeke, so that I could start handling his feet for real, and not being so ‘baby’ about it. I have a tendency to not ask enough of a horse, keeping him in a remedial class when he’s ready to move on. But horses sense this, of course, and only give the lowest expected effort. Hobble training Zeke would have a big benefit: It would teach him, once and for all, that allowing us to take his feet away would not kill him, and he could tolerate it. This would make cleaning and eventually trimming his hooves easier; it also makes a horse safer. Should Zeke ever encounter wire or another obstacle that tangles his legs, his experience with hobbles would teach him to wait quietly for help, not panic and hurt himself.
So, Cindy put the hobbles on him while I held him. I am not fast or confident with them, so I chickened out and asked her to put them on for that very first time! Then I turned him loose.
He was not pleased. This training always looks worse than it is; basically the horse has to fight it out with himself until he decides it’s not getting him anywhere, and gives up.
In no time at all, Mr. Smartypants there had it figured out. He stopped fighting, and figured out how to hop around so he could still go about his business!
All that was yesterday. Today, the payoff. I walked in to Zeke’s stall, tied him up and groomed him, and easily picked out all 4 of his feet. It was that simple, he didn’t even argue about it. That basically showed me that in the previous days, where I had to use a rope to pick up his feet and only held them a short time, he was simply living up to my low standards. Cindy’s right – I need to expect more. He’s smart enough!
After grooming, I grabbed a couple things from the barn to dress him in, and took him for a walk (inside his pen only – after all, it was his very first time to wear this get-up!)
I’m very proud of the boy, and our progress this week!