Alright so I only have two days to blog about, but I miss blogging daily and just couldn't help myself, haha. So, here it is. I've only been working with Twist the past two days, everyone else is pretty much on hold as I study for my exams next weekend. So lucky Twist, he gets the blog pretty much to himself this next week-and-a-bit.
20-something degrees, yay! I again soft-tied Twist to the post to tack him up, and except for a couple of moments where he tensed, he was actually pretty quiet - so much so that I am hoping by next week I can tack him ground-tied. We played our 7 games as he wore his saddle and he did well - very focused with some reactiveness, but calming quickly. At first, he wouldn't allow me at his side near the stirrup, so we had to work on some approach and treat (complete with rubbing!) until he'd allow me by his side. You know The Song that Never Ends? Yea, that's Twist, particularly on his left side. Except his chorus is: this is the turn-on-the-forehand that never ends...he just keeps going, and going, and going... So lots of approach and retreat, lol. Eventually he allowed me at his side and even allowed me up in the saddle - some tense moments but for the most part no spook. At one point I was hanging over the edge of his saddle, just desensitizing him to being in the stirrup without actually swinging my leg over, when this huge wind blew up. So there I am, perched over this explosive horse, eyes widened and waiting for him to explode. Luckily for me, he didn't and we finished the session with him comfortable enough with me sitting in the saddle and bumming around up there (shifting weight, rubbing my legs against his sides, etc) to lower his head, half-close his eyes, and cock a hind leg.
Can I still keep calling him Mustachio if his namesake is disappearing with the rest of his winter coat? Anyways, see, I have this problem. With his name, that is. I mean, (the original owner who registered him) naming a horse Hard Twist? Why don't you just name him Grated Coconut, or something. Y'know, go full out. Might as well, right? Just kidding of course, haha - I actually love his name but can't help joking about it a little, particularly given his reactiveness ;) So today I groomed and tacked him up as usual. Pretty spooky playing his games, but he still did well and we did a lot of circling with changes in direction and such to get him focused. Next, some approach and retreat again until he'd allow me at his side....and then some mount-up. Now this is where Twist lived up to his name. He twists when he is reactive under-saddle. Hard...and whaddaya know, fast too! I cannot recall exactly what spooked him - he was doing very well at first! Next thing I know he's bucking and I'm looking down at the metal bin (the one I told the owner, just yesterday, wasn't interfering with our work and so did not have to be removed)...wondering which way I will land on it. That's when he started spinning. Did I mention I had not yet put my other foot in the stirrup? Well I hadn't. He started spinning to his left - hard, while bucking. Then he moved on to just straight bucks, and finally, rearing (luckily for me, not over backwards). At first, I tried and tried to just get his head up. But 1,000lbs really is no match for my little arm. So that head stayed down. Finally after I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to get him to stop bucking (and hey, look at that - I was still on!), I moved on to using my voice to get him to relax. Don't underestimate your voice! I cannot count how many times I have used my voice to see a dramatic effect in the horse. It worked this time as well. In between leaning back and holding on to the horn for dear life, I talked to him. Yes, talked. "Relax, easy boy..." etc etc. I even reached down and rubbed his neck a little. Don't ask me how, in between bucks, I don't know either. I just remember reaching down and rubbing his neck. Within moments he was standing still. Full of tension, but a definite improvement on bucking. Hell did I want to get off! But I knew that if I got off right then, with him ticking down to another explosion, I'd likely end up with a dismount less voluntary than I had hoped for. So I voted for staying on the horse. I also realised that if I got off that horse at that point, I wasn't getting on again during that session! I desperately wanted to end on a good note: doing so meant staying on until he was relaxed. So, legs shaking from the effort of staying on, I bent down and tied my leadrope onto his halter to fashion a set of reins (I had never meant to 'ride' him so only had the rope halter on... the plan had only been to swing my leg over then dismount - further desensitization). Then we sat. When I finally felt he was relaxed enough, I asked him to do some turns on the hind and to bend his neck towards my knee, which he did well enough and will little reactivity. Finally we called it a day and unsaddled. But what a day! As I've mentioned before, it is not necessary for a horse to buck on a first ride. It's not assumed that it will happen, it's not a given...or it shouldn't be. If all the prep is done correctly, your typical young horse should not feel like it has to buck on its first ride. So far, this is the first horse I've started that has really bucked on a first ride, and for good reason. He's reactive and very fearful. I am pushing him a bit, a) because we're on a bit of a timeline, and b) because I feel he needs to be pushed passed some thresholds (reasonably, and done the right way) so as to further earn his trust. So far, it's working. Bit of a process though! Today was a huge threshold for Twist to cross though and he did well, ending on a good note and relaxed.
Upcoming June horses:
-So I've got Twist for another 30 days in addition to the 30 I've already put on (well, almost). His owner insists I take as long as it takes, until I feel comfortable he can get on Twist no problemo.
-A 2yo ArabxWelsh pony mare - another half-wild horse Twist's owner would like me to work with. General desensitizing (to people, tack, etc) and maybe a little under-saddle (walk, bareback maybe? We'll see what she can handle physically).
-An 8-9yo registered Paint gelding owned by Twist's owner's neighbours. He's seen me working, likes what he's seen, and so asked me to work with Sunny. This horse has been ridden, but not for a number of years (4-5), and the last time he was under-saddle, he bucked his rider off. He's originally the product of a PMU farm and is a fantastic-looking horse. Definitely reactive and needs some groundwork, but hopefully turns out to be a good horse to work with.
-A 5yo Dutch WBxQH mare, Formiss (aka Missy). I put roughly 60 days on her last year (her journal is buried in this blog) and will do the same this year before selling her for her owner. Her sire is the late Dutch WB holland import Formaat and she has his gorgeous movement, including a fabulous natural extended trot! She's palomino too, with some nice chrome ;P A fabulous mind with the potential to match.
My limit is four this month!