Rags & Tigger & Elizabeth

Yesterday, I haltered Rags and put him through some groundwork exercises, including walking between poles, then over poles, then turning 360 degrees inside a square, and so on.  Tigger was a bit intrusive, walking right behind Rags sniffing his butt or walking behind/ beside where he could bump Rags with his nose in the flank.  After noticing increasing signs of maybe-jealousy, and slightly less aversion to being touched, I tested this by walking back to Tigger after taking the halter off Rags.  “Are you lonesome?  Do you want to do some work with me too?”  He stood still and his face ‘softened,’ ears more forward.  “Well, here’s the halter…do you want to put it on?”  The tiniest drop of the nose toward the halter.  I held it open for him and he put his nose in.  Without  the lead rope even over his neck, let along around it.  No pulling back at all.  I fastened the halter, talking to him…didn’t have any treats with me, this was pure horse &  human signalling.  Picked up the dangling lead rope and said “OK, then, walk on.”  He walked with me quietly and–judging by ears and eyes–happily.  Walk, whoa, back, walk on, turn right (gee) and left (haw) –he remembers those voice commands.   Walked over a slightly raised pole, walked into the square and rotated around.  No tension in him, just calm cooperation.  I kept it short, praised him, and dared to offer a little petting, which he accepted–stroked his neck, shoulder, and some of his back.  No twitching or jerking.   Then I let him go.

This morning  I went out with the halter and some treats.  He was farther away but started coming toward me before Rags did, confidently; they got to me at about the same time.  I talked to Tigger: “Would you rather be first?”  I offered a treat; he ate it.  I slipped the rope over his head this time, he put his nose into the halter when I held it for him, and I fastened it up.  We did a few more things; I was aiming for calm, relaxed, happy in his body language and expression.   Rags came along but (since Tig is the alpha) didn’t try to bug him.  No flank or butt sniffing.   Tigger got more stroking of his head, neck, shoulder, withers, and body than the day before, then I turned him loose.   Then it was Rags’s turn, and Rags was in a careless-clumsy mode (“I know this stuff, no reason to worry”) but if he stepped on a pole, or hit the higher pole, we did that one again until he didn’t.   Tigger watched us without interfering.  He wants to be first.  Even when it’s being haltered and asked to do stuff, he wants to be first.   He wants my attention and (from observation) he’s watched Rags getting the petting, the hugs, the attention and time-with-human, but…he’s still anxious.  I’ll be sure he gets it, and gets it first, even if I need to give Rags more because of riding.  (Which I’m not doing right now for Reasons.)   Later, he tolerated touch when he wasn’t haltered.

Happy about this.   I had hoped that since he bonded to Rags, and saw Rags getting attention and petting that Rags clearly enjoyed, he’d realize it could be pleasant.

This evening, the air’s dry enough that static electricity was making his tail fan out a lot at the bottom…I didn’t have a camera; it was feeding time, but it was something to see.

16 thoughts on “Rags & Tigger & Elizabeth

  1. It is indeed.

    Did you see Meg Elphick’s Vlogmas post where she gives Hobbit a jumping lesson? Thank heavens Hobbit is an experienced and fit rider! It’s hilarious and scary at the same time, but Hobbit makes it look, if not easy, reasonably doable. I need those stirrup leathers, or I will when I get back to riding.

    1. Yes, I have spent delightful hours lately catching up with Meg Elphick and her ponies. Makes me sort of sad that we moved away from my friends that had horses when I was a youngster. My father was okay with kittens, puppies, ducks, chickens, and even a rabbit but he said “you cannot have a horse!” I think Dad was a frustrated farm boy, they always had cows when he was growing up, he said once that if his mother had not had a milk cow and chickens they would have starved to death in the years before WWII. Mom tells a story about having friends who owned a dairy and Dad getting a male calf that lived in their back yard when they were newly married. As you know, calves don’t stay little enough to sleep on the back porch very long, so eventually he found a home at the ranch of a friend in Roff, OK. But no horses, I am sure my education was neglected. My most memorable experience on a equine was a Shetland pony that didn’t want me to ride him, and over his head I went.

      1. Leslie, some farm people (after tractors came in) didn’t see horses as farm animals, but useless and expensive “toys”. Horses weren’t eaten, in this country; they compete with cows for space and feed, so if they aren’t working horses, they’re an extravagant waste. Farm animals all have a use. Rags is learning to be useful, by learning to carry me on the land, where he and I can check a half mile of fence faster than R- on foot, quieter than R- on the lawn tractor, and so on. When he’s used to it, I’ll be able to ride him out to every wildlife waterer and check those, and the perimeter fence. (Although there are certain limitations to that…if you get a boil or saddle sore or something where you’d be sitting on it in the saddle…)

        Shetland ponies in this country are menaces. A friend had a black pony with a lot of Shetland in him, and all he did was bite and buck. That one’s name was Black Beauty but he wasn’t pretty and he was mean. On the other hand short, so coming off of him wasn’t much worse than just throwing yourself on the ground. I look at the Shetland pony races in England and wonder how on earth they convinced those ponies to run and jump those little bitty jumps instead of just bucking their little riders off. (Occasionally one bucks but usually not.)

    1. Today’s brief work went well, too. Tigger is letting me halter him w/o any “catching” or rope restraint at all.

      Rags…it’s best to get the rope over his neck at least, because he backs away.

  2. In one of the Yorkshire Vet stories, he writes about a farmer who had several really old horses. When asked, he said that they had worked for him for more than twenty years and deserved their retirement.

    1. True…farmers who used horses to farm often loved them and kept them until they died. But if they switched to tractors…then horses as “fun to ride” didn’t make the grade. Probably not true of all farmers, but the distinction between ranchers and farmers was pretty distinct in my ag-heavy part of Texas as I was growing up. Now if one of the adults liked to ride, or race horses, or have a horse to go hunting on (not fox hunting, but to put in a trailer and haul up to someplace where he and some friends had a hunting lease) that was different.

  3. My niece is selling two of her Hanoverians (in the UK). I don’t suppose this comment will publish, as this blog doesn’t like me.

    1. Yay, it did! This blog doesn’t publish a new person’s comment until I see it, and back when I was on FB I might not check here every day to see what was hung up in moderation. They just sit there until I find them.

    2. Hanoverians are not my breed of choice, not at my present age, physical state, or potential usage. Too tall, too broad, eat way too much. It would take a scissors-lift to get me up to one’s back, and another for me to get back down. And most of them are way beyond my means expensive over here. Now if she had a mini-Hanoverian (14 – 14.2 by the stick) or a Hanoverian/native pony cross at that size, and a magic portal for the transportation, we could have a conversation. I hope she finds a good buyer for them!

  4. Since we are talking ponies, when I was watching Elphick Event Ponies recently, she and other event Vloggers went to Norfolk to visit Lucy (Footluce) who has a young Welsh pony named Bonnie. Of course, I had to find out about Bonnie the pony. I thought of you when watching the videos about training Bonnie. She’s a cute tiny little thing, especially when next to the other horses.

    1. And Bonnie looks so much better than she did six months ago. Tina (Life on the Left Rein) has a very round Shetland named Dinks (nickname, I forget his real name) and watching Dinks go out for a hack while Tina’s riding Banksy makes him look like a very furry dog with hooves (not his head, of course, but the size diff. and from behind.) Apparently, taking Dinks for a walk (and some trot and canter) is a fairly new thing this fall; she’s hoping to work some weight off him. Hard to tell what size he is under all that coat…rough collie-length coat. Malemute-length coat. Today’s Elphick vlog has a hilarious set of contests between Meg and her mother, and her mother pulls in a substitute for one of them.

  5. Good news on Tigger being interested in working with you when he sees Rags getting the attention. Seems like that bodes well for your eventual goal of riding Rags out on the land and bringing Tigger along on a lead.

    1. I have ridden Rags out on the land some, and it’s wonderful. I’ve had a physical “thing” for a couple of weeks that kept me out of the saddle, but that part is working. Bringing Tigger along…less sure than I was that this is a good idea. I read a couple of posts on how to pony another horse safely in the open, and…it’s gonna be a long process. Works best, apparently, if the pony horse (the ridden one) is both stronger (a little bigger and heavier) and dominant to the led horse, at least at first…as the led horse learned how to follow and the pony horse learns how to, if necessary, keep the led horse in line. I had thought because Tig is the dominant, and the dominant male horse “drives” other horses, which Tig does, it would work out that Tig would automatically follow…but not necessarily. Watching someone trying to get a spicy young stud to come quietly along…makes me think I could have problems, and that person was experienced and so was the pony horse. Tig isn’t a stallion, but spicy definitely is his nature. So…um. Not trying that yet, until Rags is considerably more experienced in just being the ridden horse in new areas.

      But riding him out has been great fun.

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