Rags discovered this morning that he was expected to be caught, saddled, bridled, and made to DO THINGS. He was ready to be unwilling for all the above, but he is (in his persona as Hay Bandit and Pellet Thief) strongly food motivated, and the foods he likes better than hay or pellets…come in packages labeled Horse Treats, Horse Cookies, and so on. And he has, in the past, achieved a horse cookie or two by coming when called, or putting his head into the halter rather than having it wrestled on while he dipped and bobbed and threw up his head. So the catching part went very smoothly.
The part about going into the barn on the lead, while the gate shut behind him (shutting Tigger out–Tigger has been known to show his concern for the victim of human interventions by nipping Rags’s flank, which makes Rags lurch forward quickly…not a good thing for the human standing there trying to get a bit in Rags’s mouth) was a sticking point, but only momentarily, because the taste of the Mrs. Pasture’s Horse Cookie from coming and being haltered was still on his tongue. But he saw the array of Things on the aisle gate (saddle pad, riser pad, saddle…) and was not thrilled.
None the less, after the usual preliminaries (which he doesn’t mind; he doesn’t have any aversion to brushes and only a mild reluctance to standing on three feet while one is manipulated) and some shifting around and not wanting to stand still, the saddle pad, riser pad, and saddle were on his back. This being an English saddle, not western, the girth is entirely separate from the saddle. The girth over my arm led to backing away, but then he had to walk right back up where he’d been. All it takes is patience…I said…doing it again. Hooked up the off side, reached under his belly to bring it through: he stood quietly. But (not unexpectedly or unusually) he really didn’t want me to tighten it. We had a couple more “If you back up, then you have to come forward again” moments (no, I don’t have cross ties, and in time Rags will be standing still to be groomed and tacked up without moving around) but then–one hole at a time–he was girthed up-not riding tight but snug enough for present purposes.
We went through the usual in-hand exercises and commands–he doesn’t yet really “get” GEE and HAW (never mind why I want a saddle horse to know them; I have my reasons), but is expected to know and cooperate with “Walk on,” “Whoa,” and “Back” and do them on voice command or gesture. Not quite there yet but a lot better than he as when he arrived, having been trained by someone who used different voice commands. Today included more “Gee” and “Haw” than I’ve given him before.
Tigger, a breed and type not commonly given any such, learned them in a flash, but then Tigger is smart, just overly hyper. He learns things like that in one short lesson, remembers them long after the most recent lesson, but can also lose every thinking part of his brain if he hears something he thinks is alarming. Yesterday, he decided that the jumping block on its side (which has been in the same place in the horse lot for the last month) turned into a monster when I set his food dish on it…no, no, he could NOT eat his pellets out of the dish, it was sitting on a monster that might attack. He had no problem once the dish was on the ground, a mere four to six inches from the “monster.”
I needed R’s help for the next stage of this reintroduction of work under saddle, and had to go get him. As soon as I was out of the same pen, Rags was head-down nibbling on the leftover breakfast hay…the hay that Tigger had been eating earlier. Hay Bandit to the core. Bandit would’ve been a good name for him. Anyway. I didn’t have time to mount/dismount, even ride a few minutes, because R needed to take M to the dentist fairly shortly, so instead I put on Rags’ bridle (he’s remembered that actually taking the bit with no attempts at evasion leads to a Good Taste in the Mouth), snugged up the girth another hole or so, and R held the lead rope while I did the noisy, quick moving things you do with a young horse to prepare them for having someone on their back. Rock the saddle back and forth sideways, put weight on one stirrup and then the other, slap the seat of the saddle, swing the stirrups around, etc. When a horse hasn’t been ridden in nearly a year and it’s a frosty sort of day (warming, but not yet warm when this went on) it’s a good idea to remind them. Did all the other in-hand things again. I hope R will be back from the city in time for me to catch, groom, and tack up Rags again this afternoon, actually mount him and ride for a few minutes. As he’s plump and soft, it will be very short, only at a walk. We’re predicted a stretch of clear weather, so…I want to ride him every day, and get him back out on the land as soon as possible. It should be quick as he’s not an excitable or difficult type.
I still have (faint but breathing) hopes of getting Tigger under saddle again, if the vet says he’s sound enough (he sure looks sound to me and the farrier!) but he may be limited to work in a smaller fenced area. I need at least three or more months of riding Rags or another horse at least four times a week–and losing another 15 pounds–to be fit enough to ride Tigger even if no other problems show up. With a horse like Tig, you need to be able to ride their least cooperative selves, not the (hopefully) calmer and more cooperative periods. Rags is unlikely to explode even with great provocation–his “shy” is a sudden stop from a walk, and moving his front feet six inches to the side. Tigger if scared bolts, and like my former Arabians he can “be somewhere else” six feet away in any direction and THEN bolt off in any other direction (the others didn’t bolt off afterwards while I was riding them, though they did disappear out from under me and reappear at an inconvenient distance. Tig can and probably will.) Relaxed alertness to the horse, experience with other “hot” or “difficult” horses, quick reflexes, strong core, and excellent balance are key. At my age & present condition, all I have to work with is experience and the relaxed alertness.
I won’t be riding even Rags when alone on the place at this stage. Probably by summer would be safe enough, but I’m very aware of the skills that the concussions took out of my toolkit. Also do not want to put any pressure on health care facilities should something go wrong.
Gotta go lace up the running shoes.
Late addendum: R- didn’t get home in time for me to get on Rags . Tomorrow, which is now many fewer hours away. (It’s almost 1 am.)
5 thoughts on “Ragtime Apollo: Hay Bandit, Pellet Thief, Back in Work.”
Oh this is good news! I hope Rags continues to remember what he is being re/taught.
He’s not as quick to learn as Tigger, but he’s pretty average so I think he will. Gestures have to be really broad for him–he hasn’t caught on yet that a certain gesture toward him means “Back up” which every one of my Arabs or part-Arabs learned in a flash. Tigger knows it. (Back of hand facing horse, two quick “brushing something away” gestures. I’ll bet Tig would back if I just did it with one finger…)
But then Rags isn’t afraid of people, and is willing to hope that you didn’t really mean “Back up” when you said it or gestured at him. He would rather not back up if you’re standing there; he’d rather come closer and sniff to see if you have something edible anywhere on you. (He’ll sniff up and down my legs like a dog…”hmm…she walked through the *good* grass…wonder where that is…and stepped in something that smells wonderful, maybe I should lick her shoe…”) So it requires patient but firm repetition of some commands to get him to understand you *meant* that this time too. Progress has been made.
I’m so glad you’re getting back to the place where you will be riding again; it’s been such a long time. I’m also glad Tigger has recovered completely – or seems to have – from his dreadful accident some years ago.
Months and months of not being able to find a farrier who would come trim their hooves…can’t ride a horse that way. Now if I could only get my new cellphone (required because Sprint merged with T-Mobile, which is cutting off everybody not 5G compatible) to accept the new numbers (including the new farrier’s) that I try to put into it. It keeps asking “what group” and I don’t have my phone directory organized by groups. In CONTACTS I’ve tried to say and it doesn’t like that answer.
Hi – hope everyone is both safe and sane. And happy holidays.
It is good to read you are getting to ride again. I will have to reread about Lady Cecelia again.
Jonathan up here in freezing rain New Hampshire