Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Better Day

I ordered him a fancy show halter with a name plate last week. In cob size. He refused to put his ears forward in the pictures without the tag. I ended up putting the buckle on this side down one more hole, and called that good. His everyday halter is full size and on the tightest holes, and this show halter is cob size and on the biggest holes. I had to buy the horse that's between sizes. But he's oh so handsome!
I was so flustered by the end of Monday that I used an early out to leave work 2 hours early. I was supposed to have a lesson Monday evening. However, Trainer was concerned about the footing because of the rain. That's totally fine! Monday's lesson was going to be teaching him to jump, and I'd like good solid footing for that.

His shoes got reset yesterday, and the farrier made a couple tweaks to the breakover point because Penn has just been clumsy about his front feet and trips on level ground a lot. I held him because he just can't be trusted to stay in the crossties, and you gotta be nice to your farrier. We had a good laugh about Penn. He freaks out over clippers, but doesn't freak out over the grinding wheel that the farrier uses... it makes really loud noises, sparks, and smells because of the sparking. Oy.

I took him out for a hack around the hay fields and decided to just have fun with him. I always liked cantering/galloping Mikey up the grassy lane between the hay field and road and I hadn't tried that with Penn yet. He's so quiet. I asked for trot and canter and he was like, "Ok, I'll lope along like a hunter. Can I stop now?" We had a lovely quiet ride. And he didn't trip over his own feet once on the uneven ground (I'll have to tell farrier!).

He's so quiet that I even took video of him with my cell phone. While cantering. Good baby horse!

I took him back to the barn and decided to mess with the clippers again. I made a plan based off of everyone's suggestions from my last post (thank you!!!) and Trainer's suggestion of closing one of the barn doors and having him learn to cross tie with his butt against the door.

Cross tied! With both cross ties! I felt brave, haha. Pre-clipper training.
First thing I did was my prep work. Close both barn doors. The aisles are 60' long and 12-14' wide. That's a big enough play area, and he can't leave the building. I also left his fuzzy boots on. Gotta protect the legs from themselves. I clipped the chain to his lead rope and put it over his nose. I pulled out the clippers and got them set up halfway down the aisle (conveniently where the plug is!). I just set them down, no turning them on yet.

Second was practice giving to pressure. I asked him to give to the chain, and he immediately lowered his head until his nose was level with his knees. Good boy. I asked him to give again, and lower his head further. He was like, "WTF MAN!" and jerked his head up and thought about backing and rearing, cranked himself for jerking his head up, and then thought better of it and just stopped. I asked for him to give again, and he did- nose even with his knees. I asked to give lower again, and he answered correctly this time with some lick and chew and almost touching his nose to the ground. I had him bring his head back up, then asked him to move directly away from me and then towards me (like 4H showmanship turn on the haunches, but I only wanted a step or two from the shoulder). Repeat all of the previous steps. He became very tuned in to what I wanted. I barely needed any pressure on the chain to ask for any of it. Good boy.

Third, I took my lashless dressage whip and asked him to walk with me and turn small circles around me while staying forward. I didn't even have to touch him with it. A bare flick in his general direction got him moving. If I actually touched him with it he'd shoot forward and past me or move his body away from me. Good boy. For now I'll take forward past me. When he'd do that, I'd just bring him around in a full circle around me and then reset him next to me.

Fourth, I stuffed my zocks with several handfuls of horse cookies. The nugget ones you can get from tractor supply. I set the container on a stall far away from the clippers so I could restock in peace if necessary. I didn't have pockets and zocks are really good cookie holders. And the nuggets are perfect tidbit treats.

I finally brought him back to the middle and picked up the clippers. He went to go backwards, but at the barest pressure of the chain and a small flick with the whip, he held his ground even though I was way too in front of him. Yay for good programming- chain pressure meaning give and whip meaning forward. I was pleased that I could apply both from in front of the girth line and he'd still respond properly.

I held up the clippers, he was like, oh ok, and let me rub them all over his front end. Nose, face, ears, poll, cheek, neck, shoulders. Perfectly happy with it.

Throughout the rest of our endeavors, I made sure the clippers stayed near the wall so he was free to swing his body around to either end of the barn as an appropriate escape.

I finally turned them on. He wasn't as surprised by them as Sunday, but he did go to go backwards.
However, I didn't have to correct a thing. He engaged the chain slightly and gave to it. Instead of going backwards, he weaved. He was so nervous, but he knew he couldn't leave, so he just weaved his body back and forth. I never felt more than a slight pressure on the lead rope. Good boy. He kept reaching his nose out, but getting scared and then weaving some more. I put the clippers on the floor (yay for dirt floors!) and gave him a cookie for standing his ground.

I turned him away and led him to the end of the barn where I made sure he was tuned in to me and the whip by doing a couple circles in walk. Then we walked past the clippers (him between me and the clippers, so we were tracking left around the aisle). I walked with a purpose, he tried to, and when he fell behind I flicked the whip and he trotted to keep up and get past the clippers. Small amount of pressure and he gave and walked. I turned him at the other end of the barn, then passed with me between him and the clippers as a "break". Turn around, repeat many times.

He tried several different answers: slowing down, running past, shoulder into my personal space (I actually hit him with the whip for that one- he never did it again). We kept going until he was willing to walk past it while only keeping an eye on it but traveling straight for the most part. Cookie time!

Next was stopping him next to the clippers, then asking him to move forward again immediately. I didn't want him to have a chance to think about backing up from the halt. Good boy and more cookies. Next was stand next to them and linger. Good boy and more cookies.

He got several breaks by standing at either end of the barn away from the nasty clippers.

I eventually led him directly up to the clippers, and fed him treats as he got closer and held his ground. I picked them up, and he was very interested in them, so I kept feeding him treats when he'd reach his nose out. He eventually bumped into them, but it didn't seem to surprise him, so more cookies. It became a 'touch the clippers, get a cookie' game. Good boy.

The most surprised reaction he gave me last night was when I turned them off. They make a louder click noise, and he jumped and stepped back, but found pressure and came forward on his own again. Cookie.

I rubbed them all over his head and neck again, then more cookies.

He got to be done at that point. More than enough good work. I put his sheet on (it continued to rain last night) and put him outside with his friends. We'll repeat later in the week and again next week, and maybe in a couple weeks I can actually trim him!


  1. he looks very handsome in his new halter! glad the fresh approach to the clippers seemed to pay off - something tells me he will catch on pretty quickly

    1. He catches on so quickly, I'm quite pleased. I have a feeling no one ever clipped him (or if they did, they just drugged him). He just needs to learn what's expected of him when they run. Poor guy doesn't know that the job is harder for me than it is for him! He just needs to stand!

  2. So much progress! He really does seem like a good egg. You'll get past this.

    1. He is a very good egg. He really does want to please, and I think he understands that backwards isn't an option. I managed to leave forward open to him the entire time yesterday and he really took it and ran with it instead of reverting to backwards (and then rearing). It seems closing off his exits helped him? No idea. But I won't rush this step- I'll just keep repeating it until he doesn't care about the clippers running. Only then will I try clipping him! I have all winter, so no hurry.