Baby Steps

I meant to finish this quite a few days ago, but work and lack of sleep got to me. So, here it is, Saturday again…and I figured I should finish up last weekend’s report before I head to the barn and do all kinds of new things that need to be written about πŸ˜‰

I went to the barn later than usual last Saturday, as I was having a few friends tag along. J and her daughter D have become wonderful friends since I met them last summer, and I spent quite a bit of time with them riding their very large, very sweet draft horse named Henry. Since Image came home, I haven’t had much time to go over and play, so it was wonderful to see them!

Image, of course, charmed them with his adorableness. He was a sweet gentleman who politely took the cookies they offered, batted his long eyelashes, and cuddled with me to make them both go “awwww!”. I worked with him briefly while they were there, and he didn’t put a foot wrong. He flexed beautifully in both directions, walked/gaited around me quietly when I asked, and stopped on a dime when I asked him to. I stood next to him on the mounting block and leaned over his back. He snuffled my pants and rested a hind leg. So, basically, he made me look good even though I haven’t really done all that much. He was super affectionate, though, and spent most of the time searching for scratches or cookies. Luckily, there were many cookies to be had and my Furminator is officially on overtime because he’s started shedding buckets full of hair!

After Wednesday’s ground driving session, I managed to find a friend with a rope halter sidepull that I could borrow. Once J and D said their goodbyes, I worked Image in the sidepull. He gave to it immediately, seeing as he’s used to his rope halter already. I wasn’t 100% sure what was going to happen when I hooked the lines up and got behind him.

Well, it was honestly just a repeat of Wednesday, though slightly scaled down some. He is very uncomfortable once I am out of eyesight, and giving him commands. There was still head tossing and dancing at the halt, but a fraction less so than Wednesday, and a lot more progress towards quiet, relaxed halts. He is definitely tense and stopping is not his favorite thing to do, but he is slowly “getting it”. By the end of the session, I had more relaxation and a lot less fussiness on the end of the lines. I was rather pleased to see any marked improvement, so I quit while the going was good.

The big wooden mounting block was dry after so many beautiful days this week, so after unhooking and wrapping the lines up, I plopped down on the block and sat with him. He gave me a blustery sigh, and stood there with his head basically in my lap, enjoying his fill of snuggles.

I brought him back to the barn shortly thereafter, where he stood on the cross ties while I did L’s two stalls (I so miss doing horse chores on a daily basis!). Suddenly, I heard a ruckus outside — a ruckus of the pounding hooves variety. I poked my head out and saw Gus and Ray having a grand old time rough housing. I didn’t even think about what I did next — grabbed my phone and my camera, and went to town.

The boys put on appropriate show for me with lots of bucking and rearing and farting and being generally obnoxious. Rodger stood with me by the gate, occasionally shooting a look over his shoulder. He was clearly exasperated by the whole ordeal.

“Rawr, Imma eat you!”

I heard the girls — or what I thought was the girls — squealing at each other in the back paddock as I defied death by jumping into the paddock to take some pictures (me, stupid? Naaah…). Once the boys wore themselves out, I stepped back into the barn…to find a terrified horse standing on the crossties. Image stood there, trembling, his eyes wide and nostrils flared. Um, what just happened?

I stepped back outside the barn, where he could not see me. I observed him dancing back and forth, as he tried to find me. He even popped a small rear once or twice. He was clearly distressed by the fact that he couldn’t see me or his horse buddies.

Well. That was new. I stepped back into his eye line once he had settled just a fraction. He blew heavily and dropped his head to a more neutral position, his body visibly relaxing. Poor critter. I rubbed his forehead and finished up for the day, letting the new information circle through my brain.

For now, he won’t be left alone on the cross ties until I figure out how best to tackle this issue. My friend and fellow blogger has spent a lot of time working with rescued standardbreds, and I remember hearing about one who had some serious issues in the cross ties. I’ll be touching base with her at some point this weekend to see what she suggests, as this particular issue is not something I know how to go about handling. I don’t blame him for not wanting to be all by his onesies, but I also don’t want him having a bit of a mental breakdown if I need to step outside the barn for something.

We took it easy on Sunday and spent most of the day just playing. The ring was crappy, so we played in the driveway and with some snowbanks. I had him hopping gleefully over a perfectly shaped snowbank, his knees tucked up to his chin as he cleared it with about five feet to spare. I used the trail bridge that was mostly uncovered to teach him to “step up” with his front feet, which he learned in about ten seconds. He seemed to enjoy learning new things and really didn’t seem to mind when I asked him to do “weird” things. Such a good critter.

It’s warmed up enough for me to head out, so off I go! Maybe the next update will come a little quicker than ths one did! πŸ˜‰

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