Had a lovely, lovely morning down the stables, just messing around with the horses!
J's new baby Icelandic, Diddi (the pony in the icon), has now been with us for a couple of weeks and he is sooooo good! He's 3, so he hasn't been backed yet, though J's mum, who was looking after him, has been doing a lot of work with him, so he's very used to being handled and wearing a headcollar and bridle. Last weekend, we took him and Marco out for a walk on the common and he behaved like a sedate old gentleman, rather than a 3 year old out for his FIRST walk! The only time he had a bit of a fit was at a big grey tree stump, which obviously looked like it ate Icelandic horses for breakfast, but even then he just had a bit of a jump sideways, and once Marco led the way, he walked past it with no problems!
Today was the first day for having his saddle on and he was a STAR! He looked completely unconcerned having the saddle on his back and even tightening up the girth. J led him around the yard with it on, and he walked beautifully and seemed more concerned about the grass and the horses in the neighbouring fields! Then we took his saddle off and J jumped up and just hung over his back for a few seconds. He was a bit taken aback by the weight (not that she is heavy, lol!), and he turned his head to look at her and wanted to walk, but other than that he didn't seem upset or worried, and he stopped walking when I asked him, and J slid off and we all told him how clever he was! He is an absolute poppet.
Luckily, he and Marco seem to get on quite well. Diddi is quite a bossy horse, and Marco is the more submissive of the two; however, he's not averse to explaining things to Diddi when D gets on his nerves! Marco is a bit concerned that D seems to have taken over his stable, and he sulks a bit when J spends time with D, but he gets more than enough fussing of his own to make up for it! His leg is healing well, but is obviously itchy where the last bits of skin are healing over, so he keeps knocking off the scabs. We put more cream on today, so hopefully that will help. We also gave M his first dose of Pernamax, which is the new supplement we are going to try him on for his arthritis, so fingers crossed that it does a good job helping his mobility. We fed it to him in bits of apple, having been warned that it has quite a strong taste that most horses don't like at first, and sure enough he spit a couple of pieces of apple out, but all of the pills went down in the end!
Today we took them out for a walk again, this time with J's greyhound, Sam, and despite J's mum having warned us that D liked to eat dogs, everyone was very well behaved! D coped with two motorbikes and a HUGE motor-trike passing him on the road, plus bicycles, people doing LOTR style battle re-enactments (even M doesn't like them much - he's a bit wary of the swords!), and lots of dogs, and didn't turn a hair. Sam wandered about quite happily, practically under D's feet, and D watched him a bit carefully to start with and was then totally unconcerned, and kept reaching down to slime Sam's back affectionately (or hungrily, we weren't sure which!). At one point, he did take Sam's tail into his mouth and was nibbling it, but Sam didn't even notice. Clearly he was checking whether greyhounds tasted good to eat!
After we got back, I showed J the work I had been doing with M in the dually halter - working on getting him happier about being hosed.
Backstory: when M got caught in the barbed wire and cut his leg badly, the barn owner, who rescued him, tried to hose off his leg, and M freaked out and wouldn't go anywhere near. Even when he was heavily sedated, he still refused to let himself be hosed. Obviously, this isn't a great situation esp in cases of emergency - or even if we just wanted to give him a bath! So, I wanted to try and work with him to get him happier about hoses and being hosed. I've read a lot about natural horsemanship, and so I knew the basic principle of approach / retreat, and so I started off by finding a small piece of spare hose, and just getting M happy enough to touch it with his nose, and be touched by it. I hung it over his stable door and moved it around a bit while scratching him, until he was happy to stand next to it, and not worried by it moving. Then I went into his stable with him (this was when he was on box rest - so it was quite good to keep him occupied too) and got him used to it lying on the floor, moving about, up to the point where I could rub it all over him and he was happy. This actually didn't take long. I think it helped that in the stable, he could move his feet if he had to, but he was also pretty bored so was keen to come back and be near me. That afternoon, I was helped by B at the stable, who has done some Monty Roberts training, and she showed me how to put on the dually halter and we worked with M getting used to a real hose that had water coming out of it.
It was interesting, because he didn't look panicked at all, he just really didn't like it, and he was really determined that he wasn't having anything to do with the hose or the water. The dually really helped because it meant that there wasn't any benefit to pulling strongly back, which is what he was doing previously. And it made it really clear, that there was a benefit to moving forward towards the hose, which was the release of pressure on his nose.
Since then, I've tried to practice this every time I'm down and we've got our routine pretty much down pat now! He's not that enthusiastic about going near the hose, but I let him think about it, and release the pressure when he offers to move forwards, and we eventually make our way up to standing on top of the hose. Then I turn the hose on and work up to hosing his legs, praising him lots when he stands still. He's now pretty happy with having his front legs hosed (ie doesn't move), and will let me hose his shoulder, stomach and back without moving, but he's still pretty unhappy with having his back legs hosed. However, we're slowly getting more and more moments of standing while the hose is on his back legs, though he does still try to lift them up out of the way. But we've come a long way, and I'm really proud of him, and really pleased!
And then we turned the boys out and spent some time poo-picking the fields! It's really funny - I find poo-picking really peaceful! There's something about the pleasure of seeing how quickly the field looks better, and something about the peace and quiet - although D thinks that wheelbarrows are really there for him to play with, so it's not _that_ peaceful! It's just really satisfying!
All in all, a really lovely morning!