Pax is getting to the point where he’s so interesting. I looked at my watch as we headed from the arena to his paddock and was surprised to see we’d been playing for 18 minutes. In the old days (earlier this week) ten minutes seemed like a long time.
I decided to see what he thought about picking up things. Allen Pogue uses a baseball cap because the brim is firm and you can get it between the horse’s upper and lower teeth. I thought I had the baseball cap in the arena, but couldn’t get my hands on it. I turned to the bunny to use as a substitute. As mouthy as Pax is, he did not grab the bunny and play with it like I thought he would. I tried one of the semi-soft brimmed hats, but the rim was too small (my delicate fingers were way too close to his teeth) and the rim isn’t firm enough. I couldn’t gently push it between his teeth so that he’d get the idea of holding it. I even placed the big bunny on the tall pedestal… knowing full well that he would probably step up on it and then I’d have the challenge of getting him off. Well, he did step up and had a wonderful time looking around. I had no trouble getting him off, surprise, surprise!!!
I’ll find the baseball cap and use it tomorrow.
We did some BIG BALL stuff, but I did more work than Pax. I can see that his pattern for learning something is very similar to the boys’. I’ll show him things, not make a big deal out of them (except when he accidentally does what I want), go on to something else and let him mull things over. A day or so later I can show the thing again and he is more comfortable with it.
A FEW DAYS LATER
As I was bringing Blue (the Thoroughbred on our farm that is Eventing) into the barn this afternoon Pax broke the bottom board to the south of his gate. He placed his BIG front hoof over the board and pulled it towards him. CRACK!!! The board was no longer in one piece. Pax wanted in!
Yep, creating Pax-proof products should keep all of us busy! He’s morphed from taking apart pedestals to redesigning fence rails.
Today with Pax: He’s so very happy to walk up to the arena. Once in there I always walk him counter-clockwise around the arena with me on his right side. Sometimes we go clockwise, too.
Then onto a pedestal with his front feet. Usually we do a “pretty down”, a bow where he stretches his front legs forward, then places his head between those front legs. One day he figured out that I often ask for a “pretty down” when he has his front feet on the pedestal AND he decided that he needed a bit more space between his front legs to get his BIG head between them. What he did was: he stepped up on the pedestal, then moved his left front leg to the left. I noticed this and had to laugh! What a smarty he is!
I decided to show him the hat while he’s got his front feet on the pedestal. Allen Pogue pointed out that when the horse is on the pedestal he usually stays still which facilitates introducing things. I have to prepare for this trick. I get a carrot in my right hand and the hat in my left. My carrot hand holds onto Pax’s halter while I teach him to “take” the hat. Pax let me get the baseball hat brim between his teeth, but was pretty sure it tasted awful. I kept the brim slightly inside his mouth as he moved his tongue and opened and closed his mouth. For a split second he held onto the hat. Instantly I said, “Good” and offered him a piece of carrot. He opened his mouth (which released the cap) and ate the carrot.
Our next move was to go sideways over the pole. I always try to remember to do one trip standing on his right side. The right side has been his “not so easy” side for everything from leading to lateral work. Conversely he’s quite fluid when I stand on his left and ask him to move to his right.
THE NEXT DAY;
Today we he showed a bit more understanding regarding the hat. He eagerly took it in his teeth and thought tossing his head was a lovely addition. Of course the head tossing with him up on the pedestal and me on the arena floor makes it difficult for me to keep in touch with the mouth which is sometimes WAY above my head! He did drop the hat once (he was too quick for me) and I said, “No dropping.” Then I let him take it in his mouth again. This time I was quick enough to get it out before he ate it or dropped it. I had a carrot ready when I offered the hat to him SO that I had a “quick release” mechanism at the ready. I offered the hat to him twice (with the walk break in between tries). I figured I’d stop at that point since I got the hat out of his mouth before he destroyed it.
We did everything but push the ball because when I stood on his right side and asked him to step sideways to his left over the pole on the ground he went fluidly over the entire length of the pole. I couldn’t believe it! Boy! When the “coin drops” that guy is great. Usually he’s able to take a step, maybe two, then he wants to move forward to make things easier for himself. But not today. I was so pleased I didn’t bother standing on his left (good) side and asking him to move laterally to the right. I wanted him to understand how brilliant he was.
Then, as I asked him to leave the arena, he stopped. I had to ask again. That’s when I remembered he did this yesterday, too. As I was putting him in his paddock I realized he prefers the ambiance of the arena where he receives mental stimulation, tons of praise and an ample amount of carrots. Guess I’d like to stay there, too.
A note about his halter and lead line: up till now we’ve left them at the gate post with the chain that shuts the gate holding them in place. Yesterday when I fetched him from the field the lead line was dragged full length into the paddock. Hmmm…
Today I placed the lead line and halter on the rail that runs between two paddocks. He can’t reach that!
THE NEXT DAY:
I didn’t work with Pax this morning. He was a bit stunned when we went straight to the paddock.
I talked with his owner and said that I’d like to introduce him to “work in-hand” which starts with the leg yield to the wall, turn on the forehand at the wall and moves on to the shoulder-in and half-pass. This type of in-hand work helps tremendously with suppleness, obedience and understanding when things get to the “under saddle” stage.
I can do the work with the halter and later on with the bridle.
Pax’s owner gave me the go-ahead to do the work in-hand.
THE NEXT DAY:
Today (with the halter on) I introduced Pax to the leg yield along the wall. Several years ago friends and I created a video showcasing working in-hand. The exercise starts with a small circle around the handler. The handler is moving towards the horse’s hind legs and the hind legs are crossing (inside hind leg crosses in front of the outside hind leg). I did this small circle about five metres from the wall so that Pax wouldn’t have to travel too far to get to the wall. Once you have a relaxed, cadenced cross-over you pick your line of travel to the wall (at a slight angle, perhaps 35 degrees) and when you get to the wall you continue with that angle. (The horse is in front of you and you are walking towards the horse’s head.) You are walking forward along the wall and the horse is going sideways. Because of where the handler is standing it’s very easy to lightly touch the horse’s side where the rider’s foot will be to help the horse maintain the walk rhythm and the angle.
It’s important to keep the walk rhythm throughout the exercise. Pax is not used to having someone hold onto his halter and walk sort of forward at the same time. (He is used to me having him go directly sideways over the pole when I have my hand on his halter, but not moving mainly forward.) I think holding onto his halter is associated with standing very still for the farrier. As I motioned for him to walk at the 35 degree angle towards the wall he stopped several times. It was difficult to get him walking so I had to let go of his halter and try and maintain the angle to the wall. During the next few repetitions I was able progress from barely touching the halter to actually holding it. He was finally able to walk forward and sideways with me holding the halter.
I accidentally started on his right side so things progressed slowly. When I switched to the left side, things were smoother.
Just before leaving the arena I took off his lead line and asked him to come “with me”. He did really well. Then he heard a person moving outside and decided to ignore me and get up on a pedestal. I sent him off the pedestal (with some energy) and he trotted in a circle around me, the three pedestals and the bridge. I asked him to stop. He did. I called him to me. He came.
The coin has dropped. Pax is now an old pro at walking in a small circle around me (almost a turn on the forehand) and crossing those hind legs. He now understands how to walk to the wall with one of my hands on the halter and the other hand holding the wand which touches him lightly to help him move at a 35 degree angle to the wall.
He’s showing that he’s a bit like Zelador. Pax knows that once he’s halted at the wall I’ll most likely ask for a turn on the forehand, positioning him parallel to the wall. Twice he decided halting wasn’t really necessary and he could most certainly go from that 35 degree angle to being parallel to the wall. The third time I remembered who was in charge of this operation and I HALTED Pax. He listened.
We did the exercise three or four times in both directions. Tomorrow I’ll start the exercise further from the wall and when we get there I’ll ask for more than four or five steps along the wall.