I didn't get to the ridin' part last night, I got caught up in working Gabe and ran out of daylight. Another big negative about not having a real arena. Tonight will be a riding night. Calypso and I both need the work!
Gabe came out of his paddock full of spit and fire. Not bad, just up and jiggly. He was trying really, really hard to be good but I could tell he just wanted to GO!
I moved him around for awhile, sideways, forwards, backwards, small circles, turns on forehand and haunches, trying to switch gears in his brain so he could focus. He is figuring out that his job, while on the lead, is to keep a bit of slack in the lead rope while paying attention. Pulling back, going sideways or rushing is a great big no-no. Going sideways into me is an even bigger no-no and he gets a quick, sharp elbow in his shoulder and I move him quickly out of my space by forcing him over then backwards a few steps. He was wiggly and took a big jump sideways like he wanted to just dip his head and buck and leap and PLAY. I checked him with a quick,hard pull of the lead then made him back, back, back to refocus.
He grunts when he gets checked or when I growl a "no" or "Whoa" at him. It's kind of funny. He's probably the most vocal horse I've ever been around. He grunts and groans when he rolls and when he stretches, when he pees, when he bucks or rears or tosses his head around. He grunts when I reprimand him. He also makes those weird noises that only geldings make when he trots. He grinds his teeth when he gets frustrated or impatient.
I tied him to the post and he made googly eyes and snot-snorted at the upside-down bucket that wasn't there last time. Oh! The HORRORS! How dare that bucket be there! He sniffed it, I sat on it and moved it around and he got over it. He stood mostly still while I groomed him. Not as still as I like, but I'll take the few steps sideways movement over the flying backwards movement any day of the week. While I groomed his right side he tried to reach around and bite me. This has happened a couple of times previously and I just pushed him away, hoping to get his attention without having to pop him. Last night he got an elbow and the hard side of my body brush in the lips a few times for the teeth. After the third pop on his lips, he quit the biting attempts.
I thought, well, maybe he has a knot or a sore spot somewhere so I massaged and pressed and probed his neck and shoulder and side and couldn't find anywhere that elicted any kind of pain or discomfort response. I can curry him really hard and deep and he loves it, he leans his body into the curry and will actually start swaying against it, like a horse itching on a post or a tree. Yes, he grunts and groans during this part. It's when I get out a softer brush that the biting attempts start. Only on the right side. I don't know. Learned response maybe? Overstimulation? His way of telling me he's not quite done with the curry? I have no idea.
Once the grooming was done I let him stand. I moved a safe distance away and sat. And he stood. He tried to walk away and realized he was tied. He backed, slowly, a step, two steps and realized he was still tied and stepped forward to lessen the pressure. So he stood. And stood. Got bored enough to rest a hind foot and drop his head. He stood quietly. Then started getting impatient and pawed a few times. I growled "no" at him and he stopped pawing. I let him stand there figuring things out. He stood tied, not counting the grooming time, for nearly 45 minutes. Not one attempt to go violently backwards. Yay! Almost post broke!
I rewarded him with an apple, untied him, and took him out for a walk down the driveway and a graze. He was mostly good on the walk, still a bit wiggly with pent-up energy, but good. He is learning, sometimes he still behaves like a rotten teenager, but the rotten teenager moments are fewer and shorter. He is staying at my shoulder instead of barging ahead, and instead of barging ahead when he feels frisky, he tucks his head, arches his neck and takes shorter, quicker steps, all while working really hard to keep the lead rope slack, which is what I absolutely require.
I know some people would say "What a waste of time. Get on that horse!" I enjoy this ground training part, a lot, and I truly believe strong training on the ground leads to better responses and quicker understanding in the saddle. Sure, I want to ride him, but he's not ready for that step quite yet.
I've worked with far, far too many awful mannered show horses who were never taught to behave on the ground. Most of these horses did their job as a show horse very well, but were complete shits to ride and even worse to handle. I've been hurt by some of them and frightened by more than a couple. I've known ones you couldn't lead without a lip chain, groom or tack without a twitch or go into the stall without a whip. I will not own that horse. Ever. Every moment I spend on the ground instilling respect and obedience in Gabe is a better moment in the saddle, for both of us.