Sometimes when I watch Gabe out in the field I just can't believe he's mine. I never imagined I'd have a horse quite as nice as he is and I could have never even dreamed I'd find one with his personality.
But I also look out there and think "Wow, I really need to get my butt in gear and get something done with him!" I've had him since the end of July then left for a two week vacation in California so I couldn't do anything but let him settle in. Before I left I decided I was just going to acquaint myself with him a bit, not really work with him, but "hang out" with him to start figuring him out. That's when I learned he had zero manners. That's when he reared up and took off, ripping the rope through my hands and taking off all the skin on three of my fingers and part of my palm. The rope ripped through the meat on two fingers and almost to the bone on one finger. It took almost a month to heal and was INCREDIBLY painful. I still have the scars and I don't think I'll ever have a fingerprint again on my middle finger.
I purchased a new pair of leather gloves when I got back from vacation to start working him in earnest.
When I came back I learned a lot more about him. Not only did he have no manners, he had no respect and no concept of personal space. He is far too big to not have perfect manners and quite honestly, there were a couple of moments when I thought maybe he was too much for me. But, I carried on, I figured him out, he figured me out and he has learned manners.
So, I decided to make a list of what I have accomplished in the past couple of months, just to prove to myself that I HAVE done something with him. He really isn't just sitting out there being a pasture ornament.
1. His ground manners have improved 100%. He doesn't crowd me, push me around or attempt to take off. He walks quietly at my shoulder, head down, rope swinging loosely.
2. He ground ties. I drop the rope. He stands. I can walk away and he stands there just watching.
3. He ties quietly to the post. Our first attempt at tying resulted in a broken 4x4 and a frightened horse.
4. He walks, trots, canters, reverses and backs up on the lunge. He had no concept of lunging when I brought him home. We are still working on the whoa.
5. He comes running when I whistle. Okay, that's not a training thing, but I think it's awesome. I whistled for him last night to come in from the field. His head came up, ears pricked forward and he GALLOPED, tail high, right to me and skidded to a halt a good 10 feet before he got to me so he could walk the rest of the way up. If that's not a show of respect for my space I don't know what is.
6. I can now fly spray him without him freaking out like I'm pouring acid on his body.
7. He drops his head into the halter when I say "head down." Our first few haltering attempts were quite hysterical to watch, I'm sure. When his head goes up, there is no way I can get a halter or a bridle on.
8. He is polite at feeding time and waits until I give him the okay before he starts eating.
9. I can drape a tarp over his body, open and close an umbrella around him, have him walk over a tarp, touch him all over with the whip and the rope, bounce a ball off him and follow him around with a bike and he doesn't care. I've tied plastic bags around his paddock...he doesn't care.
10. He long lines. Yesterday we long lined in the bridle with the snaffle and he was fabulous. Guess what? We got the whoa rather easily in the bridle! Woot! And we trotted. He has quite the huge trot stride so I got as workout as well to keep up with him.
Now it's time to ride. I'm eager to ride because at this point there's not a whole lot more I can do on the ground without boring him. Yes, we can do more long line work, but I want to be able to enhance the long line work with riding work. That's where you really start seeing results.
So, hubby. Please, please, please, will you build me my mounting block? You know, the 2.5' high design we found this weekend? Or, as Nuzzling Muzzles suggested, maybe I'll just buy a ladder! *grin* I want to ride my big guy!