Oh boy! Well I've finally seen the naughty side of Marti that his owner warned me about. I didn't quite realize the extent of it though... I have some serious work on my hands.
Marti is a very, very big boy. When Marti is scared, Marti runs in the opposite direction with all haste. Marti also pulls back when tied if he wants to leave. I had seen a bit of this when I went to put on his blanket the first day. He shot backwards like a cannon, but I stopped him after a few hops. 'Ah ok,' I thought. 'I see what she means.' I've been able to do some work with him, which I will elaborate on a little bit later, but he was so amazingly hairy, out of shape and nervous that he worked himself into a total lather every single time. After one of these lathering sessions when he WALKED for 30 minutes, I attempted to hose him off, and he pulled back from where he was tied. He was tied with a nylong hater and strong line to a pipe fence, so he was unable to get away, and he stopped as soon as he figured it out. Hmmmmm. 'Ok, I HAVE to clip him,' I thought. Marti had another freakout prior to beginning his clip when a motorcycle came down the road. He lost it and shot backwards at high speed again, but yet again I stopped him. The actual body clip itself was a total disaster. I had no idea that underneath his ridiculously thick coat, an impenetrable layer of filth existed, and my clippers just stuck in his hair and refused to cut. This was a totally stupid error on my part.... I refuse to clip other people's dirty horses, so WHY did I bother clipping mine? It was awful. Worst clip job I've ever done. And it's not even done yet! After two torturous hours, I finally just gave up, and decided I'd bathe him today and then finish the clip tonight. I'm embarassed by how horrible the clip is. That horse has more lines than I-35. (And you guys know I pride myself on my awesome clip jobs.)
He pulled back twice when I was clipping him, both times when I got up near the top of his head. (He has a clipped bridlepath, so I don't think he's scared of it!) Having anticipated a potential problem, and having watched how he pulled back on purpose two days prior, I tied him with a trailer tie and a nylong halter - unbreakable. If he were to get away, I'd never catch him... and if he is pulling back on purpose, that habit needs to stop NOW. He cannot keep doing it. I don't want him to get hurt, but there is a larger risk of him getting hurt if he gets loose, so it's a risk I have to take. He did stop after the second pullback, thankfully. My problems were not over there, however. Once we got back into the field, I brought out supper and moved in to feed the two. Marti has actually been SHARING a feed bowl with Gogo whenever I can't chase him away from her, and TAKING HER BOWL FROM HER, which is mind-blowing to me considering what a nasty piece of work she is to other horses. Because of this, I had him with a halter and chain still, and fed her first. Marti, of course, moved to sneak in and take a bite, and I turned around to back him up. He bolted backwards at high speed, and once agan I stopped him, but then I decided to back him up an additional step. At that, he absolutely lost it, wheeled on one foot, and galloped away, with me hanging on to him, chain and all. He galloped right through a stud chain with my weight dragging on him. I had no choice but to let go.
But I had the upper hand. I had two things to hold over his head: Gogo and food. I fed Gogo, which upset him, and waited to see if he would come to me for his dinner. He did not, so I took it and fed part of it to Gogo, handful by handful. He still refused to come over even though he watched intently the whole time, so I then took Gogo away from him. Finally, he decided that he REALLY would like to be caught, and let me lead him back over to his dinner and remove his halter. I stood for awhile petting and scratching him, but I am sure my body language was electric. I was not amused.
Today was no improvement. At lunchtime, I came home with the intention of bathing him so I could finishing clipping him this evening. His filth just wasn't going to allow for anything else, so I set up all my bathing stuff and opted to bathe him in his field in case he pulled back and got away during his bath. I tied him in his rope halter and lead, as opposed to his nylon halter and lead, and apparently this was a mistake. I watched his mother bathe him and spray him in the face, so I was surprised to see that he totally freaked the moment I picked up the hose and ran it over his legs. He pulled back once and stopped, then twice and stopped. Then he pulled a third time, and really put his weight into it, fully sitting down and staying taut on the rope until something finally has to give - the lead. He sat fully down, awkwardly stood back up, and took off. There was clearly no catching him after this, so I packed up my bathing stuff, took away the snack I brought for him, and took Gogo away also. He was not happy about this, and screamed his head off, but would not come to me, so I left him alone for awhile. I had to go back to work, so I had to turn Gogo back out, but I clearly needed a new tactic. I will not get on a horse who is a struggle to catch. If he doesn't want to be near me, then I can't trust him to be a willing partner just yet. And if he dumps me, I'll never see him again.
So this evening? He still wouldn't come near me, so I brought a chair, a book, and a bag of Chex Mix, and just sat down and read. Gogo, of course, immediately mugged me for Chex Mix, and probably ate about as much as I did of it. This intrigued Marti, whose curiosity and food drive finally overcame him. We all shared some Chex Mix for awhile, and they both finally lost interest after it was gone and wandered away. I brought out dinner, fed them both, and Marti finally let me catch him and take his halter off.
Clearly, we have some MAJOR issues to work on. 1) He has no interest in being with humans. 2) He doesn't like to be caught. 3) He pulls back HARD. 4) He is scared of his own shadow. I think the root of this is his nervousness, and his distrust and dislike of people. He is waiting for boogiemen to jump out and eat him, and right now he sees me in two lights: food bringer, and scary bathing/clipping/riding lady. He needs to trust me, and learn to like me and want to be with me. When he learns to trust me, he will learn that scary situations are ok because I will say that they are.
But clearly we have to go back to square one: groundwork. I was lucky enough to be contacted by a Parelli representative about a month ago when I mentioned wanting to try playing some Parelli games with Gogo, and they sent me the Getting Started video which covers the basic Seven Games and the basics of Horsenality and the zones of the body. I am not one who ever bought into any of the natural horsemanship guys simply because some of them really do look like complete highway robbers waiting to sell their overpriced wares to any bumbling idiot who came along looking for an answer (you can only train in MY lead, halter and stick, only $3999.99 plus tax and shipping and handling!), but I have to admit that there is something to giving them a try. Good training is good training, no matter what school you subscribe to, but this horse flinches every time I touch him anywhere. He needs to be desensitized, stat. And THEN we will think about riding. I am going to Parelli the SNOT out of him, and pair it with the clicker. No more spoiling him with treats.... those days are over.
I am pretty sure I can get him turned around. It's just going to take some time. Trust you me, if there ever is serious risk to either one of us then he will go to someone more capable than myself. I'm not a trainer and I am not getting myself killed over something like this. Honestly though, Gogo dished it out something terrible when he was his age too. He is only five after all.
But he sure is darn cute for a total devil child.... and he and Gogo are totally in love:
Did you ever think you'd see the day when the naughty spotlight wasn't on Gogo? Me neither!
The very special Ridgeway weekend
3 days ago