23 March 2011

When Physical Ailment Impedes Progress...

Locking stifles need forward and straight to improve. Slow hill work would be the best solution, but SW Florida is sadly lacking any of those!

To rectify this, Compa is turned out with my herd. He is finally settled enough so everyone is safe. He is rarely still. He runs and plays and bucks in long straight lines for a good portion of the day and night. My horses are getting worked right along with him, as he rarely agrees to play alone. He is an instigator and they cannot ignore him. He will not allow it. He is always doing something - making up for lost time, I suppose.

To touch him is like touching bones covered with skin, with a thin layer of fat in between. There is no muscle, very similar to how a newborn foal feels. His long mane is very heavy and right now the top of his neck folds over, because he does not have the muscles developed enough to hold it. Someday that neck of his will be strong and magnificent. Compa's chest, ribs and hindquarters are narrow, but he isn't built narrow. They too, will fill in and the end result will be a completely elegant animal, capable of doing any job his owner sets him to. Right now though, I can't ride him. He is incapable, physically, of carrying me. I am not a proponent of getting on a colt that is immature, regardless of their age, so I fill in the huge gaps in his life with thought provoking ideas.

I have Compa working in several different areas. His daily routine is constantly changed, but he does all of these things during some part of the day:

  1. He stands tied
  2. He works free in the round pen
  3. He works free in the big pasture
  4. He works on a rope, halter off
  5. He works on different maneuvers with the halter on
  6. He works with a saddle on
  7. He is prepared for the vet and the farrier
Each of these things holds some level of significance to Compa's physical training, but many of them work his mental and emotional capabilities, as well. For instance - #1, Compa now stands for 30 minutes at a time without moving. That's huge for him. I lead him to one of the high lines and he licks. He knows he's going to be there awhile, so he might as well take a nap.

#2 - Working free in the round pen does not mean I chase him until he's tired. The round pen is a place to learn new things. It's about connectivity and relationship. I often refer to this piece of equipment as the Play Pen, where horses learn to be with me and together we interact and learn about one another.

#3 - Compa is loose in the big pasture, where he lives with my herd. Here he is expected to obey, regardless of the fact that he could choose otherwise. Leaving me is always an option, of course, but he soon finds out that isn't always the best idea. Work in the big pasture loose means that Compa is to stay with me and he understands this very well.

#4 - The rope looped over his neck gives Compa freedom in his head and neck. He does not develop a brace, if there's nothing to pull against. The loop is a reminder to pay attention and watch me for further instructions. The rope is one of my favorite training tools.

#5 - Halter work is obvious. Most people use them! Therefore, he must be light and obedient in the halter.

#6 - Just because I can't ride him doesn't mean he shouldn't carry something. He loves being saddled and carries it with pride. He's a hoot! The work he performs is easy enough that the saddle does not impede his progress. Getting used to that cinch around his middle before he carries me, will make things easier  when I am aboard.

#7 - Someday the vet will need to draw blood or tend a wound. Compa is touched and handled everywhere. And I do mean everywhere - inside and out. He is already comfortable with me cleaning his sheath and getting the bean out. His feet are handled daily. His balance on three legs is improving. The length of time I can hold the foot between my knees is getting better each day. I want my farrier to love coming over here to trim him.

Perhaps there is something on this list that you need to work on with your horse. Well, get out there and get it done!

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