Category Archives: The Red Horse Diaries

RED HORSE DIARIES #3: I’M ONBOARD!!






For those of you who are new to this blog, Poco Rojo is my Red horse who I adopted on October 8th from the BLM through their Prisoner Trained Mustang Program.

I have decided to chronicle my learning with him.  I figure someone might find it amusing and since I make a lot of mistakes, you can ride along with me and smile…  Also, I want to document what it is like to work with a real wild mustang versus a domestically born horse.

Anyway, I’ve linked all of my articles regarding Rojo (from adoption to now) on his own page which you can find here in THE RED HORSE DIARIES and on the sidebar of the homepage for HORSE AND MAN.

Adoption Day. Click to read the earlier Red Horse Diaries.

 

PICKING UP WHERE WE LEFT OFF!

OK, well the last time we chatted about Rojo, he had just had a traumatic experience with the farrier who kept flapping his chaps onto Red’s belly.  Great.  Needless to say, Ro wasn’t too down with that and we couldn’t get his back feet done.

Two steps forward, one step back…

So, I spent a week working with Ro to get him to pick up all 4s again and to allow me to work around his belly.  Sheesh.  Anyway, by the end of the week, we were fine.

I found a new farrier and he came the day before Thanksgiving.

Here I am, trying to hold the camera and take a picture with my left hand as I raise his hoof

FARRIER:  ROUND 2

Red didn’t want to have anything to do with this man who carried nippers.  Luckily, the new farrier had all the time in the world so we just worked at it for AN HOUR.  Oy, I was pissed.  I knew Rojo had been trimmed before.  He arrived trimmed and during his sale demonstration, he picked up all his feet easily and freely multiple times.  I picked up his feet every day.  Grrrr.

I was rattled but the farrier wasn’t.

And, to my surprise, the new farrier asked if he could come the very next day because he was sure he was ‘almost there’ and didn’t want to lose momentum.

On Thanksgiving?!

“Yup, he said, I’ll come around 8.  We’ll be done by 9.”

OK.   I liked his confidence.

I spent a lot of time getting over the ex-farrier's chap slaps to his belly... Joy.

 

THAT AFTERNOON – OUR FIRST DISAGREEMENT

That same afternoon, I worked with Rojo and his feet.  Of course, no issues.

Hmmmm. Duly noted in the captain’s log.

I decided that I’d had enough with ground work and it was time to ride.

So, I put Rojo into my easiest halter-ring set-up and put my El Companero saddle pad on him.  For me, I always like to start the newbies in the most minimal of product as possible.  I really like to feel them.  I’ve done this with all of my readied babies and I end up feeling much more confident because we’ve been barebones with each other.  To me, it feels very bonding.  I understand how their body relays messages to me.

Anyway, we walked into the arena and I went through my paces on the ground… come up, ho, back, shoulder over, hind cross under, give me your nose, now this way, back again, up over the pole, ho, back over the pole, come up, ho, stand still, back…  blah blah blah.

He was bored and I was bored.  He knew it all.  I knew he knew it all.  Most importantly, he knew that I KNEW that he knew it all.

I'm actually laying over him as I take this photo showing his starter halter with rein rings. His ears are wondering what the heck I'm doing...

 

I’M ONBOARD!

So, I moved him to the mounting block.  He stood there.

I laid over him.

He didn’t care.

I laid over him again and flapped my arms around like a pelican.

Nothing.

So, I swung my leg over.

Not a peep.  Solid as stone.  Been here, done that.

Hmmmmmm.

“Walk up”, I said.

Nothing.

“WALK UP”, I said firmly with a squeeze.

Nothing.

“WALK UP!”, I said as I squeezed and kicked.

He went backwards.

Me:  Oh, so this is how it is going to be, eh?

Rojo:  Uh huh.  I can walk backwards all day.

Me:  OK, so that’s what we’ll do…

And that’s what we did.  He went backwards all the way around the arena.  When he tried to stop, I continued him backwards.  When we got back to the mounting block I stopped him and asked again, nicely.

“Walk up, please.”

Funny.   He must have found his hearing aid…

Forward we went.

However, I kept thinking what a bony back he had.  I’m guessing he was thinking what a bony butt I had… After a successful ring around the rosey, I spared both of us and prepared to dismount.

I'm On! Backwards we go!...

 

FINAL FARRIER PREP

So, at the end of our first ride, I got off and I asked for his hoof.  I wanted to make sure Rojo was fully reminded of what he needed to do in the morning.

Of course, he gave all 4 to me, no problem.

Great!  We did our final sequence of back, ho, forward, right left… blah blah and then I asked him to leave the arena with me.

He wouldn’t move.

Me:  Come up here.

Rojo:  Make me.

Me:  Are you crazy?  You don’t want to leave the arena and go back to your pasture?

Rojo:  That’s not the point.  My point here is MAKE ME.

Me (pulling on the lead rope):  Why are you doing this?

Rojo:  Because you made me go around backwards.  I remember everything.

Me:  My memory was that you didn’t move forward – just as you are not doing now – and that is why we went backwards.

Rojo:  Whatever.  Make me.

Me:  OK, I will.

So, trying not to let the frustration and ridiculous emotion of ‘why doesn’t my mustang like me’ get the better of me, I asked myself:

What would you do if this was Aladdin – a horse you know loved you but still showed attitude in his 16 years of trail riding with you?  What would you do to Aladdin if he pulled this crap when you knew he was fully healthy, nothing was wrong and he was just being a brat?

Hmmmm.  And as if channeling from above, I got a clear picture in my head of how I used to be.

So, taking a deep, calming breath, I told myself like Tina Turner –  love had nothing to do with it – and then…

…I asked him to ‘come up’ once again.

He didn’t.

So, I backed up right to his head facing forward as if we were about to lead somewhere and I asked him to ‘come up’ once again – Just to be crystal clear.  When he didn’t respond immediately, my other hand whipped the end of the leadrope back around my hip so stealthlike and ninja that he had no idea what just smacked his belly – but he moved out… nicely.

Mommy happy.

Standing is easy...

 

GRAPES MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER

When we got back to the trailer, Rojo was obedient and compliant.

Hmmmm.  Good to know.

We celebrated with some big, juicy red grapes.

Well, actually, I celebrated and he watched until he got the nerve to ask me what I was eating.

Rojo:  What are you eating?

Me:  Grapes.  They are good in many forms.  Grapes or Raisins.  In fact, I use them as trail snacks for good trail horses.

Rojo:  What?

Me:  When we go places, I’ll bring them and you will ask for them as we walk together.

Rojo:  Why?

Me:  Nevermind, you’ll see…  Do you want one?

Rojo:  Should I?

Me:  Yes.

Rojo:  OK, hit me.

Me:  Here.

Rojo (pursing his lips and sucking the orb inside his mouth):  OMG, this is so weird!

Me (watching his eyes bulge as the grape burst inside his mouth):  Hee Hee.

Rojo (slobbering a little):  MORE MORE!

Me (handing him a vine full of grapes like a crazed horsey pusher):  HEE HEE.

Rojo:  OMG!  This is the best thing EVER!!!  DO THE OTHER HORSES KNOW?!

Me:  Yes, Rojo, they do.  <smiling and nodding>  Yes, my boy, they do…

Those are MMM MMM Go- oood!!!

(PS:  The new farrier did come out on Thanksgiving morning at 8am.  Rojo was a brat for about one second before I showed him the whippy end of the leadrope… all was fine after that.  Perfect, in fact.  We had so much time left over that the new farrier did Finn as well.  And he was all done within an hour – just like he had predicted!  Nice.)

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The RED HORSE DIARIES #2 – Groundhog Day.






It has been 3 weeks since my last RED HORSE DIARY.

Much has happened since then and I’ve learned a lot…

If I was to sum up the last three weeks, my phrase would be GROUND HOG DAY.  (more on that later)

ROJO THE TEENAGE GENTLEMAN

I equate the way I feel about Rojo to housing a teenage foreign diplomat from a stoic and honorable nation.

It is like we are at the UN.  He knows he needs to do his best to try to understand me and I feel the same.

We are playing a chess game of compromise and discussion.

He cannot win.  Yet, I cannot defeat him, either.

We have to connect, feel safe and buddy up.  Kinda like good friends…

I want him to like me which makes me feel vulnerable.  I admire him.  I think he is awesome… in the true sense of the word.

He’s lived in the wild and I have lived in the cultured.

We have a lot to teach each other…

I braid his hair as part of our ritual...

CHECKED OUT.

When I first met Rojo, the look in his eyes was blank.  I remember going into his pen at the prison yard and stroking him.

The lights were on but nobody was home…

It took several minutes of me stroking him before he actually looked at me.

Hmmmmm.

What I’ve noticed is that he checks-out when I bring in his halter and whenever we start a formal training session.

Hmmmmm.

I needed to address that.  Obviously, something wasn’t right…

It took a while for him to check back in...

ANTI-TRAINING

So, I decided to relieve his stress – which I think might have come from being caught and trained against his will – obvious.

I decided to just hang with him.

Some days I would simply watch him eat.  Other days I would bring him to the upper pasture and read while he grazed.  I had him follow me around as I cleaned the yard.  We did whatever I could think of that was nothing like what he had done before.  And, that didn’t include doing anything ‘right or wrong’.  We just were together… absorbing the other.

I found that he looked forward to me coming around.  His eyes were bright and open.  I liked that.

I also noted that if I just hung out with him, he’d approach me and nuzzle parts of me or my clothing.

I let him do this instead of me invading his space all the time.

What I loved was that he seemed to always want to be within 10 feet of me.  If I moved, he moved, too.  Nice.  I liked that.

I was becoming his buddy.

Hanging out together

GROOMING

To be honest, he doesn’t really like it and I don’t know why.  He has a terror of brushes and any type of grooming apparatus.

I can rub my hand all over his body, but if I put a brush in my hand, he gets very upset.  It makes me wonder if the brushes they had at the prison were really stiff or maybe his trainer was forceful.  I don’t know…

My remedy for this right now is using my hands all over his body and then replacing my hand with a small face brush.  The size of the face brush is new to him and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by it.  So, I use that and then move into a regular brush.

But he definitely checks out EVERY thing that I have in my hand.  He is not OK for me to pick up an item and apply it to his body.  He wants to know what it is.

Smart boy.

FEET

I’ve had no issues working with his feet.

However… my new farrier and he didn’t get along well.  We were only able to get the fronts done.

To be honest, I don’t blame Rojo because I’m not so sure I am fully on board with the new farrier.  But, what really upset Rojo was the way the farrier held his back leg.

You see, the farrier’s style is to keep the hoof between his thighs.  When he wants to release the hoof, he does this OLE move where he kinda throws the foot back around his thigh and moves the horse’s hoof away as he moves his thigh away.

I guess it works on trained horses but each time he tried this, the farrier’s chaps would brush up against Rojo’s inner thigh and belly.  That made him jump.

I could see it totally.  It was so apparent.  I felt badly for Rojo because he was trying to be good but started to anticipate the brush of the chaps against his belly and was nervous.

The farrier said that Rojo had to get used to it…  Hmmmm.

Uh huh.

OK, well, whatever.  I asked the farrier to quit before we created an issue.

So, we only got the fronts done and I have to find another farrier.  Oy.

This is me picking up his hind foot - no issue.

APPLES

Apples!

Rojo hasn’t had any treats because he was a BLM mustang.

Actually, it was kinda nice to have a horse that had no idea about pockets…

I have decided to not use treats as a reward of any kind with Rojo.  I want my praise to be his reward.

However, I will give treats occasionally and arbitrarily – because I cannot help myself and the apple tree is so close!

So, I brought an apple into Rojo’s pasture.  At the time, he was with Norma.

Norma looooooves apples.

I’d take a bite and give it to Norma.  She’d take it and chew.

This fascinated Rojo!

I’d then take a bite and give it to Rojo.  He’d sniff it and decline.

This went on for a few rotations.  Eventually, Rojo took the apple and chewed.

OMG!!  THE LIGHT WENT ON!!  He became a very polite but very enthusiastic apple eater.

<smile>

Yum! Apple

PASTUREMATE

Norma had been with Rojo for the first couple of weeks because I had to leave the state suddenly (Hubby’s accident) and wanted him to have a friend.

But, Norma decided she wanted to be back with her buddies so she broke the gate and joined her friends.

That left Rojo alone.

At first, I felt badly for him – being alone – but then I noticed that he paid more attention to me when I visited.

Hmmmmm.  Was I being cruel by keeping him alone (there are 4 horses on the other side of the fence)?

Or was it really helping to have him look forward to getting his daily dose of companionship and affection from me?

Well, the reality was quite clear.  When Norma was not with him, Rojo was very excited to see me…  He wanted me to visit.

So, I think I like it when he likes me the best…

Rojo and Norma - she gives him confidence

CHANGE IN THE WEATHER

But, there has been a change in the weather, so I decided to put Norma back in with Rojo.  Besides, she showed much support and attention when the farrier was here, so I felt that she was ready to visit with him for a while.

Also, softie me, I guess I didn’t want him to be alone during his first storm, especially since I had him in the furthest pasture which looks into the oblivion of the dark forest beyond.  Scary.

So, I opened the broken gate and Norma trotted in.

The next day, Rojo forgot who I was…

Clearly, he prefers Norma over me (she is adorable…).

So, I am presently trying how to reconfigure the pastures so he can be alone in some other pasture – but still be flanked on both side by horses.

I don’t like that he forgot who I was when Norma was with him…

I didn't want him to be alone during his first storm here...

GROUNDHOG DAY

So I’ve noticed that they might have been right…  Who is “they” and what did they say, you ask?

You see, I’ve heard, from sources I cannot pinpoint…that mustangs will ‘revert’ if they aren’t worked daily.

I kinda pooh-poooed that.  I thought that once they aligned with someone, they’d be solid and horsey forever.

Not so.

It is true, so far, in my case – that Rojo forget easily.  Well, that’s not correct.  He doesn’t forget  the skills or what he has learned.  He forgets why he has to prove it to me.

I think that if I skip a day or two with him, he skips caring if I care.  He places a high value on companionship.  If I’m not there, he notices.  If I am not his companion, why should he listen to me?

He has a point…

Unless I make the time to spend with him – why should he care what I want?

Why should I like you?...

THE SONG…

To show him my devotion and love, I’ve made up a song that I sing to him when I greet him.  I put my lips on the space between his ear and his forehead and sing a silly song.  By the end of the song, he is either licking and chewing or asleep…  It follows the same tune as Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.  It goes like this:

“Rojo the Reddest Mustang

Had a very shiny coat,

And if you ever saw it,

You would even say it glows.

All of the other Mustangs

Used to point and think he’s swell;

They always let handsome Rojo

Join in every Mustang game.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,

Santa came to say:

“Rojo, with your coat so bright,

Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

Oh how the Mustangs loved him,

As they shouted out with glee,

“Rojo the Reddest Mustang,

You’ll go down in history!”

Yup.  I sing that.  He sighs and falls asleep…

Norma falls asleep, too.

This is his face after I sing to him...

OVERALL…

Overall, I am learning that he is his own being with a very unique perspective on our lives together.

He doesn’t see me or the world the way my domestic horses do.  (He was totally fine and happy with his herd in the wild…)

What have I got that he needs?

It is my job to facilitate our friendship.

And for me, although he looks like a horse, walks like a horse and sounds like a horse – he isn’t like any horse I’ve ever known.

We are both foreign diplomats.

We are both recognizing the honor in each other…

 

That spot on his neck is so kissalbe - that is me in an awful sweatshirt and fluffy muppet scarf kissing my boy...

 

 

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