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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3 comments have been posted...

  1. Kitty Bo

    Wonderful update! Have you considered clicker training for the inside the leg issue?

  2. Tammy

    He is so lucky to have you! You two are going to be great friends and partners!

  3. TIFFANY

    Wow.sounds like you got yourself a challenge there…BUT a GOOD challenge! One that will cause you to “think outside the box” as far as all that you know about horses. From what i’ve read of your blog, i think Rojo has found the perfect partner to travel the journey with..you are open to development of the partnership and relationship rather than having an agenda (show by spring, 3 hr trail ride by next week etc). Good luck! I look forward to further installments!

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