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.
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.
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.
“Yup, he said, I’ll come around 8. We’ll be done by 9.”
OK. I liked his confidence.
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.
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.
So, I swung my leg over.
Not a peep. Solid as stone. Been here, done that.
“Walk up”, I said.
“WALK UP”, I said firmly with a squeeze.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Me: When we go places, I’ll bring them and you will ask for them as we walk together.
Me: Nevermind, you’ll see… Do you want one?
Rojo: Should I?
Rojo: OK, hit me.
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…
(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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so funny. Thanks for the chuckle.
Love hearing about Rojo! What a personality he has…
Love this Dawn. You are a wonderful person.
Love this! Reminds me of Willy Wacker’s Way–yes, a real horse trainer: Knowing when to be firm and when to be gentle. If a horse didn’t move it’s feet for the leader, you know he’d get the ears and teeth. Congrats. And this “However, I kept thinking what a bony back he had. I’m guessing he was thinking what a bony butt I had… ” Ha-ha!
I think you also channeled Aretha: R-E-S-P-E-C-T!