Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Arena Night

If you hadn't already noticed, I'm doing a couple of short, word-only posts today as opposed to my usual photo-filled, single daily post. I thought I'd mix it up, 'cause I'm crazy like that.

Last night I ran home from work (and boy, were my legs tired, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk), put Moose in with Bambi and Betty, put Paula in with Fabian, loaded all my gear into the trailer, loaded up Paula and Fabian, fed the remaining trio, and left for the arena.

Although I'm not riding him yet, I took Fabian because of his trust issues. When he first came home I couldn't even lunge him without him trying to climb out of the roundpen. He struck with his front feet when he was scared and he was scared of everything. The first time I tried to catch him it took me an hour! He was a mess, poor kid.

Now he sticks his nose into the halter when he sees it, follows me around everywhere, lunges beautifully (knows all his cues, too), and I've pretty much tried everything to desensitize him and build his confidence and trust, including sacking him out with feed sacks, walmart sacks, beach balls, rain coats, a milk jug with pennies in it, etc. Anything I could find that would be loud and scary--I've literally thrown it all at him, and he's quickly gotten over those feelings of insecurity and become a much more confident, managable young gelding.

So last night was the next step: take him somewhere loud, scary, unknown, with lots of people and horses doing all sorts of activities. We really scored on this one--it was much more crowded than when just Paula and I went a couple of weeks ago. Paula, having been there once before was an old pro, of course (I do realize how lucky I am to have such an easy horse, to have experienced something one time and then have that been-there-done-that attitude). I unloaded Paula, saddled her up, and then unloaded Fabian.

I ended up taking Paula in the arena first, because I wasn't sure how overwhelmed Fabian would be. When I went back to get him he was wide-eyed but calm and still mostly-confident. I was really hoping he wouldn't revert back to those days where he struck at/fled from anything that was mildly upsetting.

Thankfully he never did. He barely spooked less than a handful of times. He did spend a lot of time tied up on the side of the arena, but it was good for him. He got to see kids running around, be tied up pretty close to other horses who were half-asleep, setting a good example for him, and he learned patience as he had to sit there and wait while other things were going on. Thankfully my friend Dar was near him when they ran the first set of barrels, reassuring him on that first run.

It was also a great experience because Fabian learned to trust other people, too. Dar paid him some attention, the gal that puts together these ride-nights moved him at one point, and he saw lots and lots of other people. I was worried that Fabian had learned to only trust me when Dar came out one day when I wasn't home and he wouldn't come up to her. This night was so good for him to learn that he has nothing to fear, even when I'm not around.

After I finished riding Paula I saddled up Fabian and led him around the arena and he seemed very comfortable, overall. He was willing to inspect anything that he wasn't sure of, and even with kids and horses around everywhere he got to the point where he was relaxed--like he had been to a hundred similar events.

I'm so proud of Fabian for having come so far that he now not only trusts me, but himself. He's changed from a horse that others deemed "dangerous" to being a level-headed horse that I can safely take places, leave tied up for an hour or two, and work with in a busy, crowded environment.

I can never say it too much: I love Eddie's kids!!!!



Anonymous said...

Great work with Fabian - that sort of thing is so good for him, and as you say, the good mind is in there, it was just covered up by the other stuff.

Nicole said...

Oh wow that's awesome! I have a mare we've had to work with a lot to calm her down, it's a lot of hard work, but it sounds like you are accomplishing it marvelously :)

Alan T Hainkel said...

Gotta love good-fitting genes... ;)