Sunday, March 9, 2008

Bombay's Day

Since I spent all day Saturday training the mares, I decided to give my gelding my full attention today. First I rode him, then I worked on trailering. When he was a yearling I had to call a horse trainer out to my property to help me get him into a trailer. He was such a stinker that it took two two-hour sessions on separate days to get him in. Since then he's been a bit erratic about getting in. It's been a while since I have trailered the horses out, so I needed to see where Bombay was in his trailering mindset.

As soon as I started opening the trailer doors, he began breathing rapidly and sweating. I walked him to the back of the trailer, and he spun around, ripping the lead rope out of my hands, and bolted to the back of the property. Not a good start to say the least. I calmly collected him again and walked him toward the trailer, but stopped a ways away and petted him.

I then turned him away from the trailer, moved his hindquarters around a bit, approached the trailer again, stopped, turned... I was using Ann's approach again. At first he was more interested in snatching snacks from the haystack, but with all that moving here and there, he turned his attention to me. Within two minutes I was able to get him to load himself into the trailer. I thought it was interesting that this method worked so well with Bombay, but not with Gabbrielle. Bombay is a low energy horse who needs urging and repetitive cues that increase in intensity in order to get him to move up to faster gaits when I ride him. My thighs and calves always get a good workout when I'm on his back. I wondered if perhaps Ann's approach to trailering was a better fit for his personality.

Once he was in the trailer, I allowed him to turn himself around and face the back. He remembered our old routine where he waits in the trailer until I say "okay", which gives him permission to step out. Despite his initial nervousness, he was visibly pleased with himself for getting into that trailer. I always applaud him and tell him what a good boy he is each time he gets inside. We repeated having him load and unload himself on my cue three times, and then I gave him a bath.

I don't have cross-ties, so I usually attach the lead rope to a fence post when I bathe the horses. Bombay has this habit of swinging his butt at me to evade the rinsing. Usually, I just stay with him and move when he moves, but today I decided to put an end to that behavior. Because Bombay was my first horse, and I bought him when he was a yearling, my inexperience at horse ownership resulted in him being a bit spoiled. I let him get away with a lot more than I do with the other horses. I tucked a whip under my arm and began hosing him down. As soon as he started swinging his butt toward me I said, "Ho!" When he didn't stop, I swatted him on the hip.

Wow! He jumped two feet in the air. He wasn't expecting that spanking. The swat made quite an impression, so that next time he started to swing his butt toward me out of habit, all I had to do is say, "Ho!" and he stopped. I only had to verbally halt him a couple of times and then he chose to hold still.

I actually had planned to bathe all the horses, but Bombay was such a mess that I spent hours using different products in an attempt to get the worst stains out of his fur and tail. I knew he would roll in the dirt as soon as I released him, so I made sure that he was totally dry and I sprayed some Shine-On all over his body so that the dirt would slide off. Shine-On is an amazing product that makes a horse's coat smooth, almost slippery, and shiny. The problem is that you don't want to spray it in the saddle area before you ride, because the saddle will slip around; and if you ride bareback, it will be difficult to grip the horse with your legs.

Sure enough, I released him and he went straight to the communal rolling area and rolled. Sigh. Bathing horses is a lot like making beds: As soon as you make a bed, it gets unmade. However, you can bond with a horse and train it while you bathe it, while I doubt that a bed feels anything toward you or learns anything after you make it prettier.


Twinville said...

Well done for both you and your gorgeous gelding, Bombay!
What a sucessful day you both had (well except for the roll in the mud after that perfect bath! hehe)

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the success loading Bombay!! :-) Interesting the diffence between the gelding and the mare. This method worked with my gelding, but with my mare I had done something more along the lines of John Lyons--just letting her stand at the back of the trailer and doing the light tap-tap-tapping with the whip on her butt. I, also, brought along magazines for me to read, so that if she didn't load, I could just sit and read while she stood there. Eventually, she figured out if she didn't want to spend all day there, she better load. ;-) But, that didn't work with my gelding. He wouldn't just stand there, he would start a fight--start kicking at the whip. Or, if I tried to get him to just stand quietly at the bottom of the ramp, he would start kicking at ME (eek!) or rearing and trying to spin and bolt. So, that's when I started reading more and decided to just keep him moving. I wonder if it's a gender difference, as most of the problem loaders that I've used this method on have been geldings?

At any rate, I'm glad you got him on so quickly and easily!! :-)


Lulu said...

Now I'm just jealous! We have not had anything even lose to bathing weather here in Nebraska! Today was 45f and I swear to you, it felt like heat wave!!!

Since I was able to leave work early today, I got in some awesome horse time! I worked both yearlings, clipped the one that had been clipped before, and introduced the other to clippers. Success! I'll take what I can get! LOL