Australian Brumby Challenge ©
Solo and I have had a busy week this week!
Solo had Sunday and Monday off and came back mentally fresh on Tuesday when he had a visit from the Vet, Arnold Hennel from The Equine Practice in Lilydale for a check up and Dental.
Health wise there were no concerns, although Arnold left 2 weeks worth of Ulcer treatment and I will monitor his flanks (they have been sunken in since arrival) for improvement. If I see an improvement I will pick up the final two weeks of the treatment which will heal any ulcers Solo may have.
Being Solo's first dental we wanted it to be the best possible experience for him and while I personally can stick my hand in his mouth, having a stranger do it with a rasp is still a big deal so in the interest of ensuring the best possible job was done with the least potential for stress we agreed sedating him would best.
I had done as much preparation for needles as possible without actually using a needle, and Arnie did some desensitizing himself so when it came time to give Solo the needle, he stood there like an absolute champion!
Solo's teeth are in good condition, with no loose caps (he had one which fell out by itself) and only a few sharp edges which have been dealt with so he is now as comfortable as can be! He has a couple of wolf teeth that will need to be removed but they won't cause any issues when I put a bit in his mouth so can be extracted at his next dental.
Wednesday: was a Tani Solo day, and in the morning I simply spent time with him grooming and loving on him without asking much. I think it’s important to continue low pressure bonding sessions between the higher pressure sessions for his mental health.
Wednesday afternoon we did some work over poles and a little jump from the ground and Solo has a nice little jump on him! We then tried on a bigger and heavier saddle than the one I used the other day, and this time had the girth done up tight and stirrups attached. We were battling against the rain and light a bit but managed sometime in the round yard. I started with the stirrups up, then down, and he had half a stride of 'oh what's that' when one of the stirrups tapped his shoulder but didn't make a big deal out of it and kept moving forward freely.
After doing a pre light check to make sure we had lateral flexion, I managed to get weight in the stirrup and over his back but didn't swing my leg over because by that stage it was dark so we left it at that.
He handled the whole experience like a pro and stayed calm and relaxed.
Thursday: I took Solo to see my dressage coach Glenda Hinchcliff from Wyronga Park Equestrian Centre and it was his first time in an indoor arena.
The float was a discussion, and we were late to see Glenda, but, rather than just tying him up and shutting him in as soon as he got on, I actually backed him off a few times so that I could put him on again. I kept in mind something Tony said to me a few weeks ago which was 'take square one with you' so while his rest spot at the start was standing in front of the ramp, as soon as he had stood on the ramp, that became square one and even though I let him back off if he wanted to, I didn't let him rest till he once again had two feet on the ramp. Square one then kept changing until it was all the way in the float.
While it took longer at that particular time than if I had just closed the float as soon as he was in the first time, the extra time I spent paid off latter when I asked him to go on so we could go home and he just walked straight on!
The indoor was like a walk in the park for him, just without the scenery and the first time he saw himself in the mirror he nickered a couple of times but quickly got used to the idea of having a mystical horse he could only see in certain parts of the arena and it, like so many other things with this horse, was a non event.
I did some ground work in the indoor to really get him used to it and it was no different to when I do it anywhere else which is exactly how it should be!
We spent the time getting him used to Glenda being near him and touching him, the stepping block, which was nothing more than a sniff for him to get used to it, me leaning over him and making noise with the saddle, me putting my weight over him and making noise with the saddle and then eventually throwing my leg over and shuffling around getting him used to me moving on him. He got a little uptight but by releasing pressure to reward each try or sign of relaxation he quickly settled and we finished with him soft and relaxed.
Friday: we built on what we've been doing over the last few days and he is a lot more comfortable with the saddle, and I was able to pop my leg over and get settled into the saddle with his only reaction being a few flicks of his ears.
Once I was on, I simply sat for a few minutes patting him on his off side. I was cautious of his reaction when he would eventually see me out of his off side eye as he wasn't keen on that on Thursday, but after doing as much preparation as possible before getting on, it was unfounded and he took it like a champ.
I had Jim help me teach him the disengage cue from the ground, and by the third ask, he gave the answer without Jim needing to apply the cue from the ground and it wasn't long before we had a calm forward walk.
Saturday: we ran through all the pre-flight check and once on I again covered shifting my weight and moving around in the saddle to ensure he was ok with it and he just stood there with no concern. We then moved onto disengaging which he got a bit stuck on, but all I had to do was apply the aid, then cluck as added pressure and he quickly got the idea again and it wasn't long before we had forward!
He was a bit bracey shifting from eye to eye the first couple of times but soon smoothed out and we had great forward, responsive turns and a decent stop by the end of the ride. He really relaxed into it and was stretching out beautifully and even Michelle commented on how soft he was looking through the camera! Soooo proud, and so impressed with how quickly he learns
When we were done, and I made the move to dismount, he kept moving, so rather than ask him to stop again and again, I encouraged him forward with the intention of him asking to stop. Things went a bit pear shaped though before I'd the chance and Solo got freighted by something, took off and I made an unorthodox dismount. I quickly hopped back up, just with my weight laying over him, and he was super, standing with none of the fright hanging around, so I dismounted and left it at that.
Unfortunately, Michelle (Michelle Knoll Photohraphy) wasn't filming at the time and neither she nor I could work out what had caused the fright. As his guide through this journey to domestication it's my responsibility to help him as much as I possibly can though, so I spent some time racking my brain trying to work it out but came up with nothing that I had done differently to the entire time I was on him, or any obvious outside influence.
I ended up putting him back into the round yard to see if he could tell me what the problem was and thankfully it wasn't long before he did tell me, when he spent half a lap of the round yard trying to get away from his own tail which was caught around a leg. I have seen him kick out at his own tail a couple of times before today but didn't think much of it.
You live and learn though, and I'll be doing more desensitizing of his back legs till his tail, and anything else touching his legs, is a non event. We will also work more on giving him the tools to keep himself from going to flight mode. This will come with more time and understanding.
Sunday: I took Solo to adult riders at Wyronga Park for some exposure to new horses and people and noises etc. He was a little trooper and took the noises and distractions in stride. After his fright on Saturday, we decided to take him back to the start of the backing process and I started with laying my weight over him from both sides before getting on. He was reluctant to move to start with and when he did he was tense, so we went back to lateral flexion till he was relaxed, then one step of disengaging on each side before getting off and finishing the day with him relaxed.
Things that become clearer throughout the course of the week are:
I am thankful I have such like minded people around me who work with horses in a similar way to me.
Solo has so much TRY for me and I don't think I have ever worked with a horse who wants to understand as much as Solo does.
Solo is starting to show me more and more affection. When I was sitting on my car thinking about the ride on Saturday, he approached closer than normal and started sniffing, muzzling and licking me all over which he has never done before. I don't know if he was trying to tell me that we are still good, if he needed the closeness, or if my clothes just tasted good, but whatever the case, it made me emotional and thankful to have the opportunity to work with such a beautiful soul.
This coming week we are going for a trail ride with a friend on Monday, and I will lead him if I feel he is not comfortable being ridden, Tuesday I have the Osteo coming to see him to ensure he stays physically balanced and sound with the increased work load, and I plan on introducing the bit towards the end of the week to start the mouthing process.