Sunday, September 30, 2007

Daily distractions from writing: My stable schedule

My blog is beginning to me almost as much about my horse as about writing. I guess that's fair, though, since the same sort of shift has been going on in my life since Panama arrived in town.

I visit with Panama for at least an hour every day. Up until this past week, my visits always occurred mid-morning. This past week, I visited only in the evenings. However, I don't like that as much — not only is Panama kind of irritable around dinner time, but there is also more chaos, as the owner and the help feed the horses, muck out the stalls, etc. This week I intend to go back to visiting in the morning.

Anyway, my visits have fallen into something of a routine. Every visit, I do these things, though not always in this order:

1) Groom Panama. Currying and brushing Panama every day keeps him cleaner and prevents his mane and tail from tangling as badly. I'm also hoping it will eventually become a bonding thing...once I figure out how to stop tickling him with the curry, that is!

2) Pick up Panama's feet. This is an important part of my daily visits. Panama has trust issues with his feet, particularly his hind ones, thanks to the trailer accident that injured his ankles as a yearling. The daily attention to his feet is helping, though — he now lets me pick up his front feet with little or no protest, and has even let me pick up his back feet a few times (though that's a touchier issue).

3) Turn Panama out. Although the stables are supposed to be full care, the horses don't get turned out as frequently as I'd like. In other words, if I didn't turn Panama out for a little bit every day, weekends would be his only chance to get out of his stall.

4) Muck out Panama's stall. Again, although the stables are full care, this doesn't get done as often as I'd like — particularly since Panama is not letting me pick the manure out of his feet yet. Mucking out a stall is actually not as hard or as time consuming as you might think — though after a few more months of this, I should be in great shape!

5) Work with Panama on basic training and ground manners. I think I mentioned in a previous post that Panama is very impatient. I am working with him on this — making him follow my lead without crowding, standing still while being groomed, etc. — as well as doing some basic training. For example, I am starting to work with him on simple commands such as "walk," "halt," and "over." I've also gotten to tolerate a towel on his back — in fact, by the second day of working with him with the towel, he's comfortable enough with it that he doesn't spook even if I wave it in front of his face or shake it out over his back. He is one smart horse, that is for sure!

Although Panama is stubborn and can be fiery at times, the daily visits are paying off: He is starting to bond with me more deeply. In the last week, he has started nickering to me every day when I arrive. I can't even begin to tell you how satisfying that is!

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