Saturday, October 06, 2007

Panama's newest achievements

Time for another post about Panama!

Today was a big day as far as training milestones go. These are the things I am excited about right now:

1) Panama is apparently no longer spooked by tarps blowing in the wind.

I don't know if I ever mentioned it on my blog, but a couple of weeks ago Panama spooked a bit when I led him by a tarp fluttering in the wind. At the time, I took the opportunity to "sack him out" a little: I led him up to the tarp, let him sniff it, then grabbed it and shook it to make it rustle. He reared back just a bit, startled, but I encouraged him to sniff it again and he did. I kept that up until he no longer showed any fear of the tarp.

Apparently the lesson has not been forgotten. When we arrived at the stables today, the other horses had been turned out into both of the pastures I usually use for Panama. The next best choice was the pasture with the tarp. Because it was windy, I wanted to make sure he wouldn't spook, so I led him up to the tarp and shook it. He was reluctant to walk too close, but shaking the tarp didn't seem to faze him.

2) I was able to pick up both his rear feet, and I got about halfway through picking out his front feet.

I've been working with Panama almost every day about picking up his feet, and for about a week I've been attempting to pick out his front feet. Usually I only get one or two strokes with the pick before he's had enough, but today he let me get about halfway done on one front foot, and almost that far on the other.

Picking up his rear feet has been a little more touch-and-go, due to major trust issues stemming from the trailer accident he was in as a yearling. In the past week, he has gotten much better about it, however. Today when I tried to pick up his right rear foot, he kicked out a little bit, but I didn't let go or put his foot down until he stopped trying to get loose (which only took a second or two).

Because he is more sensitive about his left rear foot, I expected him to kick out worse on that side — but he surprised me by quietly lifting his foot when I asked for it. This is very promising, as it indicates that he may be getting over his trust issues with his rear feet.

3) Panama allowed me to put a bareback pad on his back and cinch it under his belly.

This is a huge step, and one I am extraordinarily pleased about. I've been putting a towel over Panama's back every day for about a week now, and he's been tolerating it without any problems. We'd also gotten a used bareback pad from my favorite tack store, and I decided to try putting that on Panama this afternoon.

First, I put the towel over his back as usual. Then I set the bareback pad over it, kind of like you would put a saddle on top of a saddle blanket. Panama was eating and hardly seemed to notice, so I decided to try cinching it up. He was completely unfazed when I drew the strap under his belly. When I started to cinch it tighter, he panicked briefly and pranced to the side, but that was it. I took the towel off, put the bareback pad on alone, and cinched it tight — and he just kept right on eating.

Panama's acceptance of the bareback pad made me really want to ride him. This is the first time I have felt such a strong urge to do so — I actually much prefer groundwork to riding, as sitting on a horse's back is so impersonal. However, I think the relationship and trust Panama and I are developing makes riding a much more appealing option.

It seems that every visit to the stables is better than the last. Panama's ground manners are improving by leaps and bounds, and I am beginning to think that training him may not be as difficult as I originally anticipated. Honestly, I think his impatience and stubbornness will be the most difficult challenges to overcome, but who am I to complain — after all, it was his display of spirit that drew me to him the very first time we met.

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