Takoda has been home for just shy of a month now. The weather has not been great but we have had some warm days here and there and everyone at my barn is itching to get back outside, sneaking rides in on warm afternoons, round penning, grooming outdoors...
We have been at least able to mostly test what Koda knows and doesn't know and the verdict is this:
Takoda has been a field horse for the whole of his young life. Field horses are great in a sense because they have been able to live like horses live naturally (or as close as possible). They have 24/7 turn-out, eat grass and hay, are not blanketed and many times are left barefoot. When they wanted to ride him they went and fetched him, saddled him up, rode and then put him back in the field.
Sometimes what field horses don't have is a sense of ground manners or any idea about yielding to pressure, tools or touch other than when someone wants them somewhere they put them there by whatever means available, including dragging, pushing, shoving or a nice little smack on the rump (this assessment was from my trainer/instructor girlfriend Tara). This is what I refer to as "old man with a horse" syndrome. LOL. To lots of folks, horses are tools for the most part. These people aren't "mean" and they don't do dumb shit like tying horses down or whipping them or other things that used to commonly be done to horses to "break" them. But they also don't believe in a lot of refining in terms of communication and safety in my opinion. These horses don't end up as spoiled brats, but they don't exactly end up as companions either. They are sort of stuck in the middle, never having the chance to form that deep relationship so many of us want with our horses.
So, it appears that I have a horse who is much more "green" than I intended. But, his mind seems much more solid than any horse I have ridden since Apache and that was number 1 in my mission requirements.
The thing is, as Tara points out, green requires lots of work BUT it is as close to a "clean slate" as having watched a foal drop and being with it from day one...
So it appears we are in for an exciting spring and summer! We have been starting from scratch on the ground. Working on basic things like yielding to pressure, moving the hind and front over, backing, the whole "my space, your space" concept and of course those pesky feet. He is getting much better with the front ones. Tara seems to think that he tries to get the back ones up as quickly as possible (like they have been grabbed up gruffly) but then he has no idea where you want them so he starts flailing the foot, then gets frustrated and tries to get it away, then was probably smacked for that so he is bracing for it... So, it can turn into a tug of war with a boomerang attached to a hoof - NOT GOOD. We are working on gently lifting, not too high, supporting for a few seconds, lowering gently and praising the crap out if him. Also no physical "correction" like slapping but change in voice from soft to firm if he starts getting fidgety and again, rewarding for the slightest "give" from him.
It is a looonnngggg process....
He is a loving horse and responds to praise though. You can see his eyes soften when he "gets" something and you make a big deal of it. In the round pen you can visibly see his entire body soften when he knows he has pleased you. He WANTS this. He just isn't sure all the time what you want and then he gets worried and unfocused and that leads to what we would define as stubbornness and then the game is on. So, again, I feel like I am back to the mindset that it is my responsibility to communicate correctly and in a focused manner with my horse - this was a strategy that I used when leasing the mare. I am the responsible one here, not Takoda. He is a reflection of what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong. That is the basis for the building of a relationship.
In Loving Memory
...of the first horse to hold my heart