Sunday, July 3, 2011

Educating Yalla!

It's time to start working with my little Arabian mare, Yalla! However, because I am not quite 100% from my broken ankle, I am being extra careful around her.

I brought out the halter and she came right up to the fence. Through the fencing, I slipped her nose right into the halter and buckled it on. I have never actually tried to put a halter on through a fence before and I am always amazed at how readily she always lets me halter her. I slipped through the rails and led her out through the gate to the outside of Nadia's pen where I tied her up. I brushed her down and then left her to stand tied while I went over and brushed down Annie. Yalla! sure needs some patience tying time because she was swinging around and pawing, or testing and gnawing at the knot, the whole time I was away from her.

I left her only for about fifteen minutes this time but I plan on increasing the time she stands tied more and more until she gets VERY used to it. I also need to tie up Scout for a while because he gets antsy while standing tied too. When I came back to her, I untied her and decided to give her a little leading lesson in the arena.

As a weanling, she liked to stop and balk but I'm happy to report that she seems to have outgrown that issue. I should have gone for the training halter with the knots but I had chosen the smooth nylon one with a soft rope lead. I wasn't sure how she was going to behave but I knew I had to address her aggressive behavior so I brought along a crop. I began by leading her right next to me and stopping frequently to ask her to back up. She was showing attitude and threatening to bite me. I popped her with the crop and she reared. I smacked her several times with the crop yelling NO! and backed her some more. I needed to show her that I was in charge so I started teaching her to step away from me, sideways. At first, I tapped her with the crop on her near flank holding her head so she couldn't go forward until she began to 'cross over' away from me, with her hind feet. I eased off the tapping unless she wouldn't move. I told her "over" each time I asked her to turn on the forehand, swinging her flanks away from me. Then I switched to her offside and did the same thing. She didn't like working on the offside; she got really pissed at me and kicked out. I walloped her hard on her shoulder and continued to ask/demand that she swing her hindquarters away from me without allowing her any forward movement. Then we walked forward. By this time, I was walking in front of her and I'd turn to face her with my arms held high to signal her to stop. At first, she flung her head up and threatened to rear, but quickly she began to understand what I was asking and dropped her head as she stopped, whereupon I rubbed her head and neck. Then I asked her to back up, go forward, stop, step away from me from either side, and follow me as I walked in all directions. I am working on using my arm and hand movements to guide her, along with my voice.

Then I asked her to step out to the end of the lead rope and I lunged her. At first she trotted and cantered, a very pretty lope I might add, and every time she stopped, because I hadn't asked her to, I had her reverse and move off in the other direction. There was a time or two where I actually got wobbly from dizziness. lol. We had a rather awkward lunging lesson, I must confess, and there were a few times where she threw some kicks out and almost lost her balance, but I made sure to stay in the safe zone the entire time. She tends to lean in on the clockwise direction and pull out on the counterclockwise direction but I'm sure we will improve with experience. I even had her licking and chewing at one point, brownie points for me.

Overall, I feel good about our lesson. I was surprised and dismayed that she kicked and bit at me and reared up while on the lead but we might as well get all the bad behavior out of the way right away. I believe that she is a quick learner and I feel like I made a lot of progress with her today. At the beginning of the leading lesson, she had her ears pinned and her head high but after working with her, she quit trying to fight me and became more willing and content to follow my command. I think she just needs a clear understanding that I will not tolerate any disobedience from her and, unlike her herdmates, she cannot order me around or kick and bite at me. I just wish her mother would have put her in her place instead of backing down to her like she does. Although small in stature, I realize how dangerous Yalla! could become to my safety. I've seen her double barrel the other horses and she doesn't hesitate to kick out at me and my kids.

Several days ago, at dusk, I wandered over to the far end of the arena and called to the horses. They were still fininshing up their dinner and couldn't be bothered. I stayed there as it got dark and, after a time, I heard hooves trotting down the arena. The hoof sounds stopped, waited, and ran back. I called all the horses by name. Then I heard it again, and again they ran back to the safety of the herd.
I knew who it was.
Before my riding accident with Scout when I broke my ankle, I was in the habit of going down to the arena gate and calling to her. She'd come running down the arena to me and I'd rub her head and neck and feed her animal crackers. Then, like the Black Stallion, she'd gallup off to her herdmates. So, although it was very dark, I could tell that it was her coming to see me, braving the fearsome darkness to come over to me. What I found interesting, was that she didn't walk to me, she trotted and galloped.

Eventually, Yalla! made her way to me and I rubbed her neck and face and withers but, alas, I had no treats. We visited for a few minutes and then I turned away to go back to the house and I heard her gallup away into the darkness. I'm always disappointed that Annie and Scout don't come down to see me too. Nadia is locked in a stall, otherwise, I am sure she would come to visit me and then Annie and Scout would come too.

Yalla! is so people friendly and so full of attitude that I think once she learns the rules she will become a super little horse. I just hope I'm up to the task. Sometimes, like today, it feels a little overwhelming. And then I remember that she comes to me in the dark...

update: Tonight, I went out to the arena gate and called Yalla! Within a minute or two, she came running, yes, running, down to the gate to visit with me. This time, I was prepared. I had some sugar wafers that I offered to her. She liked them. We visited for a few minutes and then I turned away and carefully picked my way across the dark field to the house. I stepped wrong a couple of times and my ankle really hurts now but no damage, thankfully. I must be careful, my ankle still doesn't bend and I usually wear my support brace but I didn't have it on tonight. After I had gotten about a quarter of the way back to the house, I noticed that Annie had come down to the gate too. I debated about turning back to say "Hi" to her but I didn't want to hurt my ankle further so I called out a greeting and went on back to the house. I could hear them racing back to the security of the barn. Maybe next time, Annie will come to visit too.


Anonymous said...

Be careful with that ankle!

It's a very good idea to get that "attitude" taken care of at the beginning. I think with a fairly dominant horse it's even more important. My Drift is also very dominant and tended to try some of that with me when I got him - I think his prior owner was intimidated and he knew it. We've pretty much sorted it out, although it'll be interesting to see how much sticks after my time off. Wish I could lunge, but can't without two good arms and we don't have a round pen.

Shirley said...

Good work! I went through almost exactly the same thing with Velvet this spring. Same leading lessons, same attitude on the longe line. Must be a two year old thing, testing their position in the herd, asserting dominance even with people. The good part is that they do figure it out quickly, as long a wee are consistent in how we handle them. The only thing I'd suggest is a 4 ft. whip instead of a crop, as it will allow you greater reach and you can tap the hind quarters from a safe position.
And wear that ankle brace when you are working her- you never know when you may have to step quickly!

Dreaming said...

You did a lot with Yalla. It will be fun to read about your progress.
I laughed at your comments about her lack of patience... Pippin is like that - in fact, I did a post with 1 minute's worth of pictures last year:
He still hasn't changed!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

What a naughty little stinker she is. She can be such a gentle, affectionate, sweetie, though. It's sometimes easy to forget how dangerous even a horse of her size can be. Sounds like you handled her well, Val.

Be careful, k?


Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

Good stuff. What we call "bad behavior" is really just normal horse behavior. She probably is a dominant horse by nature and she's seeing if she can be above you in the pecking order. With time, patience and persistence she'll learn you're the herd leader and her normal horse behavior will change.

Keep up the good work, but be careful for your own sake.


Mary said...

Good grief, be careful with that ankle!

It sounds like quite a challenge working with Yalla! She'll probably always have to test her boundarines, but hopefully in time, without too much of a fuss.

She has such a pretty face. I hope she continues to improve for you.

Breathe said...

It reminds me of what Mark said at the clinic - until a horse is two or three, they get to be total spoiled brats. Then the hammer comes down. Sounds like you handled it great, I imagine it's a challenge with that ankle!

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

After raising babies for so long, I'm more befuzzled by a docile nature than I am by one who acts out at this age. It's completely natural for the vast majority of youngsters and from what you have told us all along...Yalla! is quite sure of her ability to act naughty to everyone. I have no doubt she is a very smart little cookie and as you keep working with her, that energy she has is going to turn into brilliance.

Myself, I like dominant, pushy horses. I'm more at a loss of how to build confidence, like I am having to do with Frosty, than I am dealing with a butt-head like Moon. LOL

fernvalley01 said...

Sounds like good work, and she seems bright!

achieve1dream said...

Please make sure to wear your ankle brace next time. It's so easy to step wrong, especially in the dark.

I didn't realize Yalla was being so naughty. I'm glad you finally felt up to working with her. :) Keep up the healing and good work.