Sunday, November 4, 2012

Driving Him Sane

First, the hurricane report-- no damage here, just wet and windy, and a barn full of bored, bored horses. Though they didn't have to be in for more than 40 consecutive hours, Sherm and the gang were in two separate days last week, first with the big blow of Sandy, then later in the week with the scattered remnants.  Forty degrees and raining are four of the dreariest words in the horse world, right up there with mysterious soft tissue injury, though I'll take the former over the latter any day.

But the hustle-bustle of hurricane prep and bad weather, followed by unsettled weather, meant that the Germ didn't get any work for a week.  This is never good for his disposition.  Left to his own devices, Sherm was coming up with all sorts of annoying and bratty ways to entertain himself, like pouncing on the chickens when he was being led in from turnout, followed by suddenly bolting into his stall with great verve and enthusiasm.

There is, and always has been only one cure for this condition-- work.  So today we went back to work.

Of course it's windy today, and brisk, and all sorts of ripe for Morgan ya-yas.  But no matter, even if we only managed to have a wild session of buckeroo-lungeing, we were going to work.  Surprisingly, Sherm was pretty good on the lunge, volunteering some lovely, almost-balanced canter-- not bad for him.  Clearly, however, he was eager get long-lining and get out there going cross-country, so on went the long lines, and out we went.

The Boy-o marched out with usual blend of enthusiasm and respectful obedience-- why, oh why, is he only brilliantly obedient when he's working?  Gah!-- We headed out the the hayfield above the riding arena, briskly walking down the path dear hubby mowed with the brush hog three weeks ago.  This field path borders the road, with a wide, scary, thoroughly-habited hedgerow between us and 55 mph traffic.  And Sherm loves it. 

One of the narrow spots between a brush pile and a pasture fence
Unlike dear, loveable Uncle Celby who screams Cougars! every time he hears a bird in a bush, and often mutters, bet there's cougars in there when he gets within 20 feet of a shrub, tree, or other cougar-hiding object, Sherman fears absolutely nothing.  He gravitates towards the hedgerow, the building, the brushpile, the machinery (Gah! Sherman!  Get away from the haying equipment!) and everything else that is new and interesting.  He seems to thrive on narrow spaces. He marched on with relaxed appreciation of his surroundings, and occasionally demonstrated the first tidbits of Morgan piaffe as he attempted to encourage me to pick up the trot he wanted us to pick up.  When I said Walk Easy, he came right back down to a walk, each and every time, though you could tell he would have loved a good trot through the woods.

We came around and were making our way down the side of the pasture he lives in, and he was watching one of our boarders walk her horse up to the riding ring for a morning workout when he suddenly stopped his front feet, but kind of bunched up and kept his back feet moving forward/almost sideways.  With the electric tape fence only inches to his right, I wasn't happy with this skittering sideways, and I asked him for a full whoa, which he gave.  I then vibrated my left rein as I said walk on, and he scooped slightly backwards with his neck and shoulders, took a step left, and walked happily onwards.  After five of my own steps, I discovered that he had stopped dead just at the edge of a huge woodchuck hole that we couldn't see until we were upon it because it was masked by a tuft of long grass.  I couldn't have been prouder of his good sense and attention.  I had thought he was watching the horse heading for the arena, and he probably was, but he saw the hole and recognized the danger.  Wanting neither to step in it, nor disobey my instructions by leaping over it or going off the line I was driving, he stopped and drew my attention to it-- preserving himself and communicating his need.  Good boy, good boy.

When we came back down to the arena and said hello to our boarder and her horse, Sherm was a little whiny about turning down towards the barn-- he still had plenty of go left to his morning, and he was having fun, so he didn't want to quit.  He wanted very much to turn right and head back up the lane to the fields and woods again; that left turn was very difficult.  But he relented after some encouragement, and I rewarded him by offering him the opportunity to do some figure-8 lines around and between the trailers and the manure spreader parked in their customary spots at the center of the circular driveway.

I wondered a bit whether he'd get a little claustrophobic between the tall trailers, with only 6-8 feet of passage between them, and with one trailer lurking beneath a billowing nylon cover.  Silly me, nothing but a thing.  I was so pleased with his nonchalance that my attention wavered a bit, and I suddenly found myself having to encourage him on, out away from the manure spreader, into which he was considering know, for fun.

He stood quietly while I undid the lines and his side reins in the driveway and walked him back into the barn.  Some TicTac rewards, and then back into his stall while I put the tack away, and he was an angel, happy to be at work and have a positive direction for the energy he's been building up.

He was a complete booger as I led him, along with Celby, out to pasture five minutes later, which ticked me off and took some of the shine off his brilliant work performance.  But it just tells me that I've got some catching up to do.  More work required to really restore his full sanity....

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