This next chunk of time happened to start the day my cat decided to get sick. That Monday, Ezio ended up being quite difficult.
I started grooming him normally. I asked a lady I’ve talked with to hold him so I could do his feet and it went well. He was acting spooky due to the tractor moving around, or so I thought. And then I was trying to put on a smaller girth since the 50 he has goes to holes 5 and 4 when tightened. But he bloats to start so it was difficult. And then it happened.
Ezio freaked out about something and pulled back. Hard. He’s been wearing a rope halter so he didn’t get to break away. And he freaked out so hard that my quick release knot became not quick release. I couldn’t yank at it from the front as he danced toward me and almost pinned me between the pole and him. I had to yank from the other side of the crossties and it took a few yanks to get it loose. By the time I got him loose he had managed to stretch the rope halter enough to slip his nose out of the loop. He wasn’t hurt, which I was grateful for but it was… not great.
He calmed down well enough so I gave up on the smaller girth and hopped on him for a very short ride before work. He was great for the ride but this was something that seriously needed addressing. He could have hurt himself, the ladies at the barn, me and the horses around him with his freak out. I did actually get kinda hurt. My back hurt for the next day or so from trying to move to yank him out.
After that day, I knew I had nothing in me left to ride for a while. I had several sleep deprived nights trying to figure out what was wrong with my cat so I needed something I could work on but not do anything strenuous. So Ezio and I began some ground work boot camp for the next four days. I learned a lot about what he has and doesn’t have in regards to ground manners.
Despite longing well for the PPE, when I tried to do it, he was wild and kept turning me into a water skier. So I free longed him until he was more chill and then we tried again with just walking and a bit of trot. Over the days we didn’t do much on the longe line practice but we did practice on the end of his lead line at the walk. He improved a little but its still a work in progress.
We did a lot of hand walking around the barn. He doesn’t halt during the longing practice so he doesn’t have a great concept or respect for the verbal command. He will do it just fine when walking with him though, which is good we have at least that. He does have issues with hand walking when he has too much energy. We had a nice tantrum right next to the dressage arena once while waiting for an arena to open for turn out. There was also a lesson happening in there so I felt absolutely terrible. Luckily no one has gotten mad about any of his antics yet.
He is still ridiculously mouthy. A lot of the hand walking was spent arguing with him about not biting me and not biting at his lead rope. He will also curl his head to try to nip at me while I’m grooming or standing next to him. I decided that I needed to address this and he’s no longer getting treats by hand. I don’t want to not treat him at all though. He’s very food motivated so I definitely want to use that. I’ve now got a bucket that I use while grooming and stuff to drop a treat in. Hopefully he will slowly stop associating me as a treat dispenser and he will stop biting at me.
We also tried a bit of moving his quarters away from a whip tapping. He’s very dull to it. Well, dull might not be the right word. I’ve found that he doesn’t bother responding to a cue unless he 100% knows what the right answer is. He just ignores it. So I have to be very harsh for a teaching cue and then slowly back off from there. So I had to smack him with the longe whip to get him to move. I only tried that one day and decided that it wasn’t a thing I wanted to focus on yet given that he had so much else we needed to focus on first.
Over the course of almost a week of not riding, I definitely figured out a lot of holes in his ground work. This isn’t really surprising in one way since he is an OTTB and they don’t usually come out with ground manners. But he is so, so easy under saddle that I think I was not prepared for all the holes that showed themselves over the time of working with him. I have plans for working on most of them but it will take time and me being quite clear with him. I also cannot forget that I need to work on ground work, even when I want to ride him.