…which means Abe will just be a field ornament until I’m back and I won’t be updating the blog until the second week of November, most likely.
By the time I get back, though, he should have his full winter coat in – he’s getting quite fluffy now, and I’m looking forward to seeing how furry he ends up this time.
I decided to do a little comparison between the horses today – of how they target a ping pong bat.
Abe’s been at this game the longest, since about March, and he’s deft, accurate, knows exactly what he’s doing and has an air almost of condescension about how he gently dobs his nose against the bat.
Compare with George and Poppy, not to mention the surprise self-addition of Dancer into the game!
Though in a good way! Details are on George’s blog but here’s Abe tonight, enjoying a well-earned snooze in his stable after dinner.
Looking back to some of the early pix of Abe, the white on his face has really spread over the past 8 months! I think he’s heading for fleabitten like his great-grandad…
Ages ago I bought Fleurr, aka Poppy, and her foal Parlakis Flower Dancer – but we’ve been waiting forever (it seems!) for Dancer’s passport to come through from the Arab Horse Society.
Finally, it’s arrived!
The stud will deliver them on Wednesday morning, so tomorrow will be a day for checking over the big foaling box here, make sure any little repairs that might need doing are done, lay a good deep bed for them, fill up a haynet, make sure the water drinker’s clean and track down the food they’re used to (Spiller’s Conditioning Chaff and Dodson & Horrell’s Mare and Youngstock Mix, one scoop of each morning and evening).
There will be adorable foal photos soon!
It’ll be interesting to see how far out of joint Abe’s nose gets when he hears people gushing about someone even prettier than himself…
With George getting a food ball every night, Abe’s been getting his smaller food ball half full of fibre nuggets as well. I think I’d better dial that back a bit and only quarter-fill the ball for him – he’s getting tubby!
In his defence, he’s used to getting more long-reining and walking around exercise and that’s been curtailed since George needs his company for mental stability, at least for now, so, since he’s too old now to just grow when he has excess calories, he’s getting quite rotund, even chubby.
They’ve had a bit of interesting spectacle to watch over the past couple of days – Davie the farmer from up the road brought a JCB to dig a hole for a new septic tank to go in, so Helen’s static caravan can be hooked up to the tank. Both boys have been fascinated!
Here’s Abe showing off his new trick. I asked around a bit to see if anyone in the local training group I’m a member of had a cue for Spanish Walk I could borrow, and after a bit of discussion we settled on something totally different from the existing lift-hoof-please cue, which is me putting my hand on his shoulder while standing next to him, facing his tail. For Spanish Walk, I cup my hand lightly under his elbow while facing his head. With any luck, once he’s being ridden he’ll find it easy to pick up on a cue like my toe gently tapping behind his shoulder to produce Spanish Walk under saddle, but for now it should (once firmly established) avoid him trying to do Spanish Walk when his hooves are being trimmed or the like!
He caught on like lightning! It only took two or three ‘asks’ with the new cue before he produced his Spanish Walk precursor (he’s very impressed with his new trick and likes to show it off anyway – and why not?) and immediately got a jackpot reward (a whole handful of treats instead of one, plus me gushing at him about how clever he was). That was all he needed, clever lad that he is! The next two times I asked, the leg went straight up and forward. I went round to his near fore and gave the same cue there, and instantly that leg went up and out, too – and he’s never done that with his near fore before with or without a cue, so well done him for realising what I wanted!
More jackpot rewards, of course.
In the evening I persuaded someone to hold the camera and record it for me, and here it is – a little untidy and needing work on extending duration, but it’s definitely the start of Spanish Walk!
Now all I have to do is re-establish the cue for hoof-lift-please (as you can see in the video, he’s a little bit confused at the moment – not least about which leg I want up!) and then slowly extend how long he’ll hold his leg up and out by a few seconds, get him to step forwards between each ‘ask’ and he’ll be there.
All his own idea, too!
Some time ago I set out to teach Abe to hold his own feet up to be picked out, and he’s very good at it. I only need to put my hand on shoulder or rump and up comes a hoof, to be held up neatly until I take it in my hand…
…except for his off fore!
There, he seems to feel many options are better than one.
Sometimes he decides to have a really good stretch, so he’ll pick up his leg, reach right forward with it, put the near fore up alongside it and then dip his chest to the floor.
I love this stretch – quite apart from looking so cute, it’s good for their chest muscles and for lengthening and suppling their leg tendons – so I took to rewarding him for producing it.
Now he’s decided to offer option three – pick up near fore and hold it as far forward and up as possible, as if he’s started to do Spanish Walk and frozen mid-step! I’ve been doing some work with encouraging him to keep his feet up on a hoof stand for longer and possibly that’s given him the idea, or he’s latched onto the reward for the stretch and thought I was rewarding the moment he reaches that hoof forward to begin the stretch so that’s what he’s giving me.
I’m torn. He obviously thinks it’s a super trick and deserves a treat – and it does! But it doesn’t really help with the stretch, or with picking out his hoof! One day it’ll be lovely for actual Spanish Walk… but what do I do with it in the meantime? If I ignore it he’ll stop doing it…. but do I want to see it disappear?
I think I have to reward it, but I also think I need to sit down and plan a strategy for teaching him specific and separate signals for each of these behaviours, so we both know what I’m asking for and what he ought to be doing in return!