VG Midnight Cowboy and Saint Croix both arrived here a month ago. Since then I’ve been working with them on a lot of basic groundwork while giving them the space and time to settle in to their new home.
Saint Croix was the most anxious when he got here. For the first couple of days he wouldn’t let me catch him, at least not easily. Now of course, he wants to be caught and do our short little lessons. Saint quickly earned the nickname “Chili Pepper” because he was so spicy. Now he is more about the “Chill”.
I’ve been listening to some podcasts and watching some YT videos on clicker training. I’ve done a bit of it with Jovi and that is how I trained him to stand so well for mounting.
I learned to separate Jovi for some feedings while making sure that plenty of hay was spread around in a way so that the two new horses wouldn’t get cornered. I have since picked up a 3rd Porta Grazer and that is working out well. Each of the three horses has been learning about keeping a safe distance when I bring the hay out to fill up the Porta Grazers.
I’ve been getting Saint and Cowboy used to eating wet mashes made from Sport Horse Stable Mix. They weren’t sure about it at first but now they inhale it. I knew that they were both stressed with the change of home so I’ve been adding Redmond Daily Gold into the mashes morning and night. It is good for stress relief and I feel that it helps with calming down an anxious horse.
Since I’m using this blog to document the training progress with my horses I thought a month in that it would be a good idea to go over some of the things that we have done in the first month.
1. Fly Masks: Saint and Cowboy are now comfortable with putting fly masks on and off. They weren’t sure about the velcro sound at first but now are totally fine with it.
2. Fly Spray: Both are good with being wiped down with fly spray or applying Swat. Not going to pressure them with spraying them for now though I have exposed them to spraying near them. The flies are going away now so we have plenty of time to work on this.
3. Baths: When the boys arrived we had a lot of rain so the horses were in bad need of a bath as they were covered in mud. I started out using the Tiger’s Tongue (a type of sponge) dipped in a bucket of water and got them used to that, then proceeded to put the waterhose flow on a trickle, then placed the end of the hose on the Tiger’s Tongue and went over them that way. It was a little slower than a full on spray bath but we got it done this way and without any drama or stressing them out.
4. Cotton Rope: Both were easy to work with on the ground using a cotton rope. I have put the rope around their bodies and used it to pick up each leg forward and back. I also have allowed each horse to drag a shorter rope. No panicking or stress, just calm horses enjoying getting attention. Each horse watches the other one get worked and then tries to show off when it is their turn. I’ve been really impressed with how fast they pick stuff up.
5. Longing: We started with just simply walking in a circle and progressed up to now the horses both longe each direction on a line and at liberty. It will take more time for them to be proficient with all of the voice cues. I prefer to work them at liberty in a larger area over using a line and doing small circles.
6. Picking up feet and booting: The rope work helped immensely here. Both horses have now let me clean their feet, treat for thrush and rasp on a hoof stand. I’ve also fitted them both for Renegade Vipers and have done some ground lessons with the boots on.
7. Tied to the trailer: Each horse has taken turns together or with Jovi being tied on the trailer. I have the Trailer Ties out with hay bags and water buckets on the trailer. This is when I spend time grooming them, picking up feet and letting them just hang out, eat and watch all of the goings on.
8. Collars: I waited until just recently to start putting collars on them since they were both still learning how to lead with a halter. Everything was new to them and they both hesitated going through gates or stalls. This is when I could lead Jovi through an area and allow the others to follow. I didn’t want to pressure them and they quickly figured things out. Both now are great about being tied with a collar on and have already mastered how to rotate the collar and rope when they move around.
9. Going off property: Both horses have been walked through the neighborhood and out on the trail. I’ve also had a friend ride Jovi while I took Saint out to the trail. I try to walk one or both horses at least once a day so they can get familiar with the neighborhood and other animals and livestock. On one of the last outings I even had Saint jogging alongside me.
10. Trailer loading: I have put each horse in the 2 horse trailer once and then decided that was good enough for now. I want to spend more time doing groundwork and getting them comfortable with me and their new home before asking them to trailer load. I know I could get them in if there was an emergency.
11. Ground driving: I have done a few ground driving lessons with Saint. He figured it out quickly and I am able to steer him through my little obstacle course and all around the property. The most recent ground driving lessons I tacked him up with a saddle and boots. He just needs a little more work on whoa, and backing though he does it just needs to get a little more proficient before I get on him.
12. Obstacle course at liberty: This is where both horses have really impressed me. It literally took one time of me leading them through the obstacle course before I let them follow me through it at liberty. They follow me through the poles, over the bridge, the railroad ties, poles on the ground at a walk and trot. I think each time one of them watches the other work the course they then try to show off when it is their turn.
13. Group free longing. This is where I have all three horses together in the acre field and get them walk, trot and cantering. Saint and Cowboy tend to stick together while Jovi is comfortable being on his own either ahead or behind them. Jovi has been teaching them the process and what is expected and they have picked it up quite well.
14. Quad training. I use my quad to drag the fields every couple of days and let the horse get used to the sound of it starting and running. Now I can drive up to either of them and give them a carrot or pet them, and if they are grazing they just keep their heads down. Saint and Cowboy both look towards Jovi to see how he reacts and fortunately he is a really laid back and non reactive horse.
So I’d say that we have made a lot of progress already. I am taking it slow and careful with the new horses. I realize that mentally they both need time to get settled and comfortable in their new home. It is different for each horse though I feel that usually it takes about six months.
I’m going a little slower with Cowboy, since he is only 4. I’m just happy that thus far I have managed not to get stepped on. These new guys are really keeping me on my toes while they learn about manners and to stay out of my space.