I haven’t tried to ride Atticus in over a year. Why? Well, mostly because I was focused on trailering skills and desensitization. Then last summer I took a break from all training for a few weeks. Then this last winter was just too cold for me. I really wanted to just curl up and hibernate. Then in the spring when I thought we could get started on riding again, Atty came up lame. He’s still lame and I don’t know why.
Now that it’s fall already, I thought we could at least practice tacking up at liberty.
We had some saddle fitting issues for quite awhile and I wanted to see if the saddle still fit. Nope, it doesn’t.
What threw us into what I call “saddle fitting hell” for two years was having body work and chiropractic done that allowed his withers to rise up out of his shoulders. I didn’t realize for two years that that adjustment is what changed everything! In a human he’d have looked hunched up. Well, I think he’s back to that posture and I need the vet who changed his posture the first time to come back and do it again.
So for now, we’ll play with the saddle without girthing up much less getting on.
ALL of today’s work was done at liberty: saddle targeting, hoof work, grooming, and sheath cleaning. The only thing not done at liberty was the couple of minutes of traditional longeing. I’m working on training that at liberty. 🙂
It’s been fun and very interesting to see what Mr. A would do. He knows how to target his hips,shoulders, and cheek into my hand. And we’ve played a little bit with his targeting his belly to a saddle pad hung up on twine in the wash stall.
For the last couple of days, I’ve just held up the saddle, touched him lightly with the end of the stirrup flap, clicked and treated. I did that a few times, then held the saddle close enough but not touching him to see what he’d do. Smart boy! He shifts his weight or steps over to touch his barrel into the saddle.
Today I kept raising the saddle so that it touched him higher and higher on his barrel. He still targeted the saddle flap edge.
Then I put the saddle on and he didn’t move. In the past, when I’ve moved the saddle around, he’s moved – either backing up, walking forward, or swinging his hips away. It was so nice that he just stood there.
I also longed him in the traditional way (longe line on the halter but no whip) just to see if I can figure out which leg seems to be lame. It was either the left hind or the right front. He was more lame going to the right, so I suspect the right front.
From there we also practiced hoof handling and cleaning, really not much of a big deal at this point. But I like to wait for them offer the foot rather than my asking for it. In a way, though, my bending over is a cue for them to offer the hoof.
After that, I decided to go for sheath cleaning! What a fun job! Not! Although with clicker training it’s so much easier!
First I wait until he drops. In this case I helped that by grooming and treating for his standing still. When he was dropped, I then slid my hand along his belly until I could touch his penis. The first time or two he moved his nearest hind leg. If he didn’t move the leg, I clicked and treated. If he did move it, I just froze and did nothing for a few seconds. Then I tried again. I did ten reps on his right side and then ten reps on his left side. He was 80% successful – that is, he didn’t move his feet.
Then I added a bit more challenge by easing into checking for a bean. I don’t think he had one, but I haven’t tried to work on this before so I just did a few reps.
Then I moved on to adding sheath cleaner and working it all over so I could get the smegma off. The sheath cleaner has to be left on for about five minutes so I went on to other things such as combing his mane and tail. After the five minutes were up, I went back to sheath cleaning. Now I had to rinse the cleaner off and he was retracted. A little grooming in the itchy spots and some CT and he dropped again so that I could rinse him off.
That’s so much better than having to have the vet do it with drugs!