It was a long, hard winter, the worst I’ve seen since I was a kid. But we made it through and we have repaired most of the damage done to our place. This winter we also acquired a young, untrained horse.
He was owned by a horse hoarder, a woman who kept horses but who did not know anything about horses. She did not ride them. She did not have a vet nor a farrier. She did not worm them. She fed them, though they were a bit gaunt. She was selling due to a divorce. We got this beautiful little 5 year old dun Missouri fox trotter gelding for very little money. We also got a training project.
When I first met him, he was curious but untrusting. He would approach me, but not let me touch him anywhere but his face. If I tried to touch him on his side, he would turn toward me and present his face. If I turned to walk away, however, he would follow me. He did like being petted on his face, so he was friendly to humans, he just hadn’t had much training. I wondered if we could get him home. He had been trailered to the hoarder’ s place about 14 months before, so I was hopeful.
I managed to get a halter on him, though he tossed his head trying to avoid the halter. I got it on him by baiting him into the halter using apple slices. He followed me out of his pen, but danced around as we left the barn.
He balked at the trailer, but I slowly baited him into the trailer using food. He did not react well to being tied, but by then the door behind him was closed and so his ability to fight the tie was limited.
We got him home and training began in earnest. I started in his stall, with trust building. I would halter him, tie him up, and then work to calm him, until he could accept being tied. Then I would groom him, slowly expanding the areas he would let me touch until I could touch him anywhere without flinching.
Then I “sacked him out” by holding him on a lead rope and flinging the rope all around his body. He flinched a little at first, but very quickly came to trust that he was safe and was not going to get hurt.
I worked to teach him ground manners, to back, turn, and follow me on lead. I worked with him to step aside when I pushed on his side.
When the ice and snow finally melted, and when he had seen a vet for shots and a Coggins test, and after I had wormed him, I introduced him to our other horses. After some initial squealing and posturing, he was accepted into the herd.
I continued his training in our round pen. I introduced working on a long lead, with circle work. We started with a walk, as he tends to do better starting slow, with trust building. I just asked him to walk and whoa on cue and command. He picked it up fairly quickly. Then I added trotting. He has a nice foxtrot!
I have expanded his sacking out to include a feed sack, then a saddle pad. I have also been simulating having a girth on by holding a rope taught around his body.
He was excellent for his first time with the farrier recently. I was happy at how far he has come with his training.
I hope to be riding him by the end of summer.