Sunday, 12 January 2014

Rico as a Two Year Old.

I wanted to keep Rico entire as long as possible, so he would muscle up as much as possible like a stallion and be bold and brave in his outlook on life. This has in practise meant that I couldn't really do very much with him this year. We have a lot of mares here and the big field he shares with the retired geldings is right at the top of the track which means he has to go past every mare on the way to the field and back. It seems as though at least one of them is always in season so I've just left him out as much as possible, and as it was such a good summer he hasn't been in much at all until recently.

Strangely enough he was never much of a problem to lead past them in the mornings, it was always at night that he'd prance and dance his way down the track, huffling away, hoping to impress the girls and succeeding! At night I couldn't help but be very aware that I had a stallion on the end of the leadrope! This has actually been very good for me as I had to up my game. I had to keep him away from the mares either side and obviously if he'd got loose it could have been a major problem so I had to make sure he didn't!

Turning him out in the mornings (the few times he was in) we did plenty of clicker training, with me clicking him for things like walking beside me on a loose lead, sliding down the leadrope to ask for an engaged halt (he's brilliant at this and halts instantly I begin asking, and usually halts square) and halting then backing, plus some walk trot transitions when he was really calm.

I didn't even try any clicker training usually at night. If he was in stallion mode I just kept him walking and carried a stick to keep him out of the space in front of me as necessary (assertively but not aggressively). Otherwise I ignored the macho behaviour and focussed on keeping moving forward to our destination! I led him in a smooth Spanish cavesson so I had total confidence in my ability to keep hold of him and I actually think he was amazingly well behaved for a young colt in those circumstances.

In October I decided that there was no point in leaving it any longer and had him gelded. My vet is the most careful, painstaking perfectionist you could ever wish to meet and it couldn't have been smoother or less stressful. He gelded him standing and Rico was a star and took the whole experience in his stride, and healed in no time.

I was worried I might regret it afterwards but, 3 months on, I don't for one minute. Life for both of us is so much easier and less complicated. He has gone from being by far the most difficult one of my horses to bring in to being one of the best! We do some clicker training coming in now as well as going out and  he focusses so hard on whatever I might be going to ask for, walking relaxed and calmly beside me on a loose leadrope with his head low and his eye always on me. Tonight another youngster galloped up the field and down the fence alongside the track beside him and he didn't even notice until it skidded to a halt next to us, he was so busy concentrating on being a clickable horse! I can't think of any other training method that would engage a two year old's brain and co-operation to that extent!!! He is a total sweetheart, the friendliest horse imaginable and I love him to bits!!!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Rico as a Yearling.

Rico is growing into a very charming, happy 'person'. He is always laid back, delighted to see people and always looks as though he has a smile on his face. He's stabled in the barn next door to Bella at night and is never a moment's trouble, despite still being entire, and he's turned out with three elderly geldings who he loves to bits, especially his best mate and boss horse, Tom. They all keep Rico in his place but are very tolerant of him and genuinely seem to enjoy his company. He looks as though he's being a real pest sometimes and they do tell him off but he's never had so much as a scratch on him. I couldn't have asked for better companions and mentors for him and I'm very grateful to all three of them.

Rico loves posing for the camera and last week when I was taking some photos he picked up a stick. He played with it for a while and then brought it over to me at the fence! He's a real clown, very lovable and he's starting to look quite classy at times. He isn't the world's most spectacular mover but clicker training has done so much for Bella's trot I'm sure I can work on that when he's a bit older.

He is such a lovely character and, if he stays as well behaved as he is now I'll be very tempted to keep him entire, as long as he can stay with his friends and have a 'normal' social lifestyle. If he gets too much for them then I will have him gelded. I am very, very fond of him and it's lovely to have so much to look forward to for the future. I never really though I'd ever get my Andalusian, let alone such an adorable, easy one! I am very lucky.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Introducing the Clicker and Tai Chi Walls.

I haven’t had much time to introduce Rico to clicker training since I bought him as most of the horses are still in at night so mucking out still occupies a big chunk of the day and a lot of my energy! However, right from the start, I’ve been giving him a tongue click and a treat when he’s good to have his feet picked up.

Tonight I decided to see if he’d made the connection and he certainly has!!! His little face lit up with the very first click and within minutes he was reliably touching the target wherever I held it. He takes the treats very politely and gently and we both had a lovely time!

I LOVE working with youngsters. I once taught one of my lambs to target my hand with his ear in just a few minutes. I couldn’t believe that he’d really got it but he had.

Roll on Summer and more time to play!!!!

Rico is moulting and very itchy at the moment and he has the typical baby habit of throwing himself against things to have a rub on them, including me! I’ve been trying to discourage this without getting too heavy handed or aggressive with him but he’s very confident and quite difficult to put off!

I suddenly remembered Alexandra Kurland’s Tai Chi rope exercises and the Tai Chi rope wall.

Basically this is using the bone rotation of your arm to make the leadrope into a wall which you can use to redirect the horse’s energy and, literally, bounce him back off it out of your space. As I’m doing it I think ”this is a wall and there is no way you can come this way”. I’ve found it to be an amazingly powerful and effective non-confrontaional technique. Rico obviously did too as within four repetitions over the last two days I only have to start running my hand down the rope if he’s leaning my way and he’s straight back in his own space again with no offence taken!

When it’s well established I’ve even found it transferable to riding – thinking that the inside rein is a wall to keep the horse from falling in, just by the power of communicating the suggestion really plus the extra energy that’s probably transferred into the rein (I’m not aware of actually doing anything physical). Note to self – have a play at using it with the outside rein to stop Bella from drifting out which she’s been doing a little just lately.

I LOVE all this clever stuff!!!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Introducing Escaro Novillero.

On the 23rd February 2012 I fulfilled a long held dream and bought my Andalusian, Escaro Novillero, or Rico for short, just two weeks after he had been weaned. He is everything an Andalusian should be - calm, laid back, very sociable, bold and curious. He loves people and has never had any reason to fear anything very much. I loved him straight away, for his attitude and his conformation. This was our first meeting at the stud where he was born.

This is his sire, Ulysis, a performing circus horse.

His dam is Camisa, a registered PRE of pure Carthusian blood. She is by Emperador XXV and out of Dotado III. She was bred by Mario Torio Collantes of Madrid. Rico was born on the 11th August 2011.

This is Rico on his first day out in his new home. I turned him out with Dougal who made an excellent job of looking after him and playing with him. At night he's stabled in the barn, in sight of Dougal but next to Bella who strangely seems to quite like him, which is most unusual for Bella!

Here is Mike getting to know Rico a few days later. The light is not good but I love these photos!!! Rico has settled so well and seems very relaxed and happy here, and he adores attention from Mike and I.

After a week I turned him and Dougal out in the big top field with the old, retired geldings, Tom, Russell and Guinness, and then returned Dougal to a smaller, barer paddock when the spring grass started to come through. Hopefully these three will be Rico's mentors for many years to come.