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!!!

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