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Archive for the ‘Gerda’s Animal Aid’ Category

I am continually amazed by my little gelding.  To understand why, you really have to look at things in context.  Two months ago, the little guy was basically wild, and was virtually unhandled.  Who knows what happened to get the entire herd transported to the auction, but I’m sure it wasn’t your usual walk-the-horses-onto-the-trailer type situation.  And then the auction.  Scared horses, lights, sounds, and people.  Weaned in the auction pen.

Then another trailer ride (albeit with a rescue this time), another strange place, strange horses, new people.  And a month after that, another trailer ride, another new place, and more strangers.

And through it all, he has never once offered to do anything mean-spirited.  He’s been nervous, hesitant, confused, but always trying to do what’s asked of him.  In the two weeks since I brought Jax home, here’s what he’s accomplished:

  • Has rather seamlessly adjusted to his new home, getting along spectacularly with Sparky and Harley, his pasturemates.  They are teaching him a great deal, and he is following Harley around every chance he gets.  Sort of like a Big Sister / Big Brother program for horses.

Jax and Harley, his new “big brother”

  • Automatically moves himself out of my space most of the time.  Backs up on verbal cue, touch to the chest, and hand gesture.  (To be fair, he learned to back up at Gerda’s.  I just fine-tuned).
  •  Picks up all four feet (most of the time).  Front feet for 3-5 solid seconds, back feet a little less but is getting a little less antsy when he does so.
  • Leads, from both sides, reliably and calmly.  Turns when I turn, stops when I stop, with no issues 80-90% of the time.  (Again, Barbara at Gerda’s Animal Aid did the initial work here – I fine-tuned).
  • Has started to learn to longe.  I’ve done some work with him on the end of  a long lead rope.  Just walk on, whoa, walk on.  Stop, switch direction, walk on, whoa, and so on.  But he’s caught on well.
  • Stands for you to put his halter on with very little fussing.  Since a few days after his arrival here, he’s been turned out without a halter.
  • Stands for me to groom him, including mane and tail.
  • Stood for an EyeD scan today, almost without incident (he kept turning his head to see the rep when she was trying to do a straight-on head shot).  Showed absolutely no fear of the camera.  A couple of sniffs and he couldn’t have cared less.
  • Has checked out barrels, mounting blocks, cones, jolly balls, a cat, a goat, 2 dogs, tractors, wheelbarrows, cars, and a heapload of other horses calmly and curiously.  Has listened to chainsaws, car horns, far-off rifle shots, and other strange sounds.  Most spooks have been brief and in place.

Jax checks out Dakota’s mounting block. It’s huge. It’s a four-step industrial thing my husband bought me as a gift.

A cone and a barrel – neither of which, we discovered, eat weanlings.

  •  Learned to wear a fly mask.  And, judging by the fact that it wasn’t on his stall door yesterday, learned to take it off.
  • As of today, stood to be sprayed for detangler and fly spray.
  • As of yesterday, discovered a treat he liked.  Jax and Harley, his new “big brother”
  • Has started to trust me.  Rubs his head on me, tilts his head and neck for scratches, and looks to me for cues when he’s nervous.  Has begun to be curious and even a little friendly with strangers.  Has come up to check out a couple of visitors, and even decided to interact with my husband today.  He seems a little more shy of men than women.

The last one takes a little bit of management.  He’s so darned cute that everyone wants to pet him.  Fortunately for me, the barn is filled with decent people who don’t push it with him. But some of my n9n-horsey friends and relatives who have visited need to be coached on how to interact with him.

Dakota loves everyone, and so they’re used to her standing and seeking attention, looking for treats, ducking her head for scratches.  Jax doesn’t do that as a rule.  He’s just starting to do that stuff on occasion with me and the people he sees every day.

But I’m learning too.  I’m continually discovering who this little guy is.  From his favorite scratchy spots, to the way he stops and considers things carefully from time to time, to his expressions, it’s a really neat experience to start figuring him out.  I have to switch approaches sometimes to teach him things.  I have to control my frustrations when we’re working.  I have to continually adjust my plan for the day to see where he’s at.  If it becomes clear that we’re not going to get to a certain point, I have to set a new goal, so that we’re always ending on a success when we end a session.

Jax is very intuitive; if you’re frustrated or unsure, he reacts to it.  I have to make sure that I am calm and confident.   I can’t let myself bring in the bad mood of the day when I get in the stall or ring with him.  I have to just be with him, be focused on what I’m doing.  It’s been an enlightening experience.  A couple of times, I’ve been surprised at what’s been rattling around in the back of my head during a session with him – discovering it only when I’ve been trying to figure out why things weren’t clicking.

He’s a real thinker, too.  More than once, I’ve adjusted a lesson to set the goal lower, ended on a good note, and come in the next day to find that the thing we struggled to make any progress with yesterday is a piece of cake today.  He thinks about things.

He’s honing my patience, and my ability to relax and just be.  As much as I may be teaching my little gelding, he’s teaching me, too.

Life is good.

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Long, wet day, but I just got back from checking on Jax one last time tonight.  He’s doing well.  Amazingly well, actually.  Little guy had never been led more than 50 feet or so from his barn – until today.  Walked all the way up the long driveway like a trooper.  He was a little unsure of the trailer, but once in, settled right down.  Within an hour of getting home, he was eating hay, peeing, pooping, and begging for dinner – all very good signs in a horse!  Didn’t eat his grain tonight, but that’s OK; gave him some more hay for the night to keep him busy.  He’s got some yucky worms, and I was ever-s0-privileged to see some of the disgusting creatures while I was helping clean the trailer after we got home.  Bot larvae – ewwwwwwww.  GAA wormed him – twice – since getting him, but he’s probably going to need at least one more round.

 

He bonded right away with Sparky, the mare who rode up with us, even calling for her this afternoon when she left for a little while.  We even worked in a short training session – a little lead work around the indoor ring, and he was SO good – in 10 days, it’s amazing what great work they’ve done with the little guy.  Walked right where he should, knew “whoa,” “back,” and “walk on.”  Smart little colt!

 

He was even relaxed enough to check out a Jolly Ball toy in the indoor ring.  Still no idea what an apple or treats are, though.  I did, however, locate a particularly good scratchy spot.  Lip was going, and he got all goofy.

 

He had quite a few visitors at the barn this afternoon; is building a whole new fanclub in CT.  Well deserving of it, too.

 

And I’m exhausted – very exciting, but emotionally tiring day.  Can’t thank the folks at GAA enough for saving Jax and for letting me adopt him.  And can’t thank Jill enough for transporting him home for me!  Can’t wait to get back to see the little guy tomorrow!

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OK, all the essentials have arrived, Jax’s food is in a brand-ee new container in the feed room, adoption agreement is signed….

The round pen at the barn is getting gussied-up (grass is a little long, so we’re counting on the resident goat to help out) so that I can begin working with Jax in there.

A little nervous, actually, in that Christmas Eve sort of way.  Hoping everything goes smoothly Tuesday, and that he takes to his new place.  Hoping the transition isn’t too hard on Sir Richard, too, who’s had a bit of a rough week.  I’m sure it’ll be a bit rough on all the folks at GAA, since Jax is a special little guy, and everyone there loves him.

Couple of great photos Gerda posted over at GAA’s Facebook page:

Peek-a-boo, Jax!

Jax and Sir Richard enjoying their grain.

And now all there is to do is wait…keep your fingers crossed, and good thoughts for a safe and smooth trip up to VT and home.

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OK, I have all of the immediate needs taken care of:

1.  Rope halter with lead for training work

2.  Mare and Foal feed

3.  Irresistably cute apple ribbon polo wraps

4.  Stall name plaque

5.  Shipping boots

OMG, this is seriously like having a baby.  Given all of the gear I’ve accumulated for Dakota over the last few years…be afraid.   Be very afraid.

 

Poor Sir Richard, Jax’s dad, had a really rough day yesterday.  The farrier and the vet were there to do his feet, and the proud, largely unhandled, newly gelded guy freaked, despite sedation.  They were able to address a badly cracked hoof, but that’s it.

 

Gerda’s Animal Aid is now strategizing for the best way to address his training needs.  I know they’re going to get him the best help they can, but I’m sure it’s going to be expensive for them.

 

If you would like to donate to a good cause, please consider helping them with their work.

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