Friday, April 17, 2009

Spazfilly Lives Up To Her Name

Her blog name, that is. It was a wild Tuesday this week at the barn. Over Easter weekend I traveled to Louisiana, so Halo got nearly a full week off since her last session. Fortunately she's been getting turned out in the big pasture, so she at least gets to kick up her heels more on a daily basis.  Unfortunately it also means more bonding time with her new buddy Coral, from who she is now inseparable.

I pulled her out of the pasture on Tuesday evening with the intention of doing some light longeing. I didn't want to put too much pressure on her after a week off since I knew she'd have some extra spunk. I like to go back to the simplest tasks she knows best if it's been a while since I've worked her. While I had her at the hitching rail, the barn owner let me know she had some clippers set up in the barn that I could use if I needed to. Fantastic news! I've been wanting to work with Halo more on clipping for a while. But Tuesday did not turn out to be the ideal day.

The punk behavior began immediately at the hitching rail, where Halo insisted on pseudo-pawing during her grooming. Not really pawing, per se, but trying to put her leg up over the bottom rail. She does it out in the field and will actually stand on the gate sometimes. I corrected her each time she did it, but she was very persistent and fussy. Her next transgression was a mini-explosion while leading her up to the round pen. I'm not sure if something set her off, but I don't believe there was anything worthy of her behavior. She didn't get away from me, and was then made to lead quietly through the same area where she just freaked out. Once on the other side of the gate, she had another mini fit, but I was much more prepared. Again, she was corrected, and made to walk quietly through the same area. She was wound tight as a spring, prancing around and calling to Coral out in the field.

At this point I decided that it would be asking for trouble to throw her on the longe line and expect good behavior. She was still going to get worked, but we needed to deal with a little of the piss and vinegar first. I didn't want her running at warp speed in the round pen because it's hard on her legs, and I knew that's exactly what she would do if I went straight to longeing. We went out to the big arena and I set her loose. Off she flew! She bucked and ran with a great deal of exuberance all over the arena. After a few circuits, she calmed down a little bit and started to eat. I called her over, and led her back to the round pen.

She was definitely still energized as I put her on the longe line, and she whinnied for her pasture buddies several more times. But there was no time to be herd bound! I put her straight to work. Because of her energy level, I had her canter a few circles each direction to the point where she was paying attention to me and actively seeking a cue to whoa or slow down. Then we moved on to trot work, and finally walk. She worked up a bit of a sweat, as it was a warm night. We spent a long time walking, and cooled off with some showmanship work. I've been neglecting my showmanship work lately, and her spazzes in-hand on the way to the arena were indicative of that.

Back at the tie rail, the pawing started all over again. I was surprised, because usually she gets over her spazziness pretty quickly. It must be spring fever. Not one to let her off easily, she got her legs hosed and then we moved on to some clipping work. I didn't want to turn her out until she was giving me her attention, and not so concerned with impatience for food and returning to her herd. Her behavior was out of character enough that I wanted to make absolutely sure it wouldn't be encouraged or perpetuated by any of my actions.

The clipping was actually uneventful, though she did go wide-eyed on me. Her response was to stand absolutely frozen in place with an alarmed expression while I trimmed some of her whiskers - a response I didn't mind one bit since she wasn't fighting me. I only did her jawline on the near side and a few muzzle hairs before letting turning her out. No need for perfectionism - it was more about behavior than grooming results.

When I went to turn her out, it was time for round 3 of the spazzing. She wanted to fling her head up as I removed the halter, and I wasn't having any of it. She had her attention on the other horses out in the big field, and wasn't paying attention to me at all. That behavior earned her a circle walk in front of the gate, some sidepassing, and having the halter removed only when she relaxed and put her head down.

Overall, I view Tuesday as a good reminder that even a generally mellow horse will have a spazzy day.  Also, it's important for me to maintain patience even when she's doing everything she can to frustrate me. I know that in her little walnut-sized brain, none of her behavior has anything to do with me. She's busy fantasizing about sweet feed or what her friends are doing, and the human on the end of the rope is the least of her concerns. It's my job to have the patience to work with her until her attention comes back to me. Some days it can be very hard, but I enjoy the challenge.


moosefied said...

Halo seems so sensible all the time. I guess she has her share of goofytude, as well. At least she found she wouldn't be rewarded for it.

Hearing about other youngsters' successes and misdemeanors gives me hope.

spazfilly said...

Yep, there's a reason this blog is called "spazfilly"! When I first bought her, I actually thought she'd be much more goofy than she turned out to be. Next week may be another post like this though...we're having tons of rain and thunderstorms so it may be the middle of next week before I work her again.