Last week was a momentous one for Mr Curly Horse, and we could not be more proud of the amazing progress this horse has made.
Monday’s accomplishment was a successful first standing hoof trim. Matt’s been working with Owen on picking up his feet since he took over his training, and he’s done really well with it. But the last time Owen saw farrier Joe Marceau was the day of his gelding surgery, and at that point in his life, Owen seemed to be especially fearful of men, especially tall men. So we did not know what to expect when the two met again. Matt presented Joe’s rasp and hoof stand for Owen to examine, and once he demonstrated little or no excitement towards either object, Joe moved in and asked Owen to pick up a foot for him. And lo and behold, Owen picked up his foot, just like he’d been doing it his whole life. His front hooves were quite long, since they hadn’t been trimmed since the day he was gelded, but he allowed Joe to use the nippers and the rasp without fuss. His back hooves didn’t need as much work since they were naturally pretty nicely balanced, so they just required rasping. But Owen cooperated throughout, and before long, his hooves were looking really nice. As Matt remarked when it was over, we expected things to end well, we just didn’t expect them to START so well! Matt deserves a lot of credit for the work he put in to get Owen ready for his trim…the first of many he will have over the course of his lifetime.
The next day, Owen was introduced to the saddle. Matt prepared him for this with a full month of ground work, and he’d already desensitized Owen to the girth by looping the lead rope around his barrel and slowly adding pressure, and by putting a bareback pad with a girth on him. But this was a big step, and Matt was fully prepared for some fireworks from Owen when he introduced a western saddle for the first time. As you’ll see in the video below, Owen accepted the strange new saddle calmly. Really, his only reaction after the saddle was set onto his back was to slowly lift his right leg and sort of stomp it back down, followed by the same odd movement with the left. But that was it. Once the girths were both in place, Matt asked him to move out on the lunge line, and Owen did just that, no fussing, no bucking, no kicking, no nothing. So Matt decided to up the ante and put his weight into one of the stirrups…and as you’ll see in the video, Owen was okay with that too. Granted he looked a tiny bit bewildered by the experience…but he was calm, pretty relaxed, and had no major objections to anything he was asked to do.
So the next day, having checked with Owen to make sure he was ready, Matt decided it was time for Owen’s first ride. Matt prefers to start horses in just a halter so that there’s no risk of clonking the horse in the mouth with the bit if he starts to buck, and also to avoid the dangerous situations that might occur if he came off and the horse ended up with the reins over his head. Once again, Owen did not react when Matt climbed into the saddle, and we might have thought that he’d been ridden before except for the fact that he had no idea whatsoever about what to do next! At first, he could only step backwards in a circle, so Matt had me lead him forward for a few steps to help him get the general idea of what was being asked of him. After that, it was only a matter of time before he started tentatively stepping forward, and then he was walking with a rider on his back.