In the last post I mentioned going to war with my horse.
Let's just say in retrospect it was more like a 5 minute bicker over who forgot to put the milk back in the fridge.
The real war happened a few days later, last Sunday afternoon. That was a 4 hour battle.
That is how long it took to get a halter on my horse in his pasture.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the history, my 17 year old gelding has had issues with being caught that has stemmed several previous owners that I know of. My former farrier even said he used to have to corner him in a stall and catch him to shoe him for one of his owners. I have battled the issue off and on for 4 years but finally gave up and just kept a turnout halter on him. I'd take out a bucket of treats, he'd eat them, I'd clip on the leadrop and that was that. He was none the wiser.
However, since My Boy is now in my backyard, I decided to start working on this issue. Two weeks ago the turnout halter had slipped over one ear. When I went to adjust it in the pasture, he pulled back out of the halter and broke free. It took me about 20 minutes to get it back on him, hardly a problem.
Skip ahead a week and I decided to just take off the turnout halter completely. The next time I went to catch him, it took about 45 minutes of driving him around the pasture before he gave in but I got him caught.
Rewind to last Sunday. Middle of the day, hottest day of the summer. I have no idea what I was thinking other than, "Gee, it's pretty warm, I bet My Boy won't want to run around much before he gives up. If it took 45 minutes last week, it'll probably only take about 20 minutes today!" Ha. Ha. Ha.
After 3 hours, yes, 3 hours of driving him around (me drinking two bottles of water and a Dr. Pepper) I was done. I could not go further without risk of getting heat exhaustion. I had My Boy driving around me, at times he'd face up and I thought he was ready to relent. Or he'd let me stroke his neck or even get his nose in the halter, then he'd turn and run off. At times he'd trot in a 20 ft. circle around me like he was on the longe line. I'd say whoa and he'd just walk on. I kept his feet moving, offering him relief peridocially to be caught. Truth be told his pasture isn't huge but it was big enough that keeping his feet moving at all times was just too hard on a hot summer summer day.
Exasperated, I called Paint Girl. She said to keep trying until dark! I totally agreed that I could not let him win this battle! But I said I told her that I just didn't have the energy in this heat to go any further. I decided plan B would be to not feed him dinner and try again later. If he refused, then he'd go hungry overnight. Maybe a hungry horse would be a little more willing to come out of his pasture to eat. Luckily Ranch Boy stepped in to try, fresh feet. After twenty minutes, our horsey neighbors who were watching the fiasco came over to help. More fresh feet and good horse experience. Finally, within half an hour My Boy gave up at his gate and let Ranch Boy and his mom get the halter on. He was dripping sweat head to tail. I had warmed him up, and they had worn him down.
Seriously, you'd think the horse thought I was shipping him off to slaughter the way he was fighting to be caught.
I walked him out, cooled him out, hosed him down, then moved him to a smaller corral on the ranch.
By the way, after I took care of my horse that night, I made pasta and sauce for dinner then couldn't eat a bit of it as I was pretty dehydrated and got a migraine from the whole stinkin' horse chasing afternoon. I ended up getting sick that night.
My Boy has been in the smaller corral since last Sunday. In this space I have been catching and haltering him with no problem. He walked away from me twice the first day, but quickly realized there was just no place to go. I think My Boy would do better being kept in a small corral, the catching wouldn't be an issue. However, I don't want him to be in a small corral, I like him to be in a small pasture where he can wander all day, nibbling on grass and keeping his arthritic hocks moving. He doesn't do well standing in one place all day, he can stock up in his hind fetlocks.
MB, pre-catching fiasco. In this photo, taken just before dusk, I was trying to capture the beautiful nearly-full moon as My Boy ate his dinner. Unfortunately, the moon was not showing up in any of the photos!
So after a few days of conversation with others, I've come to the conclusion that at his age, My Boy may never get over his catching issue. Past history has shown this behavior to recycle itself. Oh sure, I could try round-penning him (but I don't have a round-pen.) I already do a lot of groundwork with him and he's very respectful on the ground. People say, "Try putting the leadrope around his neck before haltering him." A leadrope does not hold my 1100 lb. horse when he decides he wants to pull back and away from my 104 lb. self. Trust me, I've tried it.
I think he's well-worth keeping despite this extremely frustrating habit (let me tell you last Sunday I was about ready to list him on Dreamhorse.com!) I can keep a turn-out halter on him and got back to the treat method. It may seem like a cop-out but sometimes you just have to pick your battles.
Two days after the catching fiasco I had the best arena ride I've had in years on My Boy. We loped both directions, slow and on a loose rein, I kept my butt down and was more relaxed. We even did a simple lead change (he can do flying lead changes I just haven't done them with him in years.) It felt good and gave me a lot of confidence especially at the lope!
Funny story to close this post on- I had to find a new farrier for My Boy when I moved him. I opted to use the same farrier Ranch Boy uses. When the farrier got out of the truck he took one look at My Boy and said dead-pan: "I charge more for Appys." Hee hee. Let's just say I was proud that My Boy was PERFECT for that shoeing! The farrier also said his hooves should be in much better shape after about 6 months in the drier climate he is in. Right now he is at about 5 weeks from his last appointment and already in dire need of a reset. I usually go 7-9 weeks. His hooves are in such bad shape I am hoping they hold up through the summer.
I still get many compliments on My Boy! Many people who see him always comment on how cute and handsome he is.
But I already know that, despite how much of a stinker he can be to catch.