Thursday, October 23, 2008

Long Time, No Write

Wow! I've been away from the blog for a long time. But that doesn't mean Bo hasn't been busy.

First, Bo told me I was giving him too many new behaviours. I knew I was breaking the rules of training, but he's just so quick and willing. But his individual behaviours weren't solid, and he seemed to be getting frustrated. So I took a deep breath and s-l-o-w-e-d down.

I went back to what he already knew and simply reinforced things without adding anything new. Well, let's just say I slowed down adding new things.

Since Bo came home, he started with pirouettes. He's now well versed in those pirouettes and can turn both away from me as well as into me from either side. The addition of the dressage whip, once he understood its function as an extension of my arm, was a great benefit.

I started Bo on dressage work -- shoulders in and leg yield. We started by asking for just a turn of his head toward me while on our walks. The turn of the head soon became Bo curled around me and he was moving in three tracks. Then I added the dressage whip at his girth area, asking him to move away from me, and voila! leg yield. Each day he gets better and better. We've moved the lessons to the roundpen at liberty at both walk and trot.

And speaking of the roundpen, I've got Bo "heeling" at walk, trot and canter in both directions. Much more fun than longeing, and I get plenty of exercise, too! Bo seems to really enjoy the vigorous movements at liberty, and I try to start our sessions with lots of trot and canter and changes of directions. I've even started him on rollbacks, rapid changes of direction back and forth. It's great to see him be able to really bring his energy up for the quick work, then when he hears the click he stops and stands for his treats.

As far as just plain entertainment, Bo has taken up playing the piano, a little toy piano I bought at a charity shop. I also got him a big hot pink yoga ball, and he bunting that around with his knees, bending it like Beckham. :^) We're still working on retrieving, and Bo will pick up his retrieve toy but has yet to make any move to return it to me. Mostly I'm retrieving it from him. But there's progress.

Bo has also taken to his specially made OverRover! jumps. Initially, he was suspicious of the whole jump experience. It took me some time to convince him it was safe to even walk between the jump standards. But through the clicker work, he's now enjoying his jumping and he's jumping clean more often than not. Tonight, I tried him with two rails on the ground as cavaletti. It was fun watching him work out what I wanted; a couple of times he jumped over the rails. But after a few clicks for walking through them properly, he got the idea. I even saw some lovely suspension at the trot as he thought about where he was putting his feet.

For the last two weeks, I've noticed Bo has been doing some odd things when chewing his carrot treats. He would roll his head to the right and really seem to be working the carrots. It was getting noticeably worse. So I called the vet to come out and have his teeth worked on. I thought maybe he had a retained molar cap that was causing problems. But it turned out he was just very sharp and had some ulcers in the side of his mouth where the teeth were cutting up his cheeks. The vet and tech came out last night, and the three of us were down on our knees working on him. Today he was much better with his carrot bits, although he did roll his head on at least one occasion. The vet said he may retain this behaviour for a while, expecting pain on chewing and until the ulcers have a chance to heal. But he was obviously much better.

Now that his teeth have been floated, I will have to get serious about ordering a bit for him and starting him down the road to his "real" horse job of driving. I have no doubt that all the other work we've been doing will cross over to his driving.

Well, enough for now. I'll try to be a better correspondent in future. And if you want to see our most recent video, although even it is a bit outdated, here's the YouTube address: