Monday, September 13, 2010

Rogo - Starting Out

I want to write an end of summer summary about Rogo, because I want to remember his summer as a 5 year old, when he's 10, 15 and 20+. It's probably going to be very boring for anyone but me, but I want to put it away for future years.
If anyone has read this blog they know I frequently say how sweet he is. It's true, he is sweet and I'm going to write about it, but I may have given a bit of a false impression. He's sweet in that he loves to be with people, is gentle and has never hurt anyone, and is extremely trust worthy for a young horse.
I know some people read that as him being willingly engaged in training. That would be quite far from the truth, at least until this summer. 
Joan, who started us and who loves Rogo too, has told me that in her forty plus years of training horses / being around horses, she can't remember encountering one as resistant and stubborn (she might have used more tactful words) as he was when we started with him. Of course she was always patient and kind to him and taught me very kind methods to start him. 
His resistance didn't manifest itself in any way that would hurt someone - it was passive resistance or avoidance. For example when we started longing him at 3 1/2 years he constantly ran away (to the other end of the ring). For weeks. I would get dragged, with heeled boots on. So would Doug. We finally had to build a round pen like affair to keep him with us.
When we did keep him with us he would only walk, not trot. If you got him pushed into a trot he'd only take a few steps and then stop and refuse to move. We'd feed him carrots as a reward for trotting a few steps and slowly got the trotting up from a few steps to a few rounds.
He wouldn't take the bit in his mouth, even when it was coated in molasses. For weeks. His head would shoot up in the air and stay there.
When I mounted him he wouldn't move forward unless he was led or had someone walking in front of him. He would stop and literally refuse to move. You could kick, swat, yell, cajole, wait, etc., etc. Nothing. Even when on the longe line. In his favor to this day he has never tried to put me off, and maybe it's my imagination, but he seemed worried that I'd fall off. If you could get him moving forward he would carefully place each foot on the ground and you could sort of feel him almost teetering. He was very clumsy, so maybe he knew it wasn't a good idea :)
When we did finally convince him that it was okay to walk forward we faced the same thing with trotting. If he was walking along and you asked for a trot he'd try one or two steps and then stop and refuse to move. That would be the end of it - he wouldn't even walk. Nothing would convince him (mind you, I wasn't going to sit there beating him and it would have been counter productive anyway).
Finally, with much perseverance and patience we got him trotting. But twice during this time he was laid off for a month due to injury or ailment (a puncture wound once and a bad reaction to worm medicine once) and both times when I brought him back to work I had to start from the beginning again - he refused to move forward.
So as you can see would happen, this took up a winter and most of a summer. Last summer I had him walking and trotting around - no training, just moving forward. I was showing Dan and working with him and letting Rogo grow up. Then I got a nerve injury in my neck and Rogo was laid off for three months. Talk about the slowest start ever. That took us up to last Christmas. True to form, when I brought him back to work he didn't want to move.Only this time I think he'd grown and his saddle didn't fit. And I'd been lieing in a recliner not moving for all this time, so sure wasn't in top form and only had partial use of my left arm (it's slowly come back). 
Anyway, we got the saddle sorted and he came around more quickly as far as moving forward, but every gain we made last winter was a struggle, for me and him.
I know many people would have the philosophy that I spoiled him or he should have been made to know I was boss when all of these things took so long. I can't explain it. I actually agree that with many / most horses you need to be very strong if challenged. And to be clear, I've never let Rogo get pushy and I would find ways to end our lessons with him obeying me, but I had to be very creative. He is very quietly confident, which is good, but it also means you have to stay one step ahead of him all the time. He is a horse who it is much better to outsmart than try to out muscle.
It's funny, but in all this time I never felt that he wouldn't come around. And there were lots of truly amazingly good things about him that I'm leading up to. That's my next post, but I want to remember all of this. We've had a great bond since we met (next post), but this summer I felt like we became a team in our work. He started trying to figure out what I wanted instead of instinctively pushing back. He's crossed a milestone and become a riding horse. The closeness I've always felt toward him is even stronger.

7 comments:

achieve1dream said...

Aww I loved reading this post. It wasn't boring at all. I can tell how much you love him in your writing. It's funny when you say you have to stay one step ahead of him and try to outsmart him, because my trainer always said she'd prefer a dumb horse because they're much more willing and don't get bored as easily lol. :) It never made sense why she'd say that until I read this post lol! I'm glad you listened to him and did what you knew was best. Kudos!

Story said...

I love having my blog to keep track of my horses progress. I wish I'd kept such a journal 10-15 years ago when I had my old horses. I miss those guys and I'd love to read stories about them.

Valentino said...

A training journal is a great tool - memory seems to slip a bit as the years carry on lol.

I think our horses have some traits in common. I often find it challenging to get my guy to move forward, except sometimes on the lunge line when he feels the need for speed and to use the whole arena :)

Glad we found each other's blogs - looking forward to reading about your progress.

Jenn said...

Ahhh...forward progress, if slow, is always progress!

Rogo sounds a lot like my Gabe when I first brought him home. Despite being an OTTB and being bred for FORWARD, he adamantly refused to go forward our first few rides. I think more out of feeling out of balance in a smaller, rounder space than the track than a lack of desire for forward. Backwards or up was his better option. We worked through that over a few months and he found his confidence and his forward button.

TBDancer said...

I did not keep a journal of my adventures with my first horse, an AQHA gelding that could be classified as a school master in today's world, but I made enough wonderful memories of him that I'm sure if I took the time to write them down, they would fill volumes ;o) I enjoy reading about others' adventures in training the young horse, especially the OTTB. You're right in that they each present challenges in their own unique way. My gelding is 16 now and he never had a problem going forward, but he has talked me out of taking real contact with him and it's like starting from scratch. Now that I know what CONTACT means in dressage, he's having to readjust HIS definition. We have some very interesting discussions, but it's all part of the journey. Keep writing! Love your blog.

Jeni said...

Hi Carol !! There is nothing wrong with slow starts with horses.

Slow and Steady wins!

Jan said...

Carol,
What a wonderful story - I'm glad you shared it. What unending patience you have - and I applaud that! One of the most important qualities to have with horses, I think. And I think that I know what you mean by an indefinable way of being firm and creative with Rogo, to partially talk him through and partially reassure him through some spot of trouble. Buckshot is like that as well. Some Appaloosas have a reputation of being quite stubborn; with Buckshot, I have learned to build a partnership not with force, but with firmness, treats and praise, and being very consistent. It sometimes feels like we "discuss" things and then are able to make progress. It is a good relationship, like yours and Rogo's, but very hard to describe. I love the heartfelt love you have for him!