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.