Friday, July 16, 2021

Passing Seasons

While the June wrap up didn't have as many big life changes as May, I have noticed huge changes in Yoshi himself over the last month. And not the type that just get documented in conformation shots. There's recently been a big change in his attitude and demeanor. He's relaxed. He's happy. He's calm. He is still a baby horse in that everything has to go in his mouth. But it's in a playful way now - halters and leads off the wall, my hat and coffee off the stool near the crossties etc. It's sort of a shift towards realizing he doesn't have to defend his space and his food all the time. I'd like to think he feels we listen when he talks. 

I think this change has two main causes:
1) Ideal living situation- turnout almost all the time with a stable herd, free choice forage, minimal bugs
2) Establishing our bond and relationship
3) Plain ol' time 

Obviously the living situation has been covered. It really is pretty ideal. The pasture is HUGE (7 acres) and has a variety of terrain and shaded areas. There are 5 horses total so while they generally all are grazing near each other sometimes two have paired off and are somewhere else. Sometimes Yoshi is still by himself. I'm not sure if that's something that will change over time as he bonds more with the others or if he has a somewhat independent streak in him. There is SO much grass right now that they don't need hay in the pastures. When they come in twice a day for grain they spend an hour or two inside under the fans. Often they'll all be turned butt toward the fan napping after they finish eating. Sometimes they get 1/2 or 1 flake of orchard grass or coastal hay in the stall, especially if they're staying in for a little bit longer while some get ridden in the mornings. 

In addition to the ideal turnout/stall/forage situation, Ms and Mr GY really care for him as though he's their own. Ms. GY does a once over and some body work on each horse before they go back out at night. She's noticed the change in him too and commented. Not only is he building muscle and gaining weight, but he's HAPPY. 

I think getting #1 right has enabled #2 to happen. While we worked on ground work before he was sound to start riding again, it still felt transactional. He wanted to know exactly how to get the treats and that was the end of his interest in the games. He would walk up to me when I came to get him from the field, something he only does about 25% of the time now, but it was out of boredom and desire to get food. Who wouldn't want to leave a dirt field with no friends? 

I had also tried to bond with longer grooming sessions, taking time figuring out where he did and didn't like to be groomed and with which brush. But it was like every time I hit a sensitive spot he'd put a mark down in the negative column and hold a grudge. And this horse is SMART. He picks up on things very quickly. And it seemed like I was being sized up as either a positive or a negative human. After a sensitive spot that made him angry he'd stay angry for the next little while and even spots that had been neutral were bad to touch. Now there's still a bit of a face when I groom in the girth area, but he forgives and looks pleasant again as soon as I move on. He's started to lean into itchy spots on his neck and shoulder and make those good faces for them too.

He's getting better about snatching treats. I can talk him into doing carrot stretches properly most of the time rather than just frantically flinging his face around and almost falling over trying to snatch the end of the carrot. He gets a post-ride carrot after I go into the tack room to hang up his saddle and bridle, but he is very polite about it, and if I forget to grab it clearly tells me with expressions, not by dancing around. He's always done what he was supposed to in terms of loading, leading, and working under saddle. My jumping trainer described him as "workmanlike", which is very on point. So there aren't clear changes there at this point. But it does feel like he is looking to me more for reassurance or confidence when he is unsure about something. 

He also has, without much work on my part, become very accepting of having his face and ears touched all over. I can even pick that gross ear debris(?? the stuff that crusts in the fur in the bottom middle of the ear) out without upseting him too much. He objects a bit, and then like grooming, lets me get back to rubbing on his ears. 

The final part is just time... Time off the track being a horse and time getting used to each other. As with any relationship we're learning what to expect and how to best interact with each other. And when expectations are known, horses (and humans!) seem to be much happier.


  1. aw that's all super exciting tho! in some ways i was lucky with charlie bc he was a little bit older and more mature, and naturally a pretty relaxed and trusting horse.... but there was still a really *really* important (and exciting!!) phase in relationship building that was all about creating a shared vocabulary and set of expectations and trust in each other -- it must feel so rewarding with Yoshi now!

    1. It's so interesting how different they all are! Yoshi has been so business-like and willing under saddle since day 1 that the incongruency was really weird to me, but now it feels like it is all actually coming together.