the sand dummy

Feb 26…three months now for the four rescues and another great weekend visit with their family..three are wearing flymasks..two have been ridden..all have gained weight and sport coats that look like velvet and have an ever so slight tinge of red when the sun shines just right on them..

the goal in visits is to have a personal best for each handler and each horse each time..not demanding that result but to head that way.. to trend that way..stepping it up gently each visit to not scare horse or handler..today it’s the sand dummy..a sand dummy made from an old pair of jeans with twine from the hay bales tied around the bottom of each leg..with the leg bottom closed the jeans can be filled with sand for heavy weight or hay for light weight..the legs become round when filled and hang down on the sides of the horse..

                                                            

in a way mimicing legs touching the horses sides.. legs can be moved back and forth..pulled out away from the horse and set back down..the “rider” can be moved forward near the withers or back near the hindquarters..a different experience for the horse.. something that can be done with the person standing beside the horse..if these horses were just new here we would not try it..with two unknowns..new horses and new people it would not be safe..but having watched these four daily for three months..having moved them daily and haltered them and brushed them and having learned how willing the family is to go slowly it’s a good time to try.. the process will be letting the horse smell the sand dummy..check it out..then standing at the shoulder to hopefully not get kicked should the horse strike up with a front leg gently hold the sand dummy against the horses’ shoulder..if the horse moves or leans away be cautious it may take some time..if it stands or leans in that’s usually ok..sometimes though a stand with no reaction can be the calm before the storm..before the bolt.. so when it’s ok to  touch the shoulder the next step is move the dummy around a little on the shoulder..a cowboy friend once said.. “if they can’t stand the touch..they usually can’t take the movement..one thing at a time..the slower you go the faster you get there..present it in a way they understand”.. so when touch is accepted..and movement is accepted it’s hold one leg at the bottom and set it near the withers..all this time the lead rope is in hand just in case the horse decides to leave.. always having everyone stand on the same side of the horse leaving an open area..an open door if the horse needs to move away or jump away or blast away..when the leg is accepted at the withers it’s gently slid over the other side..always having a firm grip on the jeans..if the horse decides to leave the scary thing will stay with you..not stay with them like a predator on their back..so Jade and Bella are first as they have been ridden that should indicate they’ll be ok with it..key word is “should”..Bella is very curious about the jeans..sniffing them on the ground..moving them around with her front foot..we pick up the jeans let her sniff..touch the shoulder..movement of the jeans..she stands..ok..up and over..awesome like we sort of thought..she walks around..even walking around by herself showing off her skills..

..so sliding it off it’s Jade..she isn’t as curious but very willing..like we thought..when it’s on she offers to walk..i’m ok..

                                     

on to the two unknowns..Sampson and Sally..since Sampson is older and always so willing and helpful am assuming he has had riders..maybe even bareback riders..and we all know can happen when assuming..following the same procedure the sand dummy is introduced to Sampson..his eyes show he’s not sure..not blinking.. but body willing..it appears he’s fine when it’s on his back..but he’s not sure what to do..he offers to take a step..it’s like he’s experimenting..good we’ve found something new for him..he walks and stops..balancing his “rider”..the first weight we’ve seen on him..and he appears proud..standing full on all fours..his injured leg has healed and this may help him mentally to trust it..reassure him his leg is better..it’s his personal best today..so taking a few steps and stopping..letting him process..letting it go well..he does great..
                                            
removing the jeans it’s on to Sally..mustang Sally..the one that continually surprises everyone as she avoids being caught for the lessons but when finally getting a lead rope attached to her halter she’s very willing..so same procedure..at the shoulder..touch..she leans away..bring the jeans back away from her..pressure / release..she leans in..let’s try again..so touch..it’s ok..movement..ok..gently up and over..ok..we offer her to walk a few steps..ok..then off for a walk..she walks all over..up and down hills..quietly with her little “rider”..quietly and interesting how she’s learning to balance her rider..legs spread wide at first..figuring it out..personal best for Sally..
                                                      
actually two personal bests for her..at the end of the work..the end of the day Sally gets a hug.. a long hug from her proud friend..Sally’s fitting in.. she’s learning more about people..

                                       

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