Today was my fourth day of hanging out with Alyosha and we seem to be getting along pretty well. His habit of chewing on people seems to be going away rather quickly which is impressive. Especially because eventually it will be summer and I won't have a thick jacket for him to gnaw on. What is surprising is that despite his bad habit of being mouthy he is very gentle when taking treats and practically sucks them up with his giant lips so his teeth barely touch your hand. He just seems to have been allowed to get away with some bad habits but he is not above trying not to do them and I can tell he's trying very hard.
One habit that is going to take awhile though is that he has been (accidentally - I doubt they did this on purpose) trained to pee in the groom room - which unlike his stall just has rubber mats in it and lots of other horses come and go. So it is not a good place for a big horse to pee. So, there has been and will be lots of going in the groom room, him getting in the stance to pee and plopping him back in his stall. The thing is, he'll hold it in his stall waiting to go in the groom room so he can pee. So today I did the majority of his grooming in his stall. This will be an interesting habit to break.
Today was the first time I tried lunging him. That was very dramatic and I got quite the upper-body work-out. I think there were a few factors involved - one, he hadn't been worked in practically a week, two he'd never been worked in our barn with me, three he had a chain on his halter and he's apparently had a bad experience in the past with chains, and four - I'm not completely sure he's been trained to lunge or if he has how he was trained.
First off, when I opened his stall door holding his halter and the nose chain attached to the lunge line I could see in his eyes that he recognized what it was and was scared of it. But he's a pretty brave, solid guy so he held it together when I put it on, but he was looking at me like he couldn't believe I was going to "do that" to him - whatever somebody did with the chain in the past. We went out to the arena and he got really excited and wanted to run off and play immediately. Luckily, there was no one in there - but I did that on purpose because I didn't know how he'd be on the lunge line.
Well, he immediately started running in circles and actually would've just been running hither and yon but I was holding onto the lunge line. I pulled him in a little to keep him on a small circle, but he took that as an invitation to run straight toward me, so I motioned for him to move out on the circle and that made him go faster so that he was galloping in a circle. I just held on and kept the whip behind me and kept him on an even circle as best I could. Then he decided he didn't want to be on the lunge line at all and stopped, turned and looked at me, I motioned for him to get back on the circle and he reared up, landed, put his head down and took off and then started doing the bucking bronco routine around the circle until he was in the middle of the arena and started bucking broncoing toward the other end up of the arena. I just held on and basically water-skiied with him to the other end of the arena until he stopped because he realized I still had the lunge line, turned and looked at me as if to say "OMG! Are you still holding on?" and then started trotting in a circle around me.
I heard someone say, "Sweetie, you'd better walk him to the other end or next time he bolts he'll take you into the mud pit," (there is a corner at the far end of the arena where the roof leaks and it is a bog that they've tried to block off). I looked up and Trainer JD was watching from the door. I expected him to give me some sort of advice on what I was doing wrong but he never did. Maybe he realized that it was not a good set-up for Alyosha to be polite on the lunge line and that he probably just had way too many ya-ya's to get out today for it to be anything but dramatic.
He trotted with me nicely back up to the dry end of the arena and stayed out on the circle for a little bit very well. Then he'd stop and try to walk in toward me and I'd motion for him to move back out on the circle and he'd fling himself sideways and run backward across the arena dragging me with him until he realized I was not letting go and not backing down. Near the end he was going well on the circle but was not responding to my walk/trot/canter commands. Even reaching out and tapping the back of his foot with the lunge whip meant nothing to him. He just looked at me like "That's all you got? I've been Parreli-'ed to death, Woman, with ropes swinging all around me. I am not going to respond to that little tap!" Sigh. I'm definitely going to need Trainer K.'s help when it comes to learning how to best communicate with him during lunging.
When we were done lunging and I asked him to walk, he walked straight up to me - not in a bad way but I believe because that is what he was taught to do. But that's not what I do, so I worked on showing him how to stop out on the circle without turning in on the circle and waiting for me to walk up to him. And after about three times he got it! He is a very smart boy!
He was feeling pretty snuggly after that and he seemed to like it when I hugged him and he'd look back at me and chew in that relaxed, happy way that is so cute. When I was putting on his blanket he turned his head as far back as he could and put his nose on my hands while I was doing up the side straps as if to say "Can I help? I have a pretty powerful nose, you know."
I shouldn't say I'm going to keep him until after his pre-purchase vet check tomorrow but he really is just the biggest teddy bear of a horse! I think that as the shock wears off (I really didn't expect to have a horse this soon) I'm just going to like him more and more!