It's been a bit of a mixed bag this week. A bit of good, a bit of bad, and a bit of exhaustion. Since Monday night, I've been down every evening and brought Rio up to the barn (except Friday - had a MacMillan Night In and raised a ton of cash with a lot of lovely ladies!) This has been with varying results.
I have felt like screaming at times, and have instead found myself talking out loud asking questions I know I am never going to get the answer to but it helps me to calm down again. Frustratingly, the more we do this, the further away he seems to be getting from the second gate when he plants himself. We have now tried walking through when the power is completely off across the yard (big storm caused big powercut!) and still with the same results.
Don't get me wrong, once I have committed to bringing him out of the field, that's it, and however long it may take, it will happen. I was sort of hoping for some change by now though, and that he might have realised that we ARE coming out of the field when I'm suggesting it! A friend is coming up this morning to try the same exercise for me, so I can establish if it's behavioural in general, or just with me. I will be a little sad if he walks straight on out, but we will see.
All of this boils down to insignificance in the field. I love just being in there with him. We are working on personal space (trying to!) as he's very good at standing with his nose on your shoulder whilst you poo pick. He's actually had the barrow over a couple of times this week too. So now I'm wondering if I have done right by him putting him in his own paddock. Should he be in a herd situation? Would that be better with one other pony or maybe two? Who could I put him in with? Is he bored? Maybe he doesn't want to come up to the yard because I've been keeping it so simple for myself that he feels it's not worth the effort of leaving his field? (Do horses even have a trail of thought that long?)
So last night whilst Hubster caught up on the football final, I decided to head back down to the yard. My friend picked up a new neddie yesterday, a very green, malnourished TB mare of 9 years. She's very sweet, and appears not to be a nervous type, although she did ask some questions when we took her off the lovely long grass to put her back in her stall! Got to love a bit of sass! Anyway, she gave me a brainwave, as she didn't want to load but was happy to walk straight up the ramp without hesitation with a feed bucket in the equation. Same goes for persuading her that the barn was the place to be.
Rio loves feed. He no longer has breakfast, as to be honest, even with the grass munched down, the new shoots are very rich, he certainly needs no extra energy from his sugarbeet, and it seemed a bit of a waste. Sweep the cobwebs off the feed bins, Laura. Handful of chaff, a dozen pony nuts, and a sprinkling of garlic, and let's do this.
He sees me walking down, and clearly clocks his favourite blue feed bucket. I'm not going to make this game too easy for him, so the feed bucket is left within a couple of feet of "scary gate". I walk down to him, get his headcollar on, and he stands there. I walk across in front of him to start the wiggly worm game, and he follows after one go. Phew. We get half way across his second paddock when he starts to slow. We're not stopping tonight Rio! I walk across in front of him again out into the field, before doing a shallow loop back to the fence line. I think he's spotted the bucket again. I'm focussed on the bucket, and walking with intent, we make it! In one sweeping motion, I grab the bucket and keep walking. It's amazing how insignificant a gate is when there's feed involved. Rio doesn't care about the gate any more, and we're off through the main metal gate, he's having a little prance, trying to get the better of me and my bucket. I push him back half a dozen times, and what do you know? He walks up just behind me, doesn't spook, scare or question at "scary spot #2", and has a beautiful forward walk coming up. We reach the barn, where he gets a big scratch on his neck, and to enjoy the little feed. Well done Rio. There's a light at the end of this tunnel - I just need to find out how far away that is!
Honestly - I know that this is not a permanent fix. If I can make it into a bit of a game for him in the meantime though, I'm hoping if he's bored it will get him interested, and if it's something else, well I'll just have to re-assess. On Wednesday I plan to pop him in with a friend's horse for an hour or so - a pony play date! If I can get him out of his own field of course!
It's not even like he has no friends around him - he has one on two of the four sides of his field, and can see at least 4 others further over. I'm quite sure that he plays with his TB neighbour over the fence and that they groom as this is all that's left of this bit of his mane! Or perhaps, he's just happy playing in his field like I am - and maybe that's my fault. It's the only place we play at Liberty, and perhaps I'm wrong to do that as it's his place of rest? So many questions...
Ride/play safe x