Monday, March 14, 2011

The Shedding Begins!

This past weekend was unremarkable. The weather was nice – in the sixties with some sunshine and slight winds. I had a good time with Buckshot both Saturday and Sunday. But grooming him – wow! He has started shedding and when he sheds, he sheds big time! For some unknown reason, as I curried combed him vigorously, his hairs would jump onto me, especially onto my face! LOL! I know that seems crazy; surely that didn’t happen. The horse hairs just jump around a bit but they don’t jump anywhere. I know; I agree. But I swear this time they jumped over to me! I tried grooming with my mouth closed to minimize those that jumped into my mouth! The hair would cling to my hands as well, and I would reach down and try to fling it onto the stall floor. A lot of hair jumped to my clothes and stuck to my shirt. I have learned that fleece attracts horse hair like crazy so I rarely wear it as the outside layer. But this weekend horse hair seemed to cling to my clothes regardless of the fabric! And, oh, how I love the shedding blade! That one tool makes the job much easier. Bless whoever invented it!
On Sunday I offered to groom one of the school horses and she, a dear Arab mare that I rode for a long time when I was first learning to ride, was also shedding. Just a few circles with the curry comb and it was filled up! I could remove the circle of matted hair and place it out of the way on the stall floor. That makes for a little easier grooming.

I also groomed Lucky, the horse that is Buckshot’s pasturemate. After our Sunday ride, I took Buckshot back to his pasture. After taking his halter and lead line off, Lucky was standing near us, right by the gate and the watertrough. I think he wanted to hear all about Buckshot’s afternoon. I scratched his forehead and lots of hairs came free. He doesn’t have an individual owner; rather, he is one of the farm’s horses so doesn’t get groomed too often. I could see his shedding hairs sitting on his back. So I decided to give him a little grooming. I started with the curry comb on his neck and chest and he lifted his head high, and his lower lip quivered! Oh, it felt soooo good!

Buckshot stood right next to us; perhaps he was afraid he would miss something LOL! For twenty minutes I rubbed and used the shedding blade and brushed, and dear Lucky didn’t move a muscle. He seemed to be in heaven. At one point Buckshot pushed his head over my shoulder in as close to a horse hug as he has ever given me (oh, thank you Buckshot!). I scratched his forehead and explained that he gets groomed every weekend but poor Lucky doesn’t , so I want to brush him a bit, too. I hope he understood. By the end of the day, I was sore, and I realized later it was because of all the grooming. But it was worth it. I hope it makes the horses feel better to have some of the itchy hairs brushed off. And several of us at the barn were laughing at how much horse hair we were wearing!

One other thing to note is that I’m trying an unconventional method of teaching Buckshot the halfpass. This is when the horse moves to the side, using both front and hind legs, without moving forward or backward. It is one of the techniques needed for gate opening skills. I am going to try to teach it so it can be cued with words, rather than just with my legs and hands. My thinking is that the leg aids are quite similar to other leg aids I give him to move his hindquarters. I don’t want to confuse him with what I am asking, so I want to add two words that will always mean sidepass. My words will be “side right” or “side left.” (I guess I am going to teach him his left from his right! LOL) I want to begin with this on the ground.

So after giving it a lot of thought, I started this on Sunday. In Buckshot’s pasture, we began. I stood in front of him and told him we had a new skill to learn and that since he is very smart, I am sure he will learn it. Then I moved to his left side and touched both his shoulders and back of his barrel with my hands, and said “side right, side right, side right” pushing just a bit harder each time. He didn’t move. I stopped, paused, and did it again. He moved to the side with his hind legs. I stepped up to him and tried again. The only words I said were “side right(pause), side right (pause), side right” as I pushed, not very hard. I wanted him to feel my hands and their placement; I wasn’t really trying to push him to the side. Again, he moved, his hind legs. I thanked him, and told him I appreciated it that he tried, and he did do something, so I gave him his thank you treat. Then I moved to his other side, and did it again, saying “side left (pause), side left (pause), side left.” This time he gave me a messy, sloppy movement to the side and slightly forward, but it was a better response. I did it again and got an even messier movement, but he had tried, so I thanked him and gave him a treat.

It will take a while, but I am going to try to get these few, simple words associated with a side pass. I hope that when we do it while riding, he will know what I am asking for regardless of my leg aids. So we have begun. It may be slow going. (But wouldn’t it be fun if I could say, “side pass right five feet” and he’d move to the right five feet away! LOL) I’ll keep you posted.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Ah, shedding season. Sometimes it seems like a shower of hair raining down. It does get everywhere too. Love the shedding blade too.

I'm sure the other horses loved their grooming too. That was really nice of you to help out the ones that don't get constant grooming like Buckshot does.

Good luck with your sidepass exercises. Hope they work.

Dom said...

I wish my horse would shed before May :(

Good luck with the side pass :) It's nice tool to have.

juliette said...

I get that static electricity that makes the shedding horse hair "jump" on me too!

That is such a nice story about you grooming Lucky. You are very sweet - sounds like Buckshot thinks so too and wants to make sure you know who you belong too!

Good luck with your half pass and gate work. I think you will be successful with all your endeavors because you are kind and you go slow. That is the way to teach a horse anything!

Story said...

Shedding hair does have an uncanny knack for finding it's way into my eyes, nose, and mouth...or all too often right back onto the horse! I actually made great progress the other day when I gave Dee a bath and while her coat was still damp I took my soft rubber curry to her (I was actually just trying to help her dry faster) and the shedding hair all stuck to the curry like glue! I never would have thought currying a damp horse would be so productive! Tons of hair came off and none of it was ever airborn!

I look forward to hearing more about your sidepass training.

Once Upon an Equine said...

No shedding here yet. I'm looking forward to it, except when the hairs get in my mouth and down my neck. Good luck with your gate work. That's a great skill to have.