This weekend was the first weekend of really extreme weather here in Virginia- temperatures in the high 90’s with severe humidity causing very high heat indices. Add strong sun, and this was weather just to survive. So I took all my serious weather gear to the barn to see how Buckshot was doing. He handled the weather just fine. I planned to do just very easy things with him, no riding definitely in such weather, but I had some ideas about things to do on the ground.
On Saturday, I took him from his pasture to graze in some grassy areas. Then we walked down the road. He walked further than he had in the past- about ten yards further! Good boy! Then more grazing and walking around. He led me in the direction of the barn (perhaps he wanted some of the alfalfa hay I give him there?) but we went on by it and back to his pasture.
By that time, I needed a major rest from the heat, so I repaired to the main barn, a big fan, an outdoor chair, bottles of water and a snack, and just chilled out. After recovering, I had an epiphany about going down the road, and went to get his stall ready for some grooming – putting alfalfa hay, a bit of sweet feed, and clean water in the stall. I went back to Buckshot’s pasture and got him again, took him out grazing, and headed again to the road.
He walked nicely down the road as he had done an hour ago. This time, when he stopped and seemed to be at the end of his confidence, I turned to him and said “Buckshot, walk. Treat.” And he started walking again! LOL! He walked another twenty yards before he stopped. At that I was so thrilled, I praised him and dug into my tote bag for the German horse muffins that he loves. Good boy!
I hadn’t previously thought to use treats before, and specifically, announced treats, to help him on the road. It worked wonderfully! It motivated him to walk a bit further than he had, and it gave him a reward that he loves! We turned back and went back to the barn, where in his stall, he found his alfalfa hay, and I groomed him. I then took him to the wash stall and gave him a nice rinse of cool water, squeegeed him, and walked him back to his pasture. What a good boy he was! And on such a hot day, too.
On Sunday, the weather promised to be just as miserable as Saturday, so I decided to give Buckshot a new challenge, one that would be fine in such hot weather. After grazing him a bit, I led him to a shady area, apologizing that there just are some times when the human needs a shady spot. LOL! Then I taught him how to bow! I said the word “bow” then pulled his head gently down toward the ground, then I tapped behind a front leg with my hand until he moved it forward. I praised him and gave him some apple pieces. We did this several times so I think he understands the work “bow” now. How fun! I told him he should practice it this week in his pasture, so we’ll see on Wednesday night, when I go back, how improved he is!
After our training session, I led him down the road, eager to try the announced treat again. He walked calmly as far as he went the day before, then he stopped. I turned to him and said “Walk, Buckshot, treat.” And he started walking again, energetically. We made it very far down the road before he stopped again! I then gave him praise, his muffin treats, and we headed back, to the barn and to the alfalfa-grooming again. I am so proud of him, that he walked quite far out of his comfort range this weekend. I am glad that I thought of introducing treats, and announcing them (as a sort of bribery, I know), and it did motivate him. I look forward to doing more of it, and getting him all the way to the end of the road!
Despite horrible weather, I had a wonderful weekend with Buckshot, doing some new and fun things. What a wonderful horse! I hope you found some non-riding fun things to do as well. Breathe over at HorseCentric blog had a great time with her horses, doing a fun game with them. I want to try a similar game myself. Thanks for the inspiration, Breathe!