I went to the barn last night to do some kind of training with Rugby. It was already almost 8:00PM so it was going to be groundwork. Besides, I wanted to see how his gimpiness situation was doing too.
On the way out the door I grabbed a couple of plastic grocery shopping bags. I figured it might be fun to play with him with these and see what he did. I was pleased to see when he led out of the stall he wasn't as ouchy as he had been so I hoped for the best. I picked his hooves and gave him a fast curry and brush, then changed to his rope halter and lunge and went out to the arena behind the barn.
Rugby seemed like he just wanted to stay in his stall. He balked 2 times when I led him out the door and then gave a sigh and followed me out. I rubbed his head and promised him it would be a short, easy and fun training session. Rugby lazily followed me around as I pulled one ground pole out, then flanked it with a white resin lawn chair on each end. Being careful to turn the chairs so the lunge would slide smoothly over the arms and not get caught in the molded lip around the edge of the chair, I sent him out at a walk and lunged him over the pole between the chairs.
He seemed a little more interested and didn't hesitate to stroll over the pole and through the chairs. He was walking well but as soon as I asked to trot, he trotted off reluctantly and very slowly into this half-hearted jog and I could see he was ouchy. Okay, this night's training would just be done at the walk. So then I kept lunging through the chairs, changing direction and closing the gap between the chairs each time we changed. I had the chairs 3 feet apart and he just aimed himself for the middle and walked through. I was happy with that - so was he.
Then I led him through some jump standards that were about 3 feet apart at the posts and only 18 inches apart at the base. He lowered his head down, looked at the squeeze and carefully followed me right through. Nice to know this big horse has no issues with narrow places.
I tried trotting again in a different part of the ring and nope, he still wasn't quite right so I let that go. Then we led across the catwalk. That's become his new favorite exercise. This time I halted him about 1/3rd of the way across. He seemed surprised that I asked him to stop and actually had a look of anticipation on his face. Then I gently touched his shoulder and asked him to step back, without stepping off the catwalk. He carefully took a step and then 2 more for me and I released and let him walk forward. I stopped again just before the end and backed him 3 steps. Perfect. So I let him walk off the ramp and gave him big praise and let him just hang out for a minute or two after that.
Then I reached into my pocket and changed the string on my training stick for the plastic bags. Rugby perked up and watched me attach the bags to the loop on the end of the stick. I stepped back and let him sniff the bag on the stick. He seemed mildly interested at best. I then proceeded to touch him with the bag, first on the shoulder, then down the legs then across his back then back to the shoulder. All he did was roll his eyes and look at the bag but the feet never moved. I just did this for a few seconds and released by stopping touching him with the bag and giving him a neck rub with my hand.
We played with the bag and the stick for about 10-15 minutes. He seemed to find it mildly amusing. He never flinched or spooked. I was passing the bag between the hind legs, over his head, under his tail - nothing. I waved the stick and fluttered the bag over his head - nothing. I took it off the stick and threw it at him - nothing. Then I just took the bag in my hand and "groomed" him with it by rubbing his face, ears, legs and body. Nothing.
Okay, so this horse seems not to give a rat's tail about plastic bags. Rugby is so different so far from most horses I've met. Things that should scare him, generally don't. I see such potential for him as the field hunter I hope he will one day become. Now to get this soundness thing straightened out.