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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Poncho - the Great and Ornery Cuss

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Now - just look at that photo above - Poncho looks like a pleasant enough fellow - while his equine buddy Loco looks , well, Loco. Someone never gave my wonderful 18 year old grade Sorrel Quarter horse the memo that he was supposed to emulate his namesake and not take the horses name to heart.  
The American Heritage Dictionary defines Ornery like this: or·ner·y  (ôrn-r)
adj. or·ner·i·eror·ner·i·est
Mean-spirited, disagreeable, and contrary in disposition; cantankerous.

The Ornery American gives us it's origin:  "The word "ornery" began as "ordinary." In the days when you were either of the "gentle" class or merely "ordinary," parents would say to their stubborn children when they refused to do as they were told, "Don't be so ordin'ry."

Funny. He is certainly an ordinary horse who is most certainly Ornery. 

He's also a cuss. The American Heritage Dictionary describes the word like this: cuss  (ks) Informal
intr. & tr.v. cussedcuss·ingcuss·es
To curse or curse at.
1. A curse.
2. An odd or perverse person or creature.

 I mean that in the most loving way of course. Kind of how you would possibly refer to a lumberjack frat boy in the outskirts of Siberia - you don't want to know about that kind of mischief, but he's your boy, so you just gotta love him despite the fact that some of his pranks just border on downright mean spiritedness. You know what I'm talking about - like some of those Deadliest Catch Boat Captains. 

After I bought him and had him safely tucked away on my property-in my pasture - the father of the man I bought him from says to me - "Yep , you want to watch out for that one - he's gonna kill someone one of these days. I told my boy that was a bad apple" and I just laughed at him and thought what a silly old farmer. This is a GREAT horse. He shucks everyone around, he's always lagging at the end of the line. Sure he'll kick another horses teeth out if it gets too close, sure he'll buck out when you ask him for a lope - but really - he's a good ol boy. I'm only using him for mountain trail riding anyway. Hmfph!

Weeeeelllll, he was great when he was living on a 10 acre pasture, free feeding Timothy to his hearts content to the tune of 300 lbs overweight, and only being asked to go for a few trips a month, and he was the guest horse - no one EVER asked him to do anything but stay slow and steady except for the guy who sold him to me, and he LOVED that horse and it was mutual - so he would ride with me most of the time or I would pack my stuff on him when I took off for the day up the mountain. 

Fast forward to moving him to California into the High Desert. Gone were the trees, the creek, the good clay soil, the grass. Enter the wind, the rocks and the scrub, and a 2 acre pasture. All we had on a good day was a blustery cow pasture and some utility roads. Poncho was not happy. Enter the goofy trainer who told me I had to be aggressive in my movements with him in order to get him to mind - ha - yeah right crazy Gorilla man. I wound up moving him to Ojai ( we had better feed and trees and much better weather.  I am asking him to cart me around an arena every week, and go out on trail - BY HIMSELF ! I am also asking him to do things he's never been trained to do . I have MCH  (my Cowboy Boyfriend back then) who knows how to ride and how to ask for things, unlike unsophisticated me, who just rode game trails and had done some speed events back in the day. Lordy, the pressure was on. 

I finally settle in a place and bring the horses close to home ( He is now living in a 12 x 24 for the first time in his life. Did I mention he has a tough time making friends? OH BOY! He gets himself all banged up - and then I realize that its not his shoulder - it's his feet - his coffin bones have turned an 1/8 th of an inch - this is where I learn how bad Alfalfa can actually be. So no more Alfalfa and 8 months off from the trail. I get my stalls built, I move him home.

So what happens when you take one Bully and you have no pasture, a healthy dose of fear of all the traffic in the park where we ride,and no more barn traffic ? You got it - Bad Bad Leroy Brown, the baddest cat in the whole damn town. He has bit, backed up , spun, tried to roll and rear, bucked in place, bucked up a hill and lastly fired both guns at not one head ( me) but two heads ( MCH). He was shipped off to a trainer and put on cattle. 60 days later I had an amazing horse who will Head, Heel and Sort. Until we got to the part of the trail where the bicyclists are allowed - he regressed in no time flat. 

Now his back is out. He also has a couple of bicycles keeping him company around his stall. Turn out every night all night and I am starting him on clicker training. Just like I would a fearful dog.

Yesterday was his first session - I taught him not to mug for food . After about 25 reps  I can now use my verbal cue and he will flex his head to the right away from me. Today - I turned him out and walked a bicycle around the round pen. He only freaked when I was obscured from view and popping out - he then exhibited all the behaviors I have had to deal with out on trail and occasionally in the arena. I also found out that my Percheron/Fresian needs to get sacked out on bikes as well. 

If you want to learn more about Operant Conditioning this is my favorite for Horses :

Happy trails

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