I was careful when I chose Fason. I researched his bloodlines, racing records, soundness history, I had several conversations with the seller and with CANTER Kentucky, I had a veterinarian go over him with a fine-tooth comb so I knew as much as it is possible to know about a horse before I buy him from across the country. Fason wasn't given the same opportunities to "vet" me as a trainer. This sweet trusting horse just climbed into a horse trailer and traveled across the country, and ended up at Bit of Honey Training.
After his exciting arrival this weekend he was looking a little shell-shocked. My other jolly thoroughbreds have been talking and playing with him over the fence, which has helped him settle in. I have also created an elaborate routine that Fason fits into quite nicely. When I go out in the morning, the first thing I do is call hello to Fason since he is in the paddock I can see first from the house. After greeting him I go into the barn and measure feed for the horses who get grain. All the horses have hay available all the time. Fason can hear me in the barn talking to the cats and the dogs, and shortly after that I appear around the corner with Fason's morning mash. He is eager to partake of the goodies, and I stand for a moment scratching his withers under his blanket as he takes his first few nibbles.
Then I feed the other horses, and refill water tanks. Once feeding is done, the dogs and I return to Fason's paddock and I halter him, lead him around the barn, and tie him for grooming. Yesterday was his first full day at Bit of Honey, and as such this was his first time experiencing the routine. He was wiggly while he was tied for grooming, and stomped his feet when I put hind boots on him in preparation for going to work. It didn't take much, only a firm voice and he cut it out, and then settled down looking grateful that someone else was in control. I think he is the type of horse who needs the human to run the show, it stresses him out if he thinks he has to be in charge of things.
Once he was dressed in boots (I mostly work horses in boots, especially if I'm not sure how wild they will be), we headed with the dogs to the round pen. Fason watches the dogs with a question mark in his eyes, but so far he is tolerating them well. It won't take long before he realizes they are fun, and can even be partners in crime.
In the round pen I sent Fason out on the lunge line to see what he knows. He obviously has been lunged before, he knew exactly what I was after and went very easily in a circle around me, to the left and also to the right. He doesn't know the voice commands I use, but that won't take long to learn. He went each direction a few times, and he was settling in nicely. I got to watch his exquisite trot and canter. He also started keeping one eye on me, and listening for what I might ask next. We didn't lunge for very long, this was just to give Fason a chance to assess what kind of person I am in a structured environment so he would hopefully decide I'm a decent human. Based on what happened after I let him loose, I must have passed his test.
I removed his halter and turned him loose in the round pen. He continued to follow me like a puppy dog, with my actual puppy dogs also following along. All four of us walked over the ground poles, and Fason stepped over them nicely after a cursory sniff. I then went to sit on the mounting block, and dismissed Fason. He chose to go trotting over the ground poles, then hopped over the cross rail that was set up. The dogs gave a congratulatory woof, and then laid down in the sand next to me. After a few minutes Fason returned to me, and I haltered him again and we walked back to the barn.
Today I repeated all the same things we did yesterday, and Fason was noticeably more relaxed. It's always hard to go through the routine the first time, because you don't yet know that it's the routine or what will come next. Now that Fason has experienced it once, he very easily settled into the same actions again today. He was quieter while standing tied, he was quieter about having hind boots applied, he was quieter on the lunge line, and he hopped over the cross rail a few more times all on his own. He now snuffles the dogs with his lips, and of course they happily accept any equine affection. Tomorrow I'll repeat the routine again, and perhaps add some saddle fitting to see what will best accommodate his long high withered physique. I like to start off slow with a new horse, because sweet Fason wasn't given an opportunity to inspect me before purchase, so it's only fair that he is given a chance to acclimate to how we do things here at Bit of Honey and assess my quality as a trainer, just as I assessed his quality as a horse.