Apollo has been improving with his training, with noticeable differences almost every time I work with him. He never ceases to amaze me with what a quick learner he is.
With fly season upon us again, we’re back to the old fly spray routine, which Apollo seems to think is some creative torture technique. Last season, this resulted in a (not so graceful) dance as he tried to avoid being squirted without actually running away, accompanied by lots of (not so musical) snorting. The funny thing is, he does not mind being squirted with mane detangler. Maybe it’s the smell, maybe he’s secretly literate and reading the bottle labels. In any case, this year he is actually tolerating being squirted with fly spray, albeit still reluctantly.
Fly season also means it’s time to bring out the fly mask. Last year I bought him a high-tech mask that was supposed to be impossible to break or for him to get off. Well, he broke it within a few weeks. Luckily the company has a lifetime guarantee on it. This year, he managed to get it off without breaking it in the first week, and broke it again in the second week. Like I said, he is smart – perhaps too smart!
The big training challenge we’ve been working on for some time now is transitioning to a lope during his ground work. For as long as I’ve owned him, he’s considered the faster gait as a chance to let that mustang heritage loose. At first, asking for the lope resulted in what just looked like the bronc event of a rodeo, with flying bucks as he cavorted around the round pen. I considered it a great success the day that I could even distinguish some loping steps amidst the bucking. He’s been bucking less and less with training (but typically upon transitioning), and this week we went a whole round pen session without a single buck – a wonderful first!
He’s also learning to follow me around at liberty, and is quite good at it at this point. For the first many months of working with him, he had been quite pushy and did not recognize boundaries when being led, much less at liberty. We did a lot of Parelli games to overcome these problems, and this week I led him at liberty around a complicated series of patterns, which he accomplished perfectly!
I recently decided he needed to learn to come to me by voice command from a distance. He always comes to me in the pasture when he sees me, but in a trail situation there could be a time when I need to find him when I can’t see him. I can whistle louder than I can yell, so we’ve been working on a two-note whistle command for “come.” He’s picked it up well, and I am comforted by the knowledge that I can communicate to him even if he is out of sight – and if he obeys, I won’t have to look for him when I need to catch him!