Pick It Up

17 01 2010

So Picasso is now 3 weeks into his rehab with the hydrohorse treadmill. We have so far only been doing 5 minutes. He has some inflammation in the right stifle, so we are staying with 5 minutes until that goes down. He is up to 20 minute hand walks. A couple weeks ago I started to experiment with what I call “sleepy powder” or “nap nap powder,” a feed through calming supplement. I am using a brand that contains tryptophan, the chemical in turkey that makes you sleepy. I have had varied success. The powder takes about an hour to take effect and only seems to last for 4-5 hours. So I have been giving him two doses a day. But I have to give it an hour before I want to do anything with him. Not the most efficient method. Picasso is also getting about 30 minutes of turn out on grass. As long as he isn’t running around being a lunatic, he is allowed to have his turn out.

Now, when given an hour to take effect, the tryptophan powder DOES calm him down. It doesn’t make him any less alert, but when I give him the full hour to be fully effected by the tryptophan, he walks quietly and without a single capriole!

We have also started trick training to fight the boredom! I have been following Allen Pogue of Imagine a Horse for years, but just haven’t done any trick lately. But now I have PLENTY of time to work on them. On inspiration from a fellow boarder, Francis, I taught Picasso to “touch.” He got that pretty quickly. Shortly after he learned that, I watched a recent Allen Pogue trick training video about using treats to teach tricks. I also contacted Allen asking him what tricks we could do without involving a round pen and circles. He suggested that rather than touching, I should teach Picasso to “pick up” objects. I am starting with a ball cap. The idea was he would chew or bite the cap, and he would get a treat. I offered it to Picasso, and he had no interest in putting the cap in his mouth. In fact, I think he clamped his teeth shut….

Hmmm……. So I tried one of Allen’s suggestions which was to put the cap in the mouth and then scratch the horse’s withers to induce not only pleasure but they also usually clamp down their teeth. If they drop the cap, the scratching stops. Picasso did not find this to be a worthwhile reward for putting anything in his mouth. I finally resorted to pushing the cap’s brim between his teeth, immediately saying “GOOD” and then giving him a cookie. It took 2 days with 5 short sessions, but late last night while ranch sitting at the ranch, he got it! I present the cap brim, he grabs it and he gets a cookie! Once he learns to hold it, I will get a picture…

In February, Picasso will be moved to Circle Oak to continue his hydrohorse treadmill rehab. The challenge will be his housing. Circle Oak is set up on some nice rolling hills. Sadly, Picasso is not cleared for hills yet….. So he will need to be in a stall. The stalls are very nice, but do not have attached paddocks. He will go coo coo if he doesn’t have considerable time outside. So we will need to create some sort of turn out for him that is both small enough that he doesn’t get up a good run as well as be flat. The challenge……