The Post of Don Sam Incognito

About  Sam

Don Sam Incognito

Don Sam Incognito

Sam complains that Mattie gets all the glory on this blog–her face is on the masthead, Mattie’s Pillow is named after her, etc.–so I am giving him his own section to report on activities around the corral. Sam is an Andalusian, now in his twenties, who was brought to Alaska for reasons that are still a bit fuzzy to me. Perhaps someone from the Palmer area will read this and recognize him and help fill in the story. He came to our house as a rescue, lame in both front feet. Kathy, who had originally taken him in, didn’t have the right footing for a laminitic horse, and Mattie needed a pal, so we agreed to take him, even if we could never ride him.

When Kathy brought him to the house, he was walking on three legs, but was so strong in the back and haunches that he literally hopped, mostly on his hind legs, across the corral. We spent six weeks as fall drew on, soaking and packing his feet to draw out abscesses, cutting up blue foam insulation to the shape of his feet, and taping it to them with duct tape. We took a series of radiographs and trimmed his feet every week to ten days.

By spring, he was moving out on the lunge line and I was riding him lightly. By last summer-after fixing his digestive problems and pulling a broken tooth and floating the rest-he was fully himself: cranky, not suffering fools gladly, full of high spirits, and showing hints of the glorious Spanish-walking horse he probably once was. I’ve seen him do the Spanish walk–a goose-stepping walk where he throws one front leg forward, then another. It takes training and conditioning to reach this level; he does it for fun in the corral. When we first let him out of the smaller pen once his feet began to heal, he galloped around then came up to us and reared with his front legs neatly tucked and hopped toward us-three women with our mouths hanging open-taking three steps on his hind legs like a Lipizzaner in levade.

I call him Don Sam Incognito–a Spanish Don fallen on hard times who clearly thinks we’re all below him. This is his page.

Spring Training: Walk and Whoa

Yesterday, it warmed to above zero and the sun was bright. I went out with the Cowboy Magic detangler and spent some quality time detangling Sam’s mane, which hung in two long ropy tangles. Sam’s mane is nearly as fine as human hair, and tangles easily. It grows long and hangs down both sides of his neck. When I detangle it, rubbing the slippery gel into the tangles and meticulously picking the hairs apart one by one, he stands patiently, his head slightly bowed, not playing Nudge or the gelding game Nip You/Nip Me (the horse equivalent of slap hands).

Afterwards, with this mane hanging in waves, and his attention back on teasing me, we started spring training with Walk and Whoa. I walked with him on a loose line, then stopped abruptly (Whoa) and stood still from time to time. We did this all around the corral with a few chin bumps from the brass lead clip when Sam decided it was more fun to bump me on the shoulder or see if he could touch me with his teeth. Sam doesn’t try to bite; it’s all a game with him, and, if he ever touches me with his teeth, he quickly turns his head away. Still, I have been working on discouraging from this game, and he’s doing it less. From time to time, we backed up–or I made him back away from me. Then we moved forward. After we did this for a short time, I gave him a few beet pellets and let him go. Then I did the same with Mattie.

Mattie does not play games like Sam does. While he always seems to have mischief in his eyes, she often just looks nervous. Whatever happened to her when she was young (she was seven when we got her), she can become quite defensive when she anticipates pain; she has her ears cocked back nearly all the time. The first command we worked on was “ears up,” a cue for a behavior that most horses do naturally. For Mattie, ears up for a treat is a pose, a trick for begging. She will stand at the corner of the corral nearest the hay barn pointing her ears toward the hay, then looking over at me to be sure I’ve gotten the hint.

So Walk and Whoa with Mattie involves always reading her attitude. She walks beside me with her ears back. When we Whoa, she shows a bit of white at the eye. As long as she keeps a polite distance from me (2-3 feet), we are dong well. She is tuned in to me more than Sam–or differently. When I stop, she brakes and stops instantly. When we’ve been practicing this for a while, she’ll put her ears up for beet pellets at the Whoa. That’s progress.

Snow will be thick and packed down to ice in the corral for a couple of months now, and I don’t like to ride till we’re on dirt–late April early May. February is the time when I try new things in ground work and start longe work for fitness–theirs and mine as I walk an inner circle to their wider trotting circle. Sam longes like the pro he is. Mattie still gets confused. Last year we started her on long lining–two long reins , one looping under her tail, so I can hold both and walk a little behind and to the side of her, driving her from the ground. We got tangled up a lot last year.

This was a long post. I’ll post more of these, marking the progress or lack of progress as we move toward riding season. If you have thoughts or helpful hints on what I’m doing, please post a comment. I’m working with some experienced horse people here, but most of this I’m trying out on my own.

Tomorrow we start clicker training.

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One Response to “The Post of Don Sam Incognito”

  1. glow Says:

    Post more about Sam! What a beauty. Post a big picture of that big old boy so we can appreciate him in all of his splendor! Thanks for these wonderful details about Sam and Mattie. Pictures, please, as you can.

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