Yes! Its true!
On Wednesday the 17th, I wanted to try out some new stretches and lunging techniques with Ranger. So after all the stalls were mucked out, water buckets filled and cleaned if needed, grain all ready, hay waiting in stalls to be eaten, and part of the barn swept, I went outside to go get Ranger.
While I was grooming Ranger before I lunged him, I mostly was concentrated on his feet I would fully groom after the lunging session, I did some stretching exercises with his legs. Not sure weather he would stand still during this new experience, actaully I wasn't sure weather he has ever been stretched before or not, I decided to keep him on the cross ties just to be safe.
After I had sucessfully cleaned out each hoof, I stretched each leg. I started with his front right leg. At first he wasn't too sure of what was going on "Why are you making my foot go out there? I need it under me!" and the resistance that I could feel wasn't due to unstretchable muscles. So after a few tries and some talking to, I finally got to stretch out that front leg. Next was the right back leg. This was much easier to accomplish then the front one. More to my inexperience rather than Ranger's muscles, I didn't stretch out his back leg as far as I could, not wanting to tear any muscles. After I all of his legs were reasonably stretched, I went behind him and pulled his tail. Yes, I went behind his butt and pulled his tail. I had read numerous places that horses like their tails pulled, reasonably so, and that it helps stretch out their backs. Knowing that Ranger has never had a kicking habit I felt safe but I still paid very close attention to his attitude. All in all, he liked it and didn't give any fuss. Next I tried the stretch where I was to put my hands under his midsection and push up, making him stretch out his back muscles more. This was not as successful and he didn't really even bring his back up or move away from the pressure, so I didn't press that issue for the first time.
So off into the inside arena we went.
This session was different than other lunging days with him for two big reasons. One, I spent more time stretching him out inside the arena (ie: his neck) and warming him up (ie: walking him around and trotting and getting him to stop on command and on the lead rope). The next big change was that I wanted to change up our routine a bit and decided to put one ground pole in the arena for him to jump over if he wanted to.
So warming up consisted of me walking Ranger around the arena numerous times and warming up his brain with walk, trot, and whoa commands. He seems to do better while lunging when I do this first. Then I took out the ground-pole and walked and trotted him over the pole 4 times each way, to make sure he knew it was there. Ranger seemed more than willing to go over the ground-pole and I think he was glad that there was a change in the routine. After we acknowledged the ground-pole I did some work with teacher Ranger to stretch his neck on command. I start by standing by his right shoulder and clicking my tongue and calling his name. Surprisingly the next thing I have to do is just lightly tap my side or his shoulder and he brings his nose right to that spot, which always deserves a treat after.
So after about 10 minutes of warming up I send him out to the wall. I now always free lunge him, with him being an older horse, and only put him on the lunge line when he refuses to listen to my vocal commands. At first he didn't want to work and his walk was very lazy. I let him do his lazy walk for the long length of the arena then asked him to pick it up a bit. If I can walk faster than a horse then something is wrong =D. After Ranger got into his nice forward walk that I love so much I had him go over the ground-pole numerous times, each time he received a very enthusiastic "good boy!" Then I had him go into the trot. Ranger's trot is just so nice and graceful I wonder how in the world he could be a horse of 30 years of age. Acting as if he has done this his whole life he trotted over the ground-pole with ease. He also was changing gaits very nicely when I asked him to, taking no more than 5 steps to do so.
After some trotting I wondered about asking him to go into the canter for me. I have always been wary about asking him to canter because of his age, but then I have to trust that he would stop if he really needed to. After a trot over the ground-pole I asked him to go into the canter, and he did so without any fuss. When he got back to the ground-pole I predicted that he would slow down to a trot, but he did not. In fact, he more "pronked" over the ground-pole than anything. In case some readers may not know, a pronk is movement that is related to alpacas. It is when they jump up and down on all fours in a forward motion, mostly practiced when they are very happy. When Ranger pronked over the ground pole I was ecstatic because I also figured that it took a lot of muscles for a horse to accomplish this.
After a few times going to the left, I asked him to go in the opposite direction. With Ranger still doing everything almost perfectly, up until I ask him to whoa, he still doesn't like to stop for me. Then my sister came in and wanted to see if Ranger would "join up" with me? I was kind of confused of WHY I should do this. Tia told me what I needed to do was get him at a relaxed trot and then turn my back to him. Supposebly if he really respected me he would stop trotting and walk up behind me. Not really eager to have a horse walk up to me with my back turned, I was wary but wanted to try it anyways. It didn't take long for Ranger to get into a very relaxed trot and I turned my back to him. Almost immediately I heard him slow down to a walk and I heard his foot steps come closer and closer behind me, then finally stopped. I turned around to see Ranger with both ears perked right up, but instead of being right behind me like I guessed he would, he was about 8 feet away, which I was very proud of! I went up to him and rubbed him all over and giving him treats and very many "good boy!"s.
Now here comes the part of when I absolutely fall in love with this horse!
The lunging session was over and I restretched Ranger's neck and had him do some turning on the haunches for me. After that I told him he could walk around where he wanted while I picked up. He seemed like he was going to go onto the opposite end of the arena, but when he saw me move towards the ground-pole he ended up following me, staying about 10 feet away. It was just to tempting, so I jumped over the ground pole and started jogging around the arena, and looked behind me to see Ranger trotting behind me, still keeping his distance. I'm not sure if he was enjoying this, but I certainly was! I was so thrilled to see that this horse was willing to follow me without a lead line or being asked to, compared to some of the other horses who would just keep their heads burried in the door imagining it opening for them. After a few round I turned around to Ranger and he stopped with his ears right up looking at me. He looked so gorgeous and happy! I walked up to him and gave him a great big hug and kiss and an "I love you".
Even though I haven't been around horses much, Ranger is STILL the best horse I have ever known. I know he is getting older and that one day he will pass away, but I am going to enjoy my time with him until that day comes. I also know that I don't own him, and the people that are boarding him there for the time being might move him somewhere else, actually that is the plan at this point in time. I have yet to build up the heart to ask when he is leaving...BUT until then I will just keep on loving him.