Even though Izzy has been on the disabled list, he's still had plenty to learn. I already shared how I've been working on his feet every day. I pick them out, put them between my legs, hammer the bottoms, and even place them on a mounting block to simulate the farrier's hoof stand. All of that work has definitely paid off as he was super easy to shoe.
Replacing the leg bandage every other day has allowed me to do a lot of schooling in the cross ties. He now knows that it's best to just stand still until I finish as he gets lots of praise and cookies for being patient. I've also worked on pulling his mane and using the clippers. There's not much else I can teach him about being in the cross ties. And really, I think his previous owner did a fair amount of that anyway.
Before I just hopped on though, I "worked" him in my square pen. I sent him around at a walk and focused on encouraging him to walk and whoa with my voice. When that seemed good, I dragged the mounting block into his paddock, put him in a rope halter, made sure my helmet was on tight, and then just hopped on bareback.
To my delight, he just stood there. Giving him a good boy, I patted his neck and gently slid off the other side. I've been doing this for a few days, but I've since added some walking forward. He wasn't sure what I wanted the first time, and frankly, I was a bit nervous to ask for forward with just a halter and lead rope, but with a few thumps of my legs, he took a step forward.
We've since moved on to walking laps around his paddock. I still don't feel perfectly relaxed doing this as he could get a wild hair at any moment, but the few times that he broke into a trot, he quickly came back to the walk when I asked. His steering is nonexistent, but I've been asking him to move over with leg pressure. It's a bit confusing for him as he thinks that my leg means only go. I am not worried. I've only been on his back for a few minutes each time, and he's gotten more comfortable with me up there each day.
Other than trailer loading, which gets it's own post, the last big thing I've worked on is allowing the reins over his head. He was really fussy about that when I saw him at the trainer's place. To teach him that the reins over his head wasn't anything to worry about, I stood to his side and turned the lead rope into reins. As he grazed, I brought the rope across his face, back and forth. Within a few minutes, he ignored the rope in favor of grazing.
Later, I stood in front of him and to both sides and brought the rope up to his eyes and asked him to lower his head. I do it over and over, always removing the rope when his head is lowered. Every once in a while the rope surprises him and his head shoots up, but for the most part, he's no longer worried about the "reins" grabbing his ears or sliding past his eyes. In fact, while I was on him bareback the other day, I passed the rope from the left side to the right side so I could pull him around and change direction, no big deal.
We are now working on so many skills that I have to pick and chose which ones to school on any particular day. Some days it's just "square pen" work with the rope and me getting on, and other days it's about grooming, farrier work, and hand walking.
Hopefully by the time his leg has healed completely, the return to under saddle work will be nothing to get excited about. I am looking forward to that day.