Saturday, April 7, 2012

Introducing Shadowfax to Chainmaille and Armour

A couple of days ago, as part of training our Andalusian gelding, Shadowfax, for jousting, my husband and I introduced Shadowfax to chainmaille and leg armour. I say introduced rather than desensitized, because, for the most part, Shadowfax barely even noticed the loud clanging stuff.

We started by haltering Shadowfax and bringing him out to the horse trailer where we usually groom and tack him up before riding. A very familiar, relatively relaxed place for him to be, where he was used to us messing with him. I gave him a treat to show him that treats were in the offing, then Foxfire pulled out his chainmaille skirt (brayette) and one of his pieces of leg armour (cuisses). Standing about five feet away from Shadowfax, he started rattling them lightly together.

Shadowfax... looked at me, waiting for another treat. Foxfire gradually worked up to really banging away with the maille and armour. Shadowfax may have twitched an ear in his direction. So Foxfire stopped banging his armour together, laid part of his brayette over his cuisse, put a treat on top of the two pieces of armour and brought them up to where Shadowfax could sniff at them.

Shadowfax obligingly sniffed at the armour until he found the treat, then he snarfled the treat and looked around for more. Foxfire rattled the maille and armor a little, then put another treat on them. This time Shadowfax knew to look for the treat and went straight for it, ignoring the armour.

So Foxfire started shaking the maille and armour a little right next to Shadowfax. Shadowfax ignored it and looked around for more treats. Foxfire started banging the armour together. Shadowfax didn't care. Foxfire, still banging away at the armour, went right up to Shadowfax's right shoulder. Shadowfax didn't care. Foxfire moved towards Shadowfax's right hip, still making as much noise as he could. Shadowfax didn't care. Foxfire went behind Shadowfax. Shadowfax didn't care. Foxfire moved around to Shadowfax's left side. Shadowfax... cared.

He didn't do anything awful, he just turned his head to see what was making all the noise, and took a couple of steps sideways away from the noise. I called Shadowfax's name and told him to "stand", which is a command he is very familiar with. Shadowfax looked at me and "stood". When he was looking at me and standing still, even though Foxfire was still banging away with the armour, I gave him a treat.

After that, it just didn't matter what Foxfire did, Shadowfax was going to ignore whatever noise was going on and was going to keep his eyes open for incoming treats. Foxfire put his cuisses and his brayette on and went bouncing around Shadowfax like a mad man, making as much noise as it was humanly possible to make in a brayette and cuisses. Shadowfax didn't care.

Leaving his brayette and cuisses on, Foxfire proceeded to groom Shadowfax, pick out his feet, saddle and bridle him. Shadowfax didn't seem to notice that anything was different. Foxfire brought out the lunge line and lunged Shadowfax briefly. If anything, Shadowfax behaved slightly better than usual while being lunged. So Foxfire, still in his brayette and cuisses, mounted up.

When he first started riding, Shadowfax did turn his ears back to listen to the new noises coming from his rider. He didn't pin them or appear upset in any way, just curious.

Foxfire on Shadowfax who has his ears turned back to listen to the noise of the brayette and cuisses(photo by Zhi Zhu)

After a few minutes, his ears came forward, and it was business as usual. Shadowfax truly didn't seem to be bothered by the noise at all.

Foxfire on Shadowfax (photo by Zhi Zhu)

Since we had already introduced Shadowfax to the lance, the tiltyard, and the quintain (Shadowfax tried to eat the sandbag)...

Foxfire on Shadowfax in one of his first runs against the quintain(photo by Zhi Zhu)

About the only two things left to expose Shadowfax to, in terms of jousting, are for Foxfire to ride in full armour and to give and take hits from an opponent in the tiltyard. Hopefully, we will be going over to DASH's arena soon, and Foxfire and SH can cross lances with each other and see how Shadowfax reacts to full on jousting.