Wednesday, May 22

Betty Update 5/14-5/21

Betty has been settling in really nicely at her new place. Thursday, when I got there, she even greeted me at the gate with a nicker. I know it's just because I'm the one who brings the cookies, but it still makes me smile.

I had the company of my wonderful bf who agreed to take some video of our session.

Here's our warm up. I'm looking for consistent speed and level shoulders. She has a tendency to lean in towards me and also gets a little nervous when it comes to going between me and the arena panels. We did this both ways for as long as it took to get around the arena one time each way. Once she was settled, we worked on her feet. I reviewed our previous steps and worked on moving each hoof around into different positions. We are still working towards a hoof trim, and she gets closer to our goal every session. Her balance is improving to the point I feel she could hold them up long enough to be trimmed, but her confidence isn't quite there.

I introduced two new things during this session as well. First- Backing Up. When she is scared, Betty tends to raise her head and run backward. This muscle memory also shows up when I ask her to back up on the line. So, I broke it down into the two steps that I wanted. First, I would ask her to lower her head from pressure on the halter. Then, I would ask her to back keeping her neck and back relaxed. It took a few tries to get both pieces together, but we had a few good ones in a row.

Second- The Flag. As you can see, she did pretty fantastic. First I had her follow me around while I waved it around, then I progressed to having her stand still while I waved it around, and the final step was for her to stand still while I rubbed her all over with it. While I wouldn't call her relaxed, she did tolerate it really well, and that's the first step. For me, this work is about her making a decision to stand around when running away seems the better option. Relaxation will come with time, and we have plenty of that.

Saturday I only had a minute to stop by and give her some vitamins. She wasn't too sure about the new grain pan, but her desire for yummy pellets won out in the end.

Tuesday's session was a lot like last Thursday. We warmed up with our circles, reviewed leg handling and added holding her front legs between my knees for short periods of time. We worked on backing again, which she did amazingly well. She went from only one or two halting steps in our lest session, to doing three or four steps consistently soft. She even offered some steps after I stopped asking. I have to be careful with her, because she has a tendency to guess rather than waiting for me to ask for things, but I like to see her take a little initiative sometimes. I did more work with the flag this session, and I made sure to mix in lots of moving work to help keep her calm and focused. She was a significantly more unhappy about the flag on her right side than the left, so I spent a bit more time over there. By the end, we were back to where we were before with a higher degree of relaxation. So, success!

I also added some targeting work. For the unfamiliar, take a look over here. I decided to introduce the concept of targeting as a way to help her with picking up her feet into the forward position needed to go on a hoof stand. She was really resistant to the rope method I tried, so I'm choosing another tactic. I started by just touching her hoof with the target (my whip with a tennis ball on the end) and clicking; she caught on pretty quickly and only moved her foot away a few times. The next step was for her to move her foot to the flag. I don't want her to just go around stepping on things willy nilly, so I'm using a pull forward on the halter as a cue from the beginning with this. She showed me she had it by stomping firmly on the stick after the third or fourth repetition on each side. Smart girl. There were times when we stalled out, and, to create some momentum, I would just send her out and work her on a circle for a few minutes. This is where I like the mixture of clicker training and natural horsemanship methods. They both have a lot to offer, and they really can work well together. I think. At least so far. I'm having a lot of fun experimenting, in any case.

During our sessions, I'm trying to stick to the less is more mentality. When something is working, we move on. She is really smart, so the pace is fast and fun. I have to keep in mind that everything with her is work... even standing around getting scratches can be an exercise. Although, I did spend a few minutes Tuesday massaging from behind her ears up to her poll. She seemed to genuinely enjoy that and stretched her neck low to make is easy for me. What a great little horse.

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