Tuesday, May 14

Groundwork, Moving, and Goal Accomplishing Mega Update

I have been really good about getting out to see Betty, but I've been horrible about blogging. So here, in all its fascinating detail, is the recap. 

Saturday was our first day working on Goal #3- Plant the feet. I want to desensitize Betty to the point that she will stand still and relaxed while I walk around her doing any number of ridiculous things. 

I started by turning her loose in the arena to work a few of the kinks out. I was able to catch a little video of her "before" movement. 

When she got all the wiggles out we moved on to our desensitizing work. I got out the long rope and started swingin'. I decided to keep going with the clicker into this stage of the training. I've gone back and forth about using so many treats, but I'm really enjoying working with her using the clicker. It serves as a nice bookmark letting her know when she is on the right track and it's really working as a way to get her to check back in with me. When she gets nervous, she wants to run off and just keep going so nothing scary will happen. The clicker gives me a way to grab her attention and bring her back to me. I set up an easy question, when she gets the right answer, I click, and she walks over to me to get a treat. It's an easy way to reset a situation that isn't going in a productive way. If she ever gets rude or pushy, the treats go away for good. So far, though, she has been very respectful. She totally understands the system and doesn't try to mug for treats when she hasn't earned one. So I'm using the clicker and the approach and retreat method to introduce the concept that scary things can fly at her and not eat, maim, or kill her. By the end of our session, I was able to swing the rope, training stick, and the training stick with the string all over her and around her with only minimal wiggling around. We will need a few more sessions until I can walk around her swinging with her standing completely still and relaxed, but we are off to a great start. She definitely had a harder time with things happening up near her head and on the top of her rump; so, I will be putting some extra time into these areas. To address her head issue, I worked on asking her to lower her head when I put downward pressure on her lead rope. She has a tendency to raise her head and pull back in response to pressure on her halter, so I want to make sure she understands the concept of giving and gets more comfortable with things moving on her head before I teach her to tie. Overall, I was really pleased with our session. She seems to be retaining information very well, and she tries hard to do what I'm asking of her. She's also admitted she likes getting scratches on the neck and ear rubs. She'll be acting like the big pet that she is in no time. 

Sunday was mostly a day off for us. I did stop by and give her day 3 of her dewormer and spent a few minutes scratching all the loose hair off her neck. She is shedding out her scuzzy winter coat and growing a new beautiful, soft, coat. I can't wait to see how nice she'll look all shed out. 

Monday was a stormy, windy, ugly, day. It was also the day I'd planned to move Betty out to the new place. The rain was coming out sideways when we were trying to load her. After the last trip, Betty was none too sure about getting back into one of those metal contraptions. It took a few minutes and a few times halfway in and then back out, but then she loaded like a dream. It was only a short drive, but by the time we got there the rain had stopped. 

She will eventually be sharing space with a sweet gelding named, Z, but for now, they are going to get to know each other over the fence. She quickly settled in to graze and didn't even look up when I said goodbye. 

Which brings us to today, Tuesday. I only had a few minutes to stop by after work, but I was able to sneak in a quick training session. I was delighted that she stuck to our catching system in her new, bigger pasture. I'm nervous to announce Goal #1 as accomplished, but it's looking like she is willing to keep working on it even with more room to get away from me if she wants. I decided to keep it simple and review our work with her feet. She needed a little reminder on keeping her feet still when I rubbed her legs, but she remembered our previous lessons quickly and was very well behaved while I handled all four feet. I worked on getting her more comfortable with bringing her front feet forwards to continue preparing for her first real trim in a few weeks. I used a rope behind her pastern to encourage her to lift her leg forward and up. It only took a few repetitions for her to get the idea, and she lifted both front feet for me several times before we called it quits. 

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