Sunday, May 12

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Like most things in life, working with young horses has it's high points and its low points, and Friday Betty showed me both. We started the day off really well. She let me catch her no problem, and she was very well behaved for the farrier. She wasn't too sure about the different positions for holding, but she held it together long enough for him to trim off the worst of the excess from her front feet. I was really proud that can though she didn't understand, she tried to be obedient rather than looking for the nearest exit.
Edward had to be both patient and creative to get the job done.
I also gave her the first of a five dose deworming regimen, which she handled like a champ.  The weather has been beautiful here, and the bugs are out in full force. So, she also learned about wearing a fly mask. She doesn't seem to mind once it's on, but the process of putting the mask on will take a little bit longer for her to get comfortable with. She would still really like to run away any time that you bring your hand toward her head with something in it. I was so proud of her, and I really feel like we are making progress together.
Sporting her new mask. 

Training updates:
Goal #1, catching, is getting consistently better. She is now approaching me when I walk into her field, and she usually doesn't try to run away until I bring the halter up to put it on. Even this has improved, as now all the does is raise her head and try to turn away from me,  but, for the most part, she does not move her feet.

Goal #2, hoof trim, is starting to look attainable as well. We'll work a few more weeks holding her feet in the farrier positions before scheduling another appointment. Friday's appointment was a great lesson for her, and we were at least able to get the longest parts off so that she won't do any damage to her hooves.

And those were the high points of the day...

I teach lessons Fridays, and at the end of the night I decided to do another short session. "Just a few minutes to stretch her legs." I thought. HA! It all started off fairly well. She spooked a little when I undid the Velcro on her mask, but other than that I got her haltered without a snag. We went into the arena to work a bit, and I decided to review moving her hips away from a touch on her side. We had worked on this Thursday evening no problem, but, this time, it was a problem. I was standing on her left side, and as I touched her belly to ask her to move over, she pushed her shoulder into me, ran past, and kicked out as a final good bye. I got lucky, and she hit my elbow rather than my face, but the session had been thrown seriously off course. My effort to keep our sessions positive was abandoned for a quick "we don't kick people no matter how scared we are" lesson. This quick reprimand switched her into avoidance mode and led to her doing a lot of running backwards, and running around, and general scaredy cat behavior including spooking any time I walked from one side of her to the other.

These kind of setbacks are inevitable with a training horse, but they never stop being hard. It feels like a defeat, and my smarting elbow is a nagging reminder. I'm by no means discouraged, and our little hiccup Friday has helped me decide on our next goal.. I'm going to be doing some desensitizing a la Clinton Anderson. Rope, stick, flag... She's gonna stand still and deal with it all before I go back to working inside her bubble.

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. We will start with swinging a rope around her and then at her body, and from there we will follow the same air space followed by touchings progress to the training stick with the string tied back, then with the string loose, and the final step for this goal will be to be able to swing a flag (or in my case a plastic bag tied to the end of a stick) on over or around any part of her body. I feel this is an important step for Betty because she's both sensitive and lazy. She has a high motivation to stand still, so this sort of work will hopefully help her learn to tune out "junk" signals that don't need to bother her. Plus, I really want to ingrain in her that when she is nervous, her feet should stay on the ground.

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