Monday, June 1, 2009

Recent Progress

I need to blog about what has been going on around here over the last few days before I forget. (I've been having significant memory problems for the last year or so!) Sorry no pictures. :-(


Cody: I slowly tacked him up (doing lots of desensitization) and then lead him on a trail walk over to the neighbor's house. He had no problem leaving the other horses, even though they were calling him. When we returned, I asked him to come to get me on the fence and I mounted him bareback. No "oinking"! I rode him around with one rein/halter at the walk, halted, and then backed up by bouncing the rein. It was a very low pressure, good experience for him.

Baby: We played in the roundpen. He leads forward by one front leg, and also backward by a hind leg very easily. We also played with bowing which he is very enthusiastic about. I asked him to stand near me while I stood on a barrel which he did with no problems. Then I leaned over him while feeding him alfalfa cubes and rubbing him. He was good with this until I put much weight on him and then he made a small "oink" and kicked at his belly. I wasn't sure whether this was due to me or to the flies, so we played with something else and then quit for the day.


Baby: First we played with an exercise ball at Liberty in the field with the other horses locked in the chute. He loves to chase the ball and to move it around. He doesn't care if I bounce it on him or toss it over or under him.

One thing, as we were first chasing the ball, I saw a large blacksnake exiting the field. Guinness was running for the ball and didn't see it, and I was afraid that it would bite him! I clapped my hands and whistled, then did my best "horse snort" and he came running back to me. I stared at it and continued to snort until I was sure that he saw it. He snorted too, and hid behind me until it was gone. The reason that I snorted and that I wanted him to see it was to try to teach him to be aware and cautious about snakes, but not to panic. I hope that he learned a valuable lesson!

Next, we played at Liberty in the roundpen for a while. His "draw" is very good, and his send isn't bad, but I don't get much sense of "yes, ma'am" from him. I'm not sure whether to expect it from him at this point or not? He bowed very willingly, and also picked up his feet and backed up (to be sure that there is no confusion in cues). He also backed from me lifting some tail hairs!

We also worked on a "go forward" cue from behind. He now tends to think that whenever I'm asking something from behind him that backing is the correct answer. To counteract this, I started tapping the top of his rump and then clicking when he takes a forward step. He caught on pretty fast.

After that, I lined him up next to me on the barrel and tried leaning on him again, and got the same response as the evening before. When he oinked, I sent him away vigorously and then ignored him and went to bring in the other horses.. (Upon further reflection, I believe that he feels that I am being impolite by leaning on him and he is expressing his opinion - much like Cody. I think that I may need to go more slowly and somehow make it more fun for him? Or maybe I need to do the opposite and be bossier?! I'd like him to associate "coming to get me" with me leaning on him, so that when he offers to come to get me that he knows that I will want to put weight on him..)

Smokey: I was pooped and didn't intend to ride, but when Smokey balked at returning to the paddock with the other horses I decided to allow him to stay in the driveway area "weedeating." I tacked him up with the bareback pad at Liberty and then asked him to pick me up from the truck bumper. He was his usual spooky self until he realized that I was going to allow him to continue to eat. We did this for a while and then returned to the paddock. (My husband had locked the other horses in the chute.) Smokey was very willing to enter the roundpen and then was pretty happy to follow the rail on the *outside* of the roundpen in various directions. This was a very successful session for him! I spent some time teaching him how to stick his tongue out for a treat - he is a slow learner compared to the Rockies.


Cody: This evening, I fed and then put the other horses out and kept Cody in and released him. He followed me back to the barn where we had a make-out session (translation, I groomed him) at Liberty. He was excellent about picking up his feet for me. Then he allowed me to apply flyspray all over his body at Liberty in exchange for 3 treats. He sniffed the saddle pad and bareback pad and then I swung the pad up to his back and boy did he wring his tail! We spent about 1o minutes taking the pads on and off both sides with me clicking when he didn't wring his tail or swing his head around. Eventually, he relaxed about it.

He didn't seem that concerned with the girth, but really seems to anticipate the "saddle" landing hard on his back. I tried something that I heard Linda Parelli say, "whenever the horse swings to bite you, kick yourself in the butt three times." It worked! I also couldn't help but add a "mare squeal" to the motion and it seemed to reassure him that his feelings about the situation were being honored! He definitely wasn't trying to bite me, but rather to express himself. This is a big change for him. In the past, he has bitten several people - but never me. He is a surprisingly sensitive horse and will get "grouchy" when not asked politely to do things.

Next we played at Liberty in the field and in the roundpen. He anticipates being sent in a circle, so I tried to slow things down and mix them up more to keep him guessing. Then I asked him to come to get me, which he did perfectly, and I looped the leadline over and mounted up (using the bareback pad & halter). We did a "pushing passenger lesson" for about 10 minutes and then we practiced some one rein stops and backing from bouncing and from the 9-step back up cue. He made some nice big sighs during the session and was in a great mood when we finished up.

Baby: Guinness couldn't stand it that I hadn't played with him, so I cued him to "smile" and to retrieve my hat and allowed him to earn some treats. Next time, I need to play with him on the 22' rope and do some more serious circling game to balance out all of the treats that he's been getting.. I think that he is also ready to try backing in an "L" shape.

That's it for now! I can't wait for the Trail Competition on Cody this Sunday. Maybe we will even try it Mounted! My friend, Sierra, will be coming to pick us up in her lovely new 3 horse slant trailer with her 4 year old Haflinger gelding, Gandalf. I promise to take some photos of the event. :-)

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