Monday, May 10, 2010

Much Better Day

Over the weekend, I've been playing "Nothing In Life Is Free" with Guinness during meal times. This tactic was suggested to me by my friend Tenley. Even though it was developed to address dominance in dogs, it is working well for Guinness. It is kind of a "what's in it for me?" game for the human.

One of my big issues with him is a lack of a "go button" - both on the ground and while being ridden. While at the stable, he is typically in RBI mode and will move out when asked, but at home in LBI mode, he is a slug (unless asking him to move toward a barrel with a potential cookie). He is also this way with the other horses - they have a hard time moving him around unless he feels like it!

At feeding time, I have been allowing Guinness to eat a few bites of grain, then I ask him to back away (no problem), and ask for a behavior. We've been mixing in lots of driving game on a 12' rope, including circling.

We have also played driving game, at liberty, in the roundpen. At first glance this looks like classic "roundpenning," however the wooden rail of my roundpen is under 3'6 tall and could be jumped by a motivated horse. Also, the two rope gates would pull free with a small amount of pressure, so the boundary is mostly visual. I am being very conscious of using only enough pressure to get him moving, and then backing off (but not all the way to neutral). It is working wonders for his attitude toward me.

He hasn't offered to rear since the incident in the barn. I even took him to the indoor arena this morning and tied him in a stall for quite awhile (with the door open). Tying him was another of Tenley's ideas, and since he ties great, it seemed to anchor him mentally & emotionally. I've also been tying him at feeding time (using the tie rings on the posts by the roundpen) and having him wait to be fed last. This is doing wonders for his patience.

Today we played at liberty in the indoor arena. This was probably our best liberty ever, with him sticking to me even while I directed his nose with the carrot stick! Then we practiced the weave pattern as I walked in Zone 3 using the 12' rope and carrot stick, being conscious to change the direction of my body and energy, prior to bringing the stick into view. He is really getting it.

Next, he picked me up at the mounting block. He gave me some ugly-face as I clambered aboard, but that was about it and then I played lots of friendly. Then we rode using the 12' tied into reins and a carrot stick. We practiced tipping his nose toward the fence to "whoa" and also for lateral flexion (cookies added incentive).

When I dropped the stick, he picked up it for me several times, but I couldn't quite reach it to take it from him. Boy, would that be a handy trick! I slid off over his butt to retrieve the stick, and remounted using the fence. I was much more graceful mounting from the fence and he was much more pleasant about it..

He wasn't having any trouble moving into a walk and even considered trotting without me asking for it. He licked and blew out many times during the session. There were no spooky events (the back door was closed again), and we ended on a high note. Our usage of the indoor arena has now expired.

This afternoon, I'm planning to fix up my trailer. Only three days left until we leave for the clinic in Bristol. I'm feeling good! Knock wood..

PS - Check out the comment from "Sarah from Parelli Central" below! Michelle had mentioned that they had visited her blog site as well. :-)


inchwormwv said...

Good for you for making such progress! I wish I could audit the clinic, but we'll be at my Mom's... cu soon, I hope :-)

Naturally Gaited said...

The clinic will be right at the VA/TN line, not far from NC.. The L3/4 camp will continue until at least Wed. Maybe you could come by on your way home?

Michelle AKA arabhorselover1 said...

Sounds like you and Tenley are a great brainstorming team! :) Congrats on your planning, execution, and progress.


Naturally Gaited said...

It is very helpful to have you two, also with young horses, to kick things around with! :-)

Parelli said...

Sounds like you're doing a great job with Guiness - dealing with your "problems" with a natural, psychology-based approach! I'm here in Parelli Central, and I loved this post because I used to do a very similar game with my LBI mare at feeding time. I mostly did it to put her extra motivation around grain to good use - but all together I think it's a great idea more people should employ. Thanks for sharing!

~Sarah from Parelli

Naturally Gaited said...

Thanks for checking in, Sarah! :-)