Friday, July 16, 2010

Playing with Dinner

I've come to realize that it is time to balance out all of the recent excursions with some one-on-one play time at home together.

Yesterday evening, at feeding time, Guinness' dominance rearing popped up again (while demanding food). I promptly sent him out of the barn, measured his meal into a plastic bag, then headed to the roundpen. It took him a few minutes to let go of the idea that I was NOT going to feed him in the barn, and then he followed me to the roundpen. There, we played the Circling Game. (Rules: I send him and he goes until I ask him to come back in. If he comes in prematurely, he gets 1 stroke on the nose then I back him and send him again. If he comes in when I ask, he gets a treat.) When he got up to 4 laps around with no corrections, he earned his entire dinner. Big attitude adjustment from him, with very little work for me! I allowed him to make his own decisions, but then rewarded only the correct ones.

This evening, I proactively measured out his meal and headed to the roundpen. The horses all stood in the run-in and stared out at me in the roundpen. I gestured at Guinness to come to me, but he obstinately stood next to his food bucket. I went and locked up the chickens and then returned to the roundpen and sat on the mounting block - totally ignoring the horses. Sure enough, after about 10 minutes (at least it seemed like it!) Guinness walked briskly to the roundpen gate, staring at me intently. I looked up, brightly smiled at him, then offered him an alfalfa cube.

He eagerly entered the roundpen and I scratched him. Then we played some yo-yo and sideways at liberty. Then I sent him and we played circling game. I brought him in at 2 laps and gave him a treat. At four laps to the left with no corrections, he earned dinner.

One thing that I'm noticing is that he has a strong preference for circling counterclockwise. Often, he will start out to the right and then bend around and go to the left. I'm not being particular about anything except that he send in the correct direction and then keep walking 'till I ask him to come in. (I just looked back at an old blog post from May 2009 where he is clearly demonstrating the same preference.)

He really seemed to understand the point of the game this evening, so tomorrow I will split his ration and wait for 5 laps counterclockwise and perhaps 2 laps clockwise.

We also played a little with Figure 8 at liberty. Not so great. He does well heading around the cone to my right (bending right), but then collapses and tries to walk over the cone to my left. If I ask him to go wider, he sidepasses and then stops. I'm not sure what is up with that, but will perhaps get Alyssa to observe us this weekend for some ideas.

I wonder if he is having trouble shifting his ribs to the right? I'm going to have a chiropractor friend come over to check him out, just in case. (Thanks for the suggestion, Lisa!)

PS - I played with him in the roundpen again the next evening. He has totally got the Circling Game counterclockwise (5 laps, no problem). We even played a game where he circled counterclockwise around me and also around a cone, and whenever he passed the cone I drew him to me (at liberty). However, it was all I could do to convince him to circle me clockwise. Eventually, he offered 1 1/2 laps, so I rewarded him with his entire dinner.


Lisa said...

I would *definately* have him checked out by a vet or chiro before you address it as purely behavioral. He's a good boy - even if a bit punky at times - and I'd give him the benefit of the doubt.

Naturally Gaited said...

Great point. I have a vet friend who does chiropractic - I have just needed an excuse to get her over. It will be a great topic for a blog post! ;-)