Monday, January 07, 2013

This afternoon I went out to play with Dan, try his bridle on him, and move Bella next to them.

I was just going to slip the bridle on without a halter, because he'd look more handsome that way.  Which is when I learned what lesson #1 was going to be.  Giving his head to pressure.  Specifically dropping his head to poll pressure, but progressing to tipping his nose to the side also.  Once the halter was on we worked on lowering his head.  At first he'd tuck his nose way back, putting his lips on my hand, and walk forward.  It didn't take long before he realized I just wanted him to drop his head, without moving his feet or putting his lips on me.  He seemed happy to have gotten it.  It took a little bit more time to get him to understand the same lesson with my fingers on his poll rather than the halter, but he got it.  He's pretty smart.  Scout was happy to stand on the other side of me and show off that he knows how too.  :)

Working on tipping his nose to the side was much harder.  He thinks he needs to walk forward when I ask him to tip his nose to the side.  I'm not asking for full lateral flexion around to his girth, just a little tip of the head.  It was a little awkward in the deep snow, circling and circling and waiting for him to get it, and he never really did get it.  But he kind of coincidentally stopped a couple times (once on each side) and I praised him a lot and moved on.

We did a little circle work at a slow pace, mostly concentrating on changing directions every half circle, and that was hard for him.  He got a little willful a couple times and reared up once.  It's easy to see that if he's overwhelmed he gets emotional and quits thinking and has a little fit.  I persisted, slowly and calmly, and he continued without the fit throwing.

Eventually we just stood and hung out and I scratched around his ears and told him what a good boy he is.

I think I will have to do some desensitizing with the rope.  He wasn't comfortable with me twirling it with no intent toward him, and once when it dragged next to him he gave it a little too much nervous attention.  No big deal, just little stuff to work on.

I don't know what he knows and what he doesn't know in terms of this little nit-picky foundation stuff.  He may know all of this already, but we have to work it out together so I'm pretending we're starting from scratch.

When he's more relaxed we're going to work on his tendency to be a space invader.  He leads pretty nicely but with his nose right next to or on my elbow, especially on my left, so I'll start flapping my elbow eventually.  Right now I think he needs that closeness to feel secure, so as long as he's not being dangerous or stepping on my heels he can stay close and touch me when he needs to.

Here he is in his pretty headstall.  I'm not sure if I'll snug up that bit or let him learn to pick it up and pack it.  I guess I'll see which he prefers. 

 Scout was never far away.  He was a very unhelpful helper.

Bella, all wide-eyed, checking out the new horse.

I turned her out in the pasture next to the boys and watched the show.

Dan quickly claimed her as his own, driving Scout off.

I'm not sure but I think Bella likes him.  She never squealed or kicked.

Then they dug up some snow and started grazing together.

Just about then the bus pulled up and Huckleberry rushed to meet his kid.

 Yay!  Katia's home!

Poor little Blue has been on house rest as much as possible because he's got a gimpy leg.  It's slowly improving.  Yesterday he wouldn't use it much at all.  Knowing his balls-to-the-wall, kamikaze style, he probably sprained something chasing or fighting with his brother. 

Oh, I also unloaded a 1250 pound square bale of hay today, flake by flake, and stacked it in the barn and one of the grain bins.  That was prickly work.  But I'm glad to have it under cover.  Wish I could find small bales.  Oh well, at least I have hay!


froglander said...

Glad to hear about your horsey adventures and always love to see the pics :)

Keechy said...

I bet Dan would pick up the giving to pressure work really quickly if you got your clicker out. It's perfect for that sort of stuff.

Andrea -Mustang Saga said...

I have serious reservations about doing anything with treats with this horse. On the other hand, he would LOVE the positive reinforcement. I'll have to think on that... I bet all I'd have to do for a reward is tell him, "good boy." That might just work...

Keechy said...

Find his good scritchy spot maybe? Drops head, good boy, scritchy? That's how clicker people train foals who are too young to eat treats.

You can use treats with any horse using the clicker, you just have to establish good boundaries such as 'face always forward to receive treat', 'no treat without a click', 'no treat for mugging', stuff like that, and done at first with you behind a barrier till they learn the rules, but yes can be more work to do it right with a bossy horse.