"Post from the Past"
February 15th 2008
Yesterday, I went out to Todd’s with the intention of us spending Valentine’s day together (making beer and playing with horses), but Todd didn’t feel very well, so I played with horses myself.
I had spent the previous week making rope halters with the new rope that I bought from D&B. I got a reddish brown with a tan tracer, and a bright purple with a white tracer. I thought the brown would be a perfect color to complement Catlow’s color. I ended up making 12 halters (also with some other leftover rope I had). I caught Catlow (feeding at the molasses licks which had been replaced in the pasture, much to my dismay, since last weekend). I took her in the round pen, then proceeded to try every halter on her. She was very patient. The halters are going to fit perfectly once they’ve been on a horse and the knots have tightened up…as is now, the unused ones seem too small around the nose, but really, they are perfect. I ended up using a dark neutral colored halter that Todd said was his favorite color, but he didn’t end up coming out to check on me until I was done working with her.
Since I started trying rope halters on her, I had her flex in a few of them. She actually flexed to touch me very quickly…hardly any wait period today! Either a break of 4 days did her good since our last session, or she likes that I didn’t do any desensitizing with her.
I did not do ANY desensitizing with her, and the difference in her attitude is amazing…I think that I may have to do a few experiments. Sometimes I need to do desensitizing first, and check her willingness to flex, then I also need to just start a lesson with flexing, and see how she acts. I think that perhaps she is shutting off a little bit when I do the desensitizing exercises and it really shows when I ask her to flex so that she will choose to hang on the halter instead of giving to me. She is much more willing when I do not make her uncomfortable by throwing the rope around. Maybe I need to stop “annoying” her with the desensitizing stuff…she’s not really afraid of the rope tossing, but it makes her uncomfortable.
The primary exercise that I worked on with Catlow was yielding the fores and the hinds and some side-passing. She remembered that she was to step across in front with both the fores and hinds when yielding. She pivoted very nicely, but I noticed that she was tending to get a little bit lazier with the hinds. I think mostly because previously I hadn’t asked her to do very many steps, so I worked on asking her to take more steps and quicken up her feet a bit. She really did quicken up fast when I poked her, and she stayed relatively calm throughout the whole process. When I would praise her and let her stop, she’d immediately look at me to see if she was going to get a treat for doing well. Sometimes I did give her treats, but I was trying to save them for when she did REALLY well. I was extremely pleased with her yielding the fores in a complete circle. She is really consistent about rocking back on her hinds and stepping around with her fores. She caught onto that very quickly. The only time she became confused was when I first started asking for a 360 degree pivot…she’d step across several times, but then when I kept pushing her, she’d start to step back…I had to just keep with her until she stepped across in front again and then reward her big. She did great today. It was calm and pleasant to work with her, and my overall impression was that she was trying for me.
She was also a lot more relaxed overall. When I let her go, she walked over to investigate my halter pile, and she even picked one up and tossed it a bit (which is not her personality at all…she’s the quiet hang back and watch horse). Then I let her eat hay with the weanlings in the barn after our lesson, and I laid down in the hay. She actually approached me to sniff at me, then continued eating. She usually doesn’t approach me when I give her the choice. I have been rewarding her with a treat when she walks up to me on request in the round pen. That’s probably helping her to be more interested in approaching me.
Well, I’d like to work with her again tomorrow. Doni might come out with me again. Hopefully, she’ll want to work longer than she did last weekend. Maybe I’ll see if she wants to work with Cody. I’d love to take both Cody and Catlow to the clinic at Katie’s in March. Actually, I’d love to take all three of my horses, but I’m not sure I want anyone else to work with Chico because he hasn’t been worked by anyone else yet, and he still needs quite a bit of work.