Before we get to the "post from the past", I just need to complain a little bit. They closed the university today due to snow, but because I have a looming deadline for a project, I can't afford to take today off, so I have to go in anyway! It's not fair! Okay, done. And now, to our "Post from the Past".
February 8th 2008
Today really warmed up compared to yesterday. I think the high was around 40 degrees. There is a lot of melting going on. The roads are clear, but with all the snow, there may be flooding in the creeks. It was also raining a bit in the evening.
I worked with Catlow a total of 2 hours. I started with rubbing her with the stick and string, which she accepted very well, then progressed to tossing the string over her back, legs, and neck. I worked on her easy (right) side first, and she accepted the string tossing very well. I was even working with the lead line lying on the ground, so she stood there accepting the string tossing without being held there. Then I moved to her left (bad) side. She definitely wasn’t as comfortable with it, and as soon as I began the first toss, she sidestepped away, so I had to hold the rope so that she knew she couldn’t avoid the situation. Then the only reaction I got was the raised head and hard eye. She didn’t even attempt to move after I held the rope. She did start to soften her eye just slightly, but barely. The head stayed up. I could tell after tossing and resting then tossing again for a long time, that she was relaxed enough to look at me occasionally, and her glaring eye wasn’t quite as hard as usual. She was trying to push her wall down and peak at me over it, but that wall is high. It will take some time. I also smacked the ground with the string all the way around her and standing in front of her and she didn’t offer to move at all…this is a first!
I rubbed her a lot, and once I was satisfied that she was okay with the string tossing, I backed off and played “jump rope” with her. I also tossed the rope toward her head and body so that it would bump her on the chest, neck, and nose, and she did really well. She only jumped the first time that the rope touched her nose, and that was before we even began the jump rope activity. She is surprisingly good at this game. I feel like it is because she looks at me with both eyes. I do notice, that when I am more toward her left side, she will often turn her head further to the right…that is her trying to avoid accepting the world from that eye…she tries to turn away from me. I also wanted to see how she would accept me running up the rope at her. I began with her facing head on, and she backed off a step or two at first, but she caught on quick and didn’t move at all as I ran up the rope straight toward her head and started rubbing her face. I progressively moved out a couple steps at a time until I was running at her from her right side to her shoulder to rub her. I even threw in a few crazy jumps and arm waves and hisses as I ran at her, and she accepted it! I did the same thing again moving toward her left side, and again, she wasn’t as good at it. She tended to want to move away from me more and turn her head away as I ran toward her, but she did accept it toward the end. I didn’t push it with jumping and hissing at that side. We’ll work more on that.
Then we worked on lateral flexion. She is getting a little better every time, but not as much as that first time after I had to make her uncomfortable to want to give to the rope. She is definitely trying harder, now that she understands, but it still takes some waiting for her to give…only a few seconds, but still waiting. After we practiced for quite a while, she was giving faster. She is still slower on her left side. I also practiced having her flex with me standing on her off side with the rope laying over her back. She seemed to want to try to flex toward her left, when I was asking her to flex toward her right. The other way around was very easy.
After flexion, I worked on getting her to yield her forequarters properly. Last time, when going around to the left, she wanted to pivot on her forequarters and spin her hind end around, instead of the other way around. I had to tap on her shoulder to convince her to step across. We worked on this quite a bit, and she was really starting to get it toward the end…rocking back on her hindquarters and stepping across with her fronts. She also had to be tapped to step across going to the right, but she was a bit better to this side. I would still like to work on this more, but she improved quite a bit, so I didn’t push it much more. I also gave her treats when working with her this time. She knows when she did something right. As soon as I tell her “Goood Giirrl!”, she cues into me…I can see her mind whirling trying to connect what she did, and she watches me to see if I’m going to give her a treat for it. I then yielded her hindquarters once on each side…still works (she’s very good at this as it is the first thing that I taught her last year when I began working with both her and Chico). Then I wanted to see how difficult it would be to teach her how to side-pass. She actually caught onto this very very quickly, seeing how she doesn’t quite have the pivoting on the fores down perfectly. I just held my hand up next to her eye while clucking to her (like when I ask her to yield the fores), and added in pushing her on her side where the girth would go. She knew she was supposed to move because I was clucking, and I had my hand up near her eye. She also from before, knew that if I poke her in her middle, she is supposed to yield her hinds. So put the two together, and she side-passed! It wasn’t necessarily pretty or exactly sideways, but she did step over with both the fores and hinds crossing in front. At one point, she did try moving first the fores, then the hinds, until I got the cues better so she understood, then she stepped across. She got big praises for that, and treats. She did it all with a rather calm demeanor…she wasn’t panicking to get out of my way, she was trying to figure out what I was asking. This is great. I’m already thinking that when I get started riding her, she will understand some cues better than Chico currently does. Chico doesn’t know how to side-pass from the ground…I’ll have to work on him some more.
The head dropping is going great. She’s not quite automatic yet, but getting closer. It really is keeping her calm, and also serves as an indication to me how she’s feeling inside. If something is bothering her and I ask her to drop her head, she is more likely to resist first before she does it. I noticed that when other horses where fighting while I was working with her. I feel like being worked with is not torture anymore for her. I think I was just doing it wrong. Catlow and Chico are too different for the same method to work on them the same way. Catlow needs more close work, and I will continue to move her around to keep her respect. Then when I feel like the trust foundation is solid, I will move to lunging her.
I do think that I need to step up the desensitizing. I think next time I’ll try a plastic bag on the end of the stick.