I gave the horses the day off today. But I did work with Griffin yesterday and didn't talk about it.
First off, we had a huge audience and I thought this picture would show it just right. He did pretty well for having that audience, but it did take him longer to calm down and relax and quit trying to evade me. He never really did truly give in and let himself enjoy me scratching his neck until after the audience left.
I had started off by wiping him with fly spray with the pole, then I progressed to asking him to let me touch his neck.
I forgot to mention that in the last session, twice he had contemplated biting me while I was scratching his neck. I think it was a combination of being investigative (he seems to investigate with his lips, like most male horses I know), but I also could tell he was testing my authority...thinking that he was uncomfortable with me that close and thought he'd see if telling me that by biting at me might make me go away. While I was scratching his neck, he turned his head and was sniffing my arm, then he put his lips on it, then he started to get ready to lip harder...he never did use his teeth because as soon as it turned a little more forceful, I walloped him in the side of the face with my arm. I was amazed that he didn't overreact to that! He just turned his head back straight and I continued to scratch him. He tried it one more time later, with the same result. I think he accepted that because he knew it was deserved...he was just seeing what he could get away with. Was he high enough in our relationship to tell me to go away by biting/lipping at me? It definitely started investigative, but I could tell by the change in his eyes when he'd decided to try it in a more authoritative way. I'm writing so much about this that it seems like it was a big deal, but it really wasn't! I am, however, amazed at the little ways we communicate to one another.
Yesterday, when I was scratching him, he turned to sniff my shoulder while I stood next to him. I don't want to discourage him from investigating me, so I stood still and relaxed, but I was ready if he decided to try to nip at me again!
He didn't. I think he's learned, and it's good that he's becoming comfortable enough to check me out and explore our "partnership".
After our audience left us, he really let down and was happy that I was scratching his neck. I want to start working them both with a rope very soon. I think the sooner I can get them haltered, the more I can do with them because I'll feel safer about rubbing them in other places as long as I have some control of their heads. And I think it's time to progress there...
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