Things have been crazy for me the last few days. I have a job interview in Wyoming next week for a really exciting position! WY State Wildlife Disease Biologist. If I do not get this job, I am heading to vet school this fall, with the goal that I'll be focusing on wildlife so that I can do the job that oversees the position I would have had in WY. That's my life goal right now. Funny how they change, or stay the same, rather. I've decided that as a vet, I don't want to treat other people's animals. I want to simply enjoy my own, and still make a difference in the wildlife conservation world, which has been my specialty previously.
I have been working with Kachina the last few days. I've ignored Griffin a little but that only started out because I had to spend so much time on Kachina after her day off, but it's also because he's more challenging and I was having more fun with Kachina, so he got ignored. I will work with him today! I promise.
Anyway, back to Kachina. Sorry, I have no pictured because I was the only one there, which I prefer, by the way. When I work them alone, I focus much better on their responses and reactions, and I talk to them constantly. When I have an audience, I don't talk as much and we all suffer for it. The connection is not the same.
So, I had decided that I wanted to get a rope on her because I want to start getting closer, haltering her, and I wanted a way to tell her that she needs to stick with me rather than leaving when she's a little nervous. I've watched a lot of clinicians work horses with ropes by throwing them at them repeatedly until they finally get the rope over the horse and in the right position. They say that doing that will show the horse that they aren't going to be killed by things coming at them, so it is a good way to also desensitive them while you work to catching them. Now, Kachina is very reactive, so I was cautious about doing this, but I just went ahead and did it anyway.
My rope is a very long coil of cotton rope (maybe close to 50 ft?). I always start working Kachina by throwing whatever I'm doing to use that day (rope, halter, brush) over the panels into her pen so that she can check them out. She did and she was relatively calm as I entered the pen, until I picked up the rope and started coiling it so that I could handle it. She snorted, ran around, then stopped and watched me (head high, nostrils flared) as I finished coiling it.
Then I just started walking around with it. I wanted to give her a chance to sniff it, but she was having none of that. She just ran from me and the rope. So I started swinging it and tossing it at her. She ran and ran and searched corners to get out. I would toss it at her, and sometimes I'd get it over her butt, but she was spurting forward so fast, that it would come right off. This went on for a long time. I was starting to worry that I was sending the wrong message...spurt forward when the rope comes at you and the rope will not touch you! But I just kept at it. I'd never done this before, so I had some doubts about what I was doing, but I just kept at it. I was very nonchalant as I stood in the middle. Kachina became very sweaty and was breathing hard. A couple of times, the rope was over her back and stayed on her for a lap around the pen. Finally I managed to get it over the neck (it had been over her back, but then she turned into the fence and it went right into position!). I let her trail it out so that I could pick up both ends of the rope, then I had the rope around her neck. Once the rope was on her, she really wasn't so freaked out. She was nervous, but stood and looked at me. I could wiggle the ropes and swing them, and she might jump, but she didn't take off. I asked her to move around a couple of times and then stop and face up. When I asked her to face up, I stepped in front and pulled on the rope, releasing the pull as soon as she made to turn in and look at me. She did this pretty well, but was still a little panicky, and at one point, I lost on end of the rope. It slowly fell off as she moved around, but that was fine. Then I coiled it back up, and approached her with it so that she could check it out. It had been touching her already. She was very tense as she stretched out her neck to sniff at the rope, but I just kept taking it away, walking away from her whenever she reached to check it out, and pretty soon, she was following me just a bit, then sniffing it a little more confidently. So then I reached out with the coil to touch her on the shoulder with it. She made to move away, so I retreated and did that a few times till she was standing well, then finally did touch her shoulder with it. Then I scratched her with the rope and she thought that was okay. At that point, she was a little more secure with it. I did that on both sides, then thought I'd see if I could get it around her neck without throwing it at her again, but as soon as I put it over her neck, she was off. And it stayed on for a little bit, but then fell off.
So, I went back to throwing it at her and she ran and searched corners. She still reacted to the tossing of the rope. Finally, I got it over her neck again (which took a while - I have bad aim). Then I just got to work on her rubbing her all over and moving that rope (which I had hold of both ends around her neck). She LOVES to be rubbed, especially her belly. She has some very thin skin and the gnats have really irritated her under there. Her skin is so thin that it lookes like they held the freeze brand on too long, but probably they didn't hold it on any longer than any other horse. Most of her freeze brand is bare skin. No hair grew back. There is only white hair on the first character.
Prior to this session, she'd only allowed me to touch her with one hand - two hands was just too much and she'd move away, then I'd have to ask her to come back. This time, I had used the rope to pull her back when she left - well, I used a combination of the rope and stepping out in front of her with always gets her to turn into me. Pretty soon, I could put a little pressure on that rope, when she'd lean out to start leaving, and she was choosing to stay with me. I kept rubbing her, and eventually, I was using both hand, rubbing in all her good spots, and I progressed to rubbing her up on her neck and head as well. I've been staying away from the back end until I get a rope on her. I don't think she's a kicker, but I've seen her panic response to an unknown object and that was to kick, so I'll stay away from that until I have control of her head. I was even able to rub down her front legs to the hoof and she stood very well!
Once I'd gotten to where she was letting me rub her head with both hands and touch her nose and put my hand on the bridge of her nose without her trying to pull her head away, I picked up the halter and repeated all the rubbing with it. I progressed to all over her face. Then I slipped it on over her nose and continued to rub her and move it around as I tied it. Kachina is haltered!!!! She was unfazed by the halter. I just continued to rub and rub her body. She loves to be rubbed, which I knew she would. I still had the rope around her neck. Now, Kachina did still every once in a while become bothered by something I was doing, and move away, but I just used the rope to bring her back.
This whole process probably took 2 hours. I could have had her haltered sooner, but I didn't want to rush and make a bad experience, so I was really slow with it all. When I was finished rubbing her, I took the halter back off and continued to rub her as I slowly pulled the rope off her neck. She stood, I gave her one last rub, then walked away. At the end of that lesson, she was very relaxed and had completely dried off - no more sweat.
The next day (which was yesterday), I started by throwing the rope, halter, and a lead rope into her pen. I meant to use the rope again, but I approached her with the halter first and just started rubbing her. She stayed with me really well. I could still use both hands to rub her and rub all over her face. So I didn't end up using the rope at all. I still got the halter on her and then just spent a lot of time rubbing her all over. The flies were bad again, so then I went to get a rag and my bottle of fly spray. She was uncerain about the rag at first (it is bright blue), but I just let her check it out, walked away from her with it, got her to follow me, then I went ahead and started touching her with it. She was quite nervous about it, but she stood and let me do it. So then I sprayed fly spray on it (while standing next to her!), and then proceeded to rub her down with fly spray! I got her whole body except down her back legs and her butt...those are still off limits for me until I get a leadrope on her. I'll do that soon, but I don't anticipate a problem with her back legs. Now, I didn't have a lead rope on her at all yet. Just the halter, and she did leave a few times when that blue rag became to much, but for the most part, she stayed right with me! After the fly spray, I took hold of the halter loop (I use a rope halter), and gently pulled it toward me as I stood at her side. She turned her head toward me instead of pulling away, so I rubbed and rubbed her. I did that a few times on each side, just asking her to give just a little. I think we are now well prepared to me to get a halter on her with a lead rope. That basically means that she's a tame horse! Yay!
Today, I'll work Griffin. He needs to get to this point too, but I know it will take a little more work because it is me he is leery of. Kachina likes me, just not "things", but she's becoming so brave about things now. Griffin is feeling much much better these days. He is walking around his pen again, instead of just standing in a corner (when I'm not in there with), and the other day, when I asked him to let me scratch his neck when I was feeding him, his ran into the barn, then back out, and he was REALLY fast! He's feeling good. But he did calm down and then let me scratch his neck. I think I'll use the pole to get a rope around him, instead of throwing it at him. I don't want to push him into the panels again!