Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Stranger danger

I've set up Griffin's appointment to be gelded. Sept. 5th. I hope that gives me enough time to get him to allow another person to touch and handle him, as the vet will need to in order to administer anesthetic.

I worked with him today. I scratched him all over, spent more time on his butt, rubbing to his hocks and down his front legs, and I cut him a little "halter" path. I've saved the hair I cut from both of them. It's like baby's first haircut! It's one of those little milestones!

I also lunged him a little today and he was much better about leaving calmly on his good side and also better on his bad side (although he still hesitated at first, and was a little more uncertain about it, but definitely better than before). And when I asked him to whoa, he turned in to me with interest. By the end of our little lunging session (which probably only lasted 5-10 minutes), he was actually coming all the way to the center (with a little extra urging with the halter) to meet me when I asked him to whoa. That's wonderful for him. I do think that he feels more comfortable standing with me, than when I am pushing him around the pen. That is a good thing.

Then my mom appeared around the corner. She hadn't seen me work with Griffin in a long time (not since before I could halter him). She was surprised. My mom is a little uncertain around horses. She just doesn't understand their behavior well, and they are so big and she's so little.

Since my mom was there, I decided to see how Griffin would handle another person in the pen. Griffin and I stood in the center of the pen as my mom climbed over the panels. I stood next to his head and we both faced my mom. I scratched him occasionally and talked to him. He watched her approach with a little concern. I asked my mom to be slow and extend her hand for him to sniff. I touched her hand first to show him she was okay. Then he reached forward and sniffed her. He was on alert, and when my mom lowered her right arm, then went to raise her left arm for him to sniff, he bolted! And my mom bolted too! She ran for the panels, and Griffin just ran to get away from this new danger! My mom stood at the top of the panels on the safe side, and I laughed at them both! She said she thought she was having a heart attack. I let Griffin move a little bit while my mom stood on the panels (he skirted around her), then I asked him to whoa and stand in the center with me again.

We tried again. This time, I told my mom to just listen to my directions and we were going to do some approach and retreat. So first, I had her just approach and stand about 6 feet away. I talked to Griffin, scratched him and watched his concern. I told my mom to just look away from him and act interested in something else, then walk away. Then come back, stop, then this time, extend her hand and let him sniff. As soon as he sniffed, I said turn around and walk away, and I explained how that was rewarding the behavior that we desired, which was standing still and showing interest in her. My mom doesn't quite understand how they can figure out that's what you want, but it does work. It's because of the relief they feel when you release that pressure. Then she came back and stood closer and asked him to sniff her hand again, then she backed off. I stood next to him, scratched him occasionally. Then I switched to standing on his other side, and we did it again. He did not bolt this time. He stood next to me the whole time and although he was concerned, he was okay. Then my mom left. She was nervous too, and that was enough for both of them for their first try at getting over "stranger danger"!

After she left, he was so much more relaxed with me standing there with him. I think we were a team when the "stranger" was approaching. What a way to build a relationship! He was such a good boy. We are definitely becoming friends and he listens to me without exploding. He does still snort when I first enter his pen if I ask him to move straight off, but he's getting better. The more relaxed he gets, the more expressive he is when you hit the good itchy spots. Today, I swear, he was itchy on his whole body. He kept his head turned toward me without me having to pull him around when I was at his side, and his lip was twitching the whole time. He did try to groom me again, but again, I just gently dissuaded him with my elbow. He really wants to return the favor, but I don't want his teeth on me!

The other thing I've been doing with Griffin, is jumping quickly, just to surprise him and make him realize that just because I move fast, I'm not gonna get him. He's now just spooking in place, and then usually he licks his lips immediately afterward. I think it's almost a release of tension for him that has slowly built up with my presence with him. He's getting more and more fun to work with. He's not as cuddly as Kachina is, but he's nowhere near as flighty and picky about new things or new movements I make.

I didn't have time for Kachina today.


Anonymous said...

Great progress with Griffin! I liked the story with your mom - as a not-too-horsey person she did well!

Linda said...

Funny--bonding through stranger anxiety! Lately, Beautiful and I have been bonding through herd leader anxiety. Our herd leader likes to scare the bejeebers out of her and that certainly makes her appreciate me more!! She has assumed her lowly place in the herd, but challenges them unknowingly. She's learning the hard way.

arlene said...

I've noticed after Brad leaves us alone Echo is nicer. It's like... "phew, we survived him now we can relax a bit". He's just very nervous around more than one person.
Your mother was very brave.