Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another day of Calmer, Braver, Smarter tasks. This time only 2: bobbing for apples in a water vat and pin-wheel alley. To make pin-wheel alley, I purchased 6 $1 brightly colored pin-wheels that have wooden stakes, that I simply pushed into the ground. Today I placed them about 3 feet apart, three pin-wheels on each side.

I worked with 5 horses total, but to me, if a horse is non-reactive then they are already de-spooked. Not that this is a bad thing at all! But to gain points I can only count three on any particular task. So today, I will count *Jack, *Walker, and Silken.

Silken was first out and I’ve learned that she is sensitive, yet intelligent and she does have a lot of training behind her, which has given her exposure to different things. We approached pin-wheel alley and I let her look and then asked her through. She thought about it, and walked through, but kept her eyes on the twirling pin-wheels the whole time. You could see she was ready to move out if they decided to eat her, but since they did NOT, going through the second time was an easy task. She remained relaxed and happy to follow my lead. I admit I had expected more worry out of her, but I’m glad all was okay with those pin-wheels. Now bobbing for apples was a loss on her. She sniffed the apples once, tried to bite, found they floated away and completely lost interest. So, we went for a walk around the drive and yard and then I put her away.

*Jack was next and like last time, I noticed that he was more up than in previous months. I believe I may have figured out why. He is now the lead horse in his paddock and he is rising 3. He has to be serious and aware; it is his job now! Gone is the carefree boy. So, to help him get his mind on me rather than potential monsters, we took a walk up by the house. He was particularly worried about the traffic going by, so we stood and watched it for a while, from a distance, until he relaxed. I will work on getting him closer and closer until he realizes it is safe as long as I’m there. Then we returned to pin-wheel alley. He brought his nose down to one of the twirling pin-wheels and touched it. I clicked and treated him, from that point on he had no trouble going through the alley! We walked through several times, from different directions, and he just walked through as if they were not there. Next up to the apple bob, and he reacted just like Silken had. Tried for a bite, couldn’t get one, and completely lost interest. Sigh.

Last was *Walker. As herd leader she is ultra aware of her surroundings, and can be quite the worry-wart. Again, I began with a walk up and down the drive and then over to pin-wheel alley. “WHOA!! You expect me to go near those things???” she seemed to say. I just stood while she decided if she would check them out or not. Because I stood relaxed, she felt they must be okay, even if they warranted keeping her eyes on them. When she seemed relaxed enough I asked her though. Have you ever seen a horse teleport? One moment she was at one end, and the next she was on the other side. Obviously we needed to try this again. Next time through I asked her to ‘step-up’ rather than walk all the way. We stood and dwelt; then another ‘step-up’, and dwell time. It only takes about three steps to get through my little alley, so once we were out I turned her and asked her through again, and this time it was as easy as pie. So off we went bobbing for apples! Now *Walker loved this!! She would not stop going after them even though they kept scooting away from her mouth. She shoved her face into the water, completely covering her nostrils, blowing bubbles the whole time, and still kept going after them. Within one minute she had one and happily crunched it up. But wait! There was another apple to be eaten, and off she dove again, searching until she got that one too.

I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures from today, but it sure was fun.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

It has been two months since I last wrote in the blog. There is a very good reason for that and it is not a happy one. On the morning of February 14th we woke up to discover that the brand new arena we had built in the summer had collapsed. Unfortunately, for many reasons, we have to go through litigation to make any recovery so I cannot talk much about it.

Because we had only been working with the horses inside and Vermont experienced snowfall about 40 inches above the average, we had no place to work with them outside. Even the driveway was icy! Finally, though, late last week and this week the warmer temperatures have arrived and the driveway is real again, not ice and snow covered.

I took advantage of today’s weather to do some fun de-spooking activities with the horses. As I’m participating in the Ride A Curly contest I’ve already mentioned, I was happy to learn about a “mini-contest” in the month of April. We are to choose obstacles from the CSB course located on the website and introduce as many as three horses to any one of them to gain points.

The course I set up for today included: the Big Ball, a penguin ‘decoy’, a tarp, a plastic bag filled with noisy cans and plastic bottles, a backpack with goodies and more plastic bottles, and a old tire.

*Jack was the first one I took down and I learned that I, indeed, had a 7th obstacle. We cannot clean up the arena yet and the torn tarp flaps in the breeze. It was a good de-spooking exercise for sure! *Jack has seen the ball before, but not blowing in the wind! It took him quite some time to come up to it as it rocked back and forth, but he did. I then decided to move it inside because it was getting all the other horses going as well. Next up was the tarp I had laid down. He had no trouble walking across it (first time!) and then I picked it up and waved it around and dragged it next to him. He just would look at it, then at me, until I clicked and treated him. We investigated the tire (ho-hum!) and then the back pack. That was a favorite! “Hmmm,” he said, “I can smell goodies. Let me stick my nose in as far as possible to find them.” The plastic can bag also caused a reaction. Every time I would shake it those ears came forward, but eventually he crept closer and closer, and touched it. “Good boy *Jack!” Click and Treat.

The last item to play with was the penguin and it too was “Ho-hum”. Next time I’ll try to add a couple of items but keep the ones that bothered him the most (plus the yummy backpack)

Next up, Guin took *Leo for a walk. He was just weaned this weekend and this was his first day out. *Walker has been fine with him in the paddock next to him, but once he was out, she really put up a stink. *Leo, on the other hand, was far too interested in Guin and the walk. She took him all the way down to the barn and they investigated the tire. He walked back up just fine but then he decided that the stream of water he had already crossed going out of the paddock would eat him! She very patiently worked with him while I entertained *Jack and *Bill. It took about 15 minutes but eventually he felt he could take one small step at a time and come across. Never did he get upset, sweat, or show any nervousness. He just stood and contemplated until he was ready. I was very proud of the both of them.

I then took *Glory down to do the obstacles. She was not spooked by any of the items, and in fact, not particularly interested. She was FAR more interested in the collapsed arena’s tarp flapping though. However, it is too dangerous to take a horse near it. I worry about nails and such. However, we were able to get a nice photo of her with the tarp draped over her showing just how easy going she is. (Please excuse the mud, the snow is melting here!)