Session #1 - around 4:30 p.m.
It's been raining off and on, and Little Man is grumpy when he is wet, so I wasn't planning on working with him today. It wasn't raining around 4:30, so I put his daily wormer in his bucket, grabbed a whole cookie, and went out. He was way out in the back corner, but he came up when I called him. He walked right up to me.
I petted him and offered him the bucket. He just looked at me, so I petted him, clicked with my tongue (it was NOT a good click) and gave him a bit of wormer from my hand. Then he took the rest from the bucket. While he was chewing, I petted and stroked him. When he was done, I broke the cookie in three pieces, and petted and treated him. When I was done, I petted him a bit more, and he kept moving his head and looking at me, as if to ask why we weren't working.
We were standing right in front of the gate, so I told him to hold on a minute, and ran in the sunroom for the clicker, the halter, and my fanny pack. I ran back out, and he was standing at the gate waiting for me. I went out and we started working. He was shy of having the halter placed over his muzzle, so we mainly worked with the rope. I held it with a short free end and let him touch it.
Then I let it swing a little. I kept increasing the length of the rope and the size of the swings. I swung the rope very slowly, and asked him to touch it. He was pretty good about moving his head until his muzzle touched the moving rope. Again, it was moving very slowly, but it was moving.
I tried to touch the rope to his neck, but he was too quick to move his head and wouldn't let me. Once the rope swung back and touched behind his shoulder. I clicked immediately, even as he was moving away from me. He angled sideways, with his hindquarters slightly closer to me than his head. But he did NOT try to kick. He pie eyed me though. I held out his treat, and he walked back to me to get it! I gave him an extra big handful of feed. I had no special treats, neither a bite of cookie or a peppermint treat, since I wasn't planning on working.
So, I told him to hold on again, went back in the yard, and ran in the sunroom to get more feed and some treats. I grabbed some peppermint treats, because they were easier to get. I ran back out, and he was still by the gate, waiting for me! We worked just a bit more, with me swinging the rope and him touching it.
When he would touch it, I would lay it across his face, then gently drag it off. I did try the halter on his nose a couple more times, but he kept backing up and tossing his head. So we ended when he finally touched the halter, and I gave him a peppermint treat. Then I rubbed his forehead and stroked his neck for a minute, and gave him one more peppermint treat.
Again today, he kept looking at something across the street. He appeared to take his attention completely off me. I just stood still while he looked. Several times I had to say his name to get his attention. I didn't want to touch him while he wasn't focused on me, because I want him to know he can trust me.
I am so thrilled that he wanted to work! He practically asked to work!
Session #2 - a little past 7:30 p.m.
Little Man was out in the back corner of the pasture, but he came up when I called him. While he was walking up, I stood and swung the rope in a circle. He kept walking. I stopped swinging when he got fairly close. He stopped for a moment, then came up to me. He had been rolling, and was completely covered with mud. Only the front of his face and his muzzle were free of mud. He didn't seem grumpy, so maybe the mud was keeping the flies from biting him as badly.
We worked with the swinging rope again. I swung (gently, with not too long a tail) it by both sides of his face, then I moved it up above his eye level. He pie eyed it when I did that, but would move his muzzle around and then touch it. He got several special treats for working with it up higher. We kept working, and to his credit he never shied completely away. He never would let me touch his neck with it, but I was able to swing it past his head towards his neck. He kept his eyes right on it, and moved his head until he touched it with his muzzle. Several times he lipped it, too.
I did have his put his muzzle to the halter a few times, but he didn't seem to be ready to go back to that game. When we were done, I rubbed his forehead and stroked his face, and he just stood there. He does move his head around when I pet him, but he always brings it back so I can pet him some more. I had the halter looped over my left forearm, and while I was petting him, he reached out his muzzle and touched it. So, I clicked and treated him. :-)
When I walked off, he followed me right to the gate, and nosed at the chain while I was fastening it. He stood there and I petted him some more, then I finally left, swinging the end of the rope in a circle. He watched me, then dropped his head and started grazing right in front of the gate, facing the yard.
The whole time we were working, there was a high pitched noise coming from somewhere across the street, like a slide whistle. He kept watching across the street off and on, and I finally saw someone was walking up and down the street. I stood and waited for him to bring his attention back to me. I don't remember calling his name this time, but I may have once.
I talked to my neighbor, whose husband came down and took care of our animals while we were gone. She said he commented that Little Man did not leave when he came down and put the bucket out. He wouldn't let her husband touch him, but he didn't run.
Teaching a Horse to Talk
6 years ago