Session #1 - around 3:30 p.m.
Little Man was way out in the back of the pasture, in the shade. He came right up when I called him. I went ahead into the pen and petted one of the neighbor's goats, and Little Man walked in when he came up. He glared at the goat for a minute, then turned to me. He touched the brush immediately. After letting him touch it three times, I stroked it on the right side of his neck. He did well. I was able to brush him for longer periods, even up to five or six strokes before clicking.
I made sure I clicked in the middle of the most intimidating stroke, back near his withers or down his side behind his shoulder. Then I moved to his left side. Interestingly enough, he has been reluctant to let me brush his left side. But he used to insist that I stroke him on his left side and not his right. I'm pretty sure he was probably hit from the left side, so when I have something in my hand he doesn't like it there.
He let me brush him, though on the left side he moved his head over to the brush and tried to target it. I just ran it gently over his cheek and down his neck, and to his shoulder. I was cautious, though, because I know how quickly he can whirl and kick! He didn't even move away while I was brushing, though he did back up in between times. He went through the wormer pretty quickly, and I started being a little bolder when we got to the feed. When I brushed his withers or side, I made sure he had a cookie bit. I decided to go for "a big one", and I was able to brush down from his withers about halfway down his side. He got a large peppermint treat for that one, and I called it quits. It is pretty hot outside, so I didn't figure we needed to work long. I petted him a moment, then I left and he went to the bucket to get a drink. I think I am going to move back to the halter, either tonight or tomorrow. I don't know that I want to do too much brushing while he is free to whirl and kick me. I know I would feel a bit more confident if he was tied and that front end was secured. And I think he likes it when we do different things. Of course, that could just be me. :-)
Session #2 - around 7:30 p.m.
Little Man was way out in the pasture, but he came up when I called him. He walked almost to me, then stopped a few feet away. I stepped over and met him. I decided to keep working with the soft brush, but I took the little face brush out as well. He seemed eager to target the brush, and had his muzzle on it before I even got it to where it was going. I held it down almost to the ground, and though he tossed his head once, he did target it. I held it up, and he eyed it a few seconds, then touched it. I brushed it on both sides of his neck, both his shoulders and past both shoulders.
I put the brush in my pocket and pulled out the small face brush. He targeted that a few times, then I stroked it on his face. I stroked it down the front of his face, on both cheeks, on his jaw, and up his forehead to his fluffy forelock. He pulled his head up and pie eyed me when it got up to the forelock, but he didn't break contact.
After we worked with that a few times, I put it in my pocket and got out the soft brush again. I stroked both sides of his neck again. He was more receptive to being brushed on his right side than his left. On his left he kept turning his head to bump the brush, but I just slid it over his face and down his neck, and didn't click until I brushed where I wanted. He backed away a few times, but I didn't click. I stood and waited for him to come back, which he did. I was able to brush several inches beyond his shoulder, for which he got a cookie. Then, on his right side, I was actually able to brush along his back from his withers! I brushed probably five or six inches past his withers. He got a large peppermint treat for that and we called it a night. I moved away a few feet, and he came up to me, tossing his head and trying to find something he could target. I petted him, and he tossed his head and decided it was time to graze, so he moved over a few feet and dropped his head. He did come up to the gate as I was chaining it, and I pulled a handful of grass from the yard and fed it to him. Then he was done and strolled off a ways.
Several times while we were working this evening, he took his attention off me and stared across the street. Some neighbor children were out playing in the street, and he watched them intently. I stood and waited for him to focus on me again. I didn't want to startle him in any way, and I want him to know he can trust me to not sneak up on him. Once he stood for well over a minute, just staring. I finally called his name and he turned his head towards me; he walked up to me and we kept working.
I am amazed that I was able to brush him on his back! I admit I was wondering how he was going to react to that. I didn't think he would turn and kick, but it never hurts to be vigilant. But I clicked just as soon as the brush moved past his withers, and though he eyed me intently he stood there while I finished the stroke then reached for his treat. I am also trying to not be too tentative with the brush. I'm not rough with it, but I'm trying to use firm but gentle strokes. And I'm taking care to gently slide the brush into contact with his skin, rather than just plunking it down. Once I accidentally bumped his neck with the wooden part of the brush, and he didn't even flinch! Before, if that happened he would take off. We are making so much progress!
Tomorrow I may go ahead and take the halter back out, now that I have had the face brush on his face and the soft brush on his shoulders and back. That will give him a break from brushing, and let us work a bit more on contact with the halter and rope. When I move back to the brush, I will try the stiff bristled brush next. Eventually I will move to the rubber currycomb. He has let me use all three brushes on him before, though never past his shoulder, but he has never let me touch him with that currycomb. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to do it with the clicker. I'm in no hurry though. I am enjoying building a relationship with him, and I am amazed at the fact that I can actually interact with him!
Teaching a Horse to Talk
6 years ago