Session #1 - around noon
Little Man walked up just a little ways, and I walked out towards him.
He circled then walked away. We kept playing "tag", and I actually got close to him a few times. I had the little face brush with me, because I thought he might be more comfortable targeting an object rather than my hand. He targeted it a couple of times, stretching his neck out to get the treat, then walked off. We did this several times, and finally he ended up at the very back of the pasture under the trees. I walked around, talking softly, and he kept moving to avoid me. I squatted down for a few minutes, and talked softly to him every once in a while. Then I got up and walked towards him.
I put the face brush in my pocket, and just held out my hand. He stretched to target it, and he gradually came closer, just an inch or so at a time. Finally I laid my fingertips just above his muzzle. I worked my way up to laying my hand on his forehead, then his cheek, then running it to his neck. I ended with moving my hand from his cheek to his crest, and resting my hand on it. I did this twice. I wanted to end with something that was really an achievement for him, that would merit a cookie bite (the first time) and then a peppermint (the second time, which lasted longer).
I walked on back to the yard, and he slowly made his way up to the pen to get a drink. He hung around in the pen for a while, but I didn't go back out. I figured that, as in show biz, it's best to "leave them wanting more." :-)
The entire time he swished his tail, stamped his back feet, and kept turning his head back to bite at insects. I feel terrible that they are tormenting him so. But I'm not sure that an hour or two of relief is worth damaging our tenuous relationship. Maybe I'll try hanging the clicker around my neck, and wearing a cloth glove on my left hand. I can put some marigold spray on it, and try to stroke him with it. Then I can treat with my right hand, and it won't have spray on it. He may not like the smell, but it might be worth a try, once he is comfortable with my touching him again. I'm hoping that, as smart as he is, he will make the connection between being stroked with the "smelly stuff" and having insect relief.
Session #2 - around 7:00 p.m.
Little Man was way out at the back fence, but he came up when I called him! I walked in the pen and petted the neighbor's goat through the fence, and Little Man walked right in and up to me. I held out my hand, and clicked when he touched it. I was able to touch him tonight!
I touched his face, his cheek, moved my hand to his neck, and his shoulders. I also moved my hand up to rest between his ears, and on his crest from each side. He was pretty wary of my hand up by his ears, and he pulled away and backed up several times. But I didn't click, and waited for him to come back. Then I held my hand so that when he moved his head towards it he would touch my hand up on his cheek. I ended with resting my hand on his crest several times, and making sure he was treated with some cookie bites. The last time I held it at least five seconds, and he got a peppermint treat.
Teaching a Horse to Talk
6 years ago