Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 40

Session #1 - a little before noon

Little Man was fairly close to the fence when I went out. He walked part way than stopped and watched me. I stopped by a dirt mound and laid all my things down so I could decide what I wanted to do. I opted for the washcloth (lightly spritzed with marigold spray) first. Then I walked over to him and asked him to touch it. He did. I held it various places, then stroked it on his face, neck, and sides (about halfway back). I was able to stroke it on his back almost to his croup! I did this while standing beside his head, and facing his head.

He is still not quite comfortable with my standing beside him, and I must admit I am not either. I am beginning to think he is not likely to kick me, but since he has before and he still feels quite defensive, I don't like to take chances. Not only would it not do me any good, I think it would set him back if he kicked me, as well, so it's best for both of us if I don't put us in a situation where that would be likely.

I put the washcloth down and moved to the catch-'em halter. I had him target it, then I looped it and slipped it over his muzzle. I did this several times. He was very calm, and stood with his head still. I was able to move the loop pretty far up his face. The last couple of times I moved it around just a little bit. Then I slipped the loop on his muzzle and took a bit more of the halter and gently laid it against the right side of his face. (I wouldn't have been able to put it on him, as it is really just rope with a loop, but I wanted him to start getting used to feeling the rope come up the right side of his face.) He did fine the first time, as I didn't have it up very far. As I moved it farther up each time, he got a little nervous, and finally moved away from it. So I looped it over his muzzle again, then laid it down.

I then petted and stroked him, without the clicker, and then started clicking again when I moved my hand up to rub and rest on his crest. He is still moving his head away so he can pie eye me, but he is not moving out from under my hand.

Then my husband came out in the yard and asked how Little Man was doing, so I had to show him how Little Man let the rope loop over his muzzle. :-)

Before I left, I decided I would try to pet Little Man with both hands. He has thus far been adamant that he will not be touched with both hands at the same time. So I took the clicker off my wrist, and he heard the jingle of the little clip. I took the time to let him sniff it several times, shaking it first so it would jingle, then clicking after he touched it. The first time he touched it he jerked his head back, but I think he quickly figured out what it was.

I put the clicker in my pocket, then started gently stroking the front of his face. I alternated hands, moving slowly and making sure that both hands didn't touch him at the same time. Then I started overlapping, and then I gently put my hands on both sides of his face and just held them there a few seconds. I moved them before he decided to move, and gave him a large peppermint treat. He knew we were done, and moved off, though he circled around and came back so I could pet him once more.

Sometime between 4:00 and 6:00 I was outside tending the rabbit, and I looked up to see Little Man standing at the gate watching me. I went in the sunroom and grabbed the half full package of peanut butter crackers, then went out and petted him for a couple of minutes. I talked to him and we walked around a bit. I said "giddyup" when I started walking and he followed me, then I said "whoooa" right before I stopped, and he stopped too. He followed me back to the gate, and I gave him a last cracker.

Session #2 - around 7:30 p.m.

Little Man wasn't too far out, so I gathered my things and went out. He just kept grazing, though he looked at me when I called him. I sat on a dirt mound and just enjoyed the breeze, and after a couple of minutes he came up to me. I reached out and stroked him muzzle, then got up.

I had him target the washcloth a couple of times, and I stroked it on his face and neck. Then I got the catch-'em rope and looped it over his muzzle. He was fine with that. Then I put it over his muzzle and moved my hand to stroke the right side of his face, and he pulled his muzzle out. I slipped the loop over his muzzle a few more times, then rubbed the rope gently over the side of his face and his neck.

I then switched to the rope halter and lead, so I could use the soft rope. I stroked it on his face and neck, then laid it over his crest. He pie eyed it whenever it was up by his ears, and a couple of times he moved off. I kept working, slowly, and he settled down. Then I gently attempted to slide it off towards the front, and he pulled his head away and backed off. I decided that I should just start getting him used to having the rope touch his ears, so we started working on that. I looped the rope (the softest one I have) and gently touched it to his cheek and rubbed just a tiny bit. I progressed to moving it up closer to his ears, and finally right at the base of his ears, a bit towards the crest. He really pie eyed it, and kept stretching his neck and pulling the top of his head back and to the side. He didn't break contact, and as soon as he stopped moving away I would click. As we worked he moved away less and less. Of course, he got several cookies while we were working on this, as well as his feed. We ended with my laying a rope loop up behind his ear, and moving it gently up just a tiny bit so it was actually on his ear. I held it there for probably around 3 seconds, then I clicked and he received a large peppermint treat.

I worked on all this in stages, moving gradually from an "easy" spot to a "harder" spot. Tomorrow is his day off, so I think I'll try brushing him, or maybe just going out and petting him and walking with him a bit. He does enjoy attention, even if he is just not ready for a lot of physical attention. But he and I are becoming more confident of one another, and we are learning to read and trust one another.

I am so thankful I discovered clicker training! The book I ordered
(Clicker Training for Your Horse) will hopefully be shipped soon, so I can learn more about it and Little Man and I can have even more fun!

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