Friday, April 9, 2010

Conner and the Trailer: A Letter

Dear Bridget,

As a recap, this morning we went out the farm to play with our horses and the trailer. We fed Conner and Misty a can of grain each. After you caught Conner, he proceeded to give us a lot of problems--from too nervous to focus to violently dominant! I took over in the end when he was getting especially dangerous and brought him back to paying attention, but then he went back to being nervous. Right when you were going to go get a longer line so you could keep him at a distance, you saw the time and had to go. So, I asked for permission to continue playing with him. As you were leaving, you may have seen us going under the rope that was holding up the small cloth that I had tied up. Conner was saying "No, no, no, I can't," so I was just waiting there for him to relax. When he finally came under the rope, he ran under and was very nervous. I put Misty away and we began to fix that.

My goal was to eventually have him go under the table cloth, which was about 5' off the ground attached to the trailer. About 20' of rope attached the tablecloth to a nearby tree, and the closer to the tree the rope was, the higher it was, at a maximum height of about 8'. So, it might make sense to you that the first thing I did toward my goal was to just walk from one side to the other side of the rope and let Conner zoom under behind me where ever he wanted to, which was always pretty close to the tree. The reason I did not send him under was so he would have a leader showing him it was safe. Every time he got to the other side, I yielded his hind quarters and stood with him for a few seconds before calmly going back to the other side. I stayed very relaxed and slow and acted like there was no rope...I even acted like there was no horse, sort of.

I watched for changes: for him to go under without hesitation; for him to go under closer to where I was going under, rather than closer to the tree; for him to slow down. The first change he made was he stopped hesitating, then he began to cross closer to the section I passed under, then he slowed down. This was all happening after about 8-10 crossings. At this point, I stopped and faced the line, and went neutral by cocking my leg and not moving. Then I waited for him. He licked and chewed literally for about a minute, no kidding. When he was finished, he took a step toward me. I let him continue to relax and ignored him. We would want to reach out and pet him, but for now, his reward was not having any pressure on him, and it really worked for him.

My next step toward my goal was to build his confidence in the set up, which I did by playing the squeeze game. I sent him under, and though he did not go all the way to the tree, we basically were in square one again as far as speed and nervousness went. Can you imagine how it would have been if I had asked him to go under this way first? Yikes! This time, it only took about 5 or 6 squeezes before he slowed down and became confident. My reward for him this time was to take him over to the hill and let him eat grass. He was relaxed--he passed some gas. After about 3 minutes, I stood up and began walking off. I had only taken a few steps before he looked up and followed me, trotting to catch up. I was so pleased with that response, I took him to another patch of grass and let him eat some more before going back to the trailer.

Next, was to pass under very close to that low cloth. I did a few passes stick to me style to help him with his confidence in me, then I did a few squeeze style. He had to put his head way down and then he had to deal with the ropes dragging across his back, but he did it and he did it all at a calm and confident walk.

The next step was to offer him the cloth. He tried his best, which was to touch it with his nose, but I left the decision up to him and he decided it was better to go under the rope. The first few times, he trotted unconfidently, but I think that is because he was afraid he would get in trouble for not going under the table cloth. So, I repeated the offer a couple times and made it more obvious that it was ok to go the other way by making a clear offer to go under the cloth and then a clear offer to go under the rope. After 2 repetitions, he was confidently walking and licking and chewing.

I gave him the second half of his morning meal of grain and let him graze while I fed the other horses. It all took about 10 minutes. I decided to try the cloth again. I attaced a carrotstick to the cloth on the side away from the trailer so I could lift it higher. I took Conner over and played a squeeze game with it, rewarding him when he made it through his thresholds. I waited him out for about 3 minutes when my mom pulled in and needed to talk for a bit. Conner could bite the table cloth and stand with his head low in front of it, but he could not pass under it, so to get to Mom, I went close to the tree and went under it. The rope had sagged a lot now from all the tugging, so it was only about 51/2' at the tree. He went under slowly and confidently and ate grass while I talked for a few minutes with Mom.

When we returned, he quickly got through his thresholds going from the opposite direction and after only 2 minutes, he squeezed quickly under. He did not trot, but it was speedy and unconfident. I let him stand for several minutes until he licked and chewed, then I repeated it 4 times and he was going under at a walk, very confidently.

I expected a lot and rewarded the littles he gave me. I was surprised that he was able to become confident so quickly. The whole thing (including our extensive breaks) took about 45 minutes, I would guess. I think that a lot of the success was due to all of the time I gave him in between the steps as well as how slow I went. I focused on my breathing and keeping it slow and audiable. I also noticed that he was not so tuggy and was ready to pay attention when I was leaving the grass.
I left the set up attached to the trailer so we can do it again tonight, maybe. I hope you had a good day at work.

Natural Horsewoman

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
I am a young horsewoman with a million things on my mind. I have been a student of the horse all my life. As a little girl, I had a desire to understand horses on deeper levels. I believed that there was no such thing as a bad horse, and I believed that all horses were beautiful. One might say that I was a naive child, but I guess I don't have an excuse anymore, because I still believe all of that, and Parelli Natural Horsemanship is helping expand on this perspective.

What We Are Currently Playing With

  • Moving Close Circles at Liberty
  • Soft, Balanced Canter on 45' Line
  • Zone 5 Driving