Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Horsin around

Hana, me and Jane and Merlot.
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Play day at Janes

Today I travelled 85 minutes south to Jane's house for the day. I didn't take Garbo - just me, and Hana came too. Jane has 4 horses, one set of three year old twins and two horses she is working with on her Level 2 assessment preparation.

Firstly I showed Jane the basics of clicker training - I think it's a good add on to Parelli as it marks the exact behaviour with the click. She started with Rafiki and then Cameo, and then the twins. Rafiki was loose in the area we were working in and she decided that she wanted to keep playing clicker.

Shiraz was more than keen to show us her trick!! About 20 times. lol so cute.

Merlot is a Left Brain Extrovert as you can see - he just wanted to eat the umbrella - he's a real cutie.
The others were in the pens while we played the despooking game and none of them really worried about anything. Jane even squeezed them both back through Hana and I twirling the umbrellas either side.
After a great lunch we worked on 'not pulling back when tied' with the twins and also tried distracting them with umbrellas and a carrot stick and plastic bag, while Jane played with them. They were both really great.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

My shadow

I have a new shadow - he is never far behind me where-ever I go now. He even comes up from the paddock before the others now. I am hoping once I get him online he will lose a bit of weight.

Garbo had a blood nose when I got him in tonight - he must have accidentally got a stick/stalk or something up there. It had scraped off quite a long strip of skin inside his nostril but he seemed ok so I just wiped off the excess blood.

This was Garbo earlier in the day wondering if I would get him an apple or some hay.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

All good

Well Coco was still talking to me today - albeit a little cautious of what my hands are up to when I gave him a treat. I am going to have a grooming session this afternoon so I will see if he comes in for one.

It's very summery today!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Driving game

Garbo was funny today in the wash bay - he was loose while I was grooming him and Maraschino was tied up and Garbo was trying to politely tell Maraschino to keep his distance.

Take the time it takes

I have made some huge steps with Coco the last few days - well he has made some big changes - I have not really done anything different - I go about my business chatting away to the horses, treating them all the same, giving them all treats, and at night grooming them all.

Last night while I was grooming Maraschino and Garbo, Coco kept following me all over the wash bay - he would never be further than the photo above away from me and always facing me (when he first arrived he could only look out and away). I would bend down to pick out Garbo's hoof and would look up and Coco was smelling my ear. I would brush Maraschino and Coco would be licking my jodphurs (grooming me perhaps).

Now - I know he was looking for treats - but the fact his desire for treats is so strong, overiding his fears, was amazing. I dropped brushes on the ground - he would jump away about 2ft and then come straight back. Sometimes I would do things like paint a teeny bit of hoof oil on his hoof, he would back up about 2ft and then come straight back again.

It was the coming straight back again (for more) that made me realise he was ready for a bit more (pressure). Perhaps it also helped him that he could wander off, jump away or whatever - meaning he was not restrained.

Today was no different apart from the fact he was glued to me, and licking me all the time, even a big groom with a little nippy bite at one stage - I just laughed. He was hanging around so much I decided to brush his tail - he likes his tail being brushed (most of the time). He has decided in the last week or two that he was not ready to be brushed much, but today I thought he was - he did too thank goodness. So - the tail was the retreat place. I had read the article in the savvy times about approach and retreat with the hose - approach -retreat -wait - approach - retreat - wait - then approach - wait- retreat.

So - I decided that the tail would be the retreat 'place'. I started brushing his tail and sprayed the tail conditioner on, back again and he didn't walk away. Every now and again I would just walk away 'because'. He was standing well so that would be his reward or his 'blow his mind' act from me. I returned and after his tail was knot free I tried brushing his back legs and managed to brush the left leg on the outside, then the left leg on the inside, same with the right leg, front of the right hind leg - his breathing was fast so I went back to the tail. I tried to find the 'tail up' button... and I did, then I tried massaging his tail - he was not too sure but he didn't walk away. Back to brushing the tail as a reward. He licked and chewed.

I gave him a break and went to the front end - we have been working on kissing his nose - it makes a noise and his nose was a fairly no go area. As you can see he reached out to me in these photos for a 'kiss'. Ears forward, calm, all good.

Then I started brushing his tail again... moving up his back slowly and returning to his tail when I thought he was considering stepping away. This went on for quite a while. I then managed to massage his back legs with my hands, then back to the tail...

Next I worked on being able to pat and brush him (both hands at the same time) from the side (until then it had only been from the tail), and he took a step, I did a 180 and started brushing Maraschino instead - Coco came straight back to me. Yay. Yes, Maraschino and Garbo were tied up this whole time being very very good boys.

I carried on brushing from the side, then back to the tail for a bit longer. Then I went back to Maraschino and I saw Coco yawn (really big yawns) three times!! I have only ever seen him yawn one other time.

He was still following me every time I walked away so I stocked my pockets up with dates and decided to use the same principle and clicker training and gave him a treat each time he touched the halter (the rope halter) - of course it was without the click to mark the bahviour - but worth a go. I had to see how strong his treat drive was.

So - sniff the halter - get a date, sniff the halter get a date. Then put the halter on your tail, get a date, then put the halter on your back - get a date - he walked away when I did this so I kept it on his rump till I could get a treat to him. Then I took it off. This seemed to work pretty well. I moved the halter up towards his wither and he walked away.

He didn't go far.
And two seconds after I took that photo (above) - he walked straight back (below). Great!! It was what I wanted to happen - the treat drive was very strong! Considering each time you have a rope or halter in your hand, he moves away!

Next I got some more dates, and carried on trying to touch him further up - as long as I was feeding him dates (non stop) I could basically touch him everywhere - OMG - on the neck, on the head, I kept rubbing him all over, and feeding him dates. Then I ran out of dates! Yikes.

I grabbed the scissors and decided to try and cut the halter off....I only had apples left but that was good because he spends more time eating them as they are so juicy! We practiced with an apple to make sure it was going to be a good enough treat - so I was standing in Zone 3, and Coco was turning his head towards me eating the apple (quite fast) so I rubbed his neck and head and touched the halter - all good - no adverse jumpiness or reaction of any kind - just wanted more apple!

Yes, of course at this stage I was thinking "why didn't I try this ages ago" but you know - thinking back - I don't think he was ready - he told me he was ready today.

More apples (I cut it into 4 for ease of feeding and gave the other two boys one each to keep them busy) and grabbed the scissors... he was eating the apple and I started cutting the halter - he felt the pressure and tried to move away, but I thought - well I have come this far - in for a penny in for a pound! The scissors were blunt - arrrgghhh. Chucked them on the ground and tried to undo the buckle - again he panicked a little but not so much that I felt I had to abort the mission. I got it undone and the worst bit was getting it off his nose- he jumped backwards and walked (not a run) to the other side of the washbay. I immediately got more apples out of the fridge!! Cripes nearly out of apples so got hay cubes too and came out to find this.... (below)... awwwwww.

Doesn't he look nice without that crappy halter.

What a little star.
I went over to brush his tail again just to test the waters and he let me - only for one second then I gave him another treat and then carried on making up their dinners.

He wasn't really phased - so I am sooooooooo happy. I had already decided that I would do the 'rope halter' and ground work another day - not all in the same session. Now I know what motivates him I think that will be something we can achieve fairly soon now.

Yay - yay- yay. Only took 8 months.

Here's a little video - sans halter!!

Coco eating dinner

without his halter...

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Taken today just before lunch.....
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lead by the leg payoff

Today the lead by the leg tasks really paid off.
I had tied Garbo low (I usually always tie him high now) but it was about to rain (never did in the end) and I had to get all the mud off before putting his cover on, and the low tie was under the roof more.

After I did all that, Garbo had managed to untie himself so I tied his rope back up again and collected the buckets. I was two yards away from him when I noticed that he had managed to get his leg over the rope from pawing and at the same time he had backed up so his leg was up, suspended by the lead rope - he was looking at his leg wondering how to get out of it. I saw it and dropped the buckets and ran (quietly with low energy) back to the wash bay. When I got there I had expected him to have pulled back and panicked but no - he was just standing there (not completely relaxed but certainly not stressing) looking at his leg and sniffing the rope - trying to figure what game I was playing I think!!

I reached down and undid his snap (the pressure was pulling his head down at the same time) and he just calmly straightened himself up again. I was sooooo proud of him.

Never using those low ties again -they are so dangerous for horses that talk with their feet! Some people use them and tie their horses up using about 1ft of rope so the horse can't look around, itch himself or anything. The high ones are great - you can use lots of rope and the horse can't get tangled.

Maraschino did once though (of course) he went under the rope and it went over his head and he panicked as it got tighter. But he's a baby - still learning these things won't hurt him.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

dry ground

I have had the last few days off from the horses because the parents from hell who think their 18 year olds do no wrong, have been hassling me and being totally unreasonable. Today I had no calls or emails so my mind was clearer and able to 'be' with the horses instead of 'being' elsewhere.

And finally the paddock was dry enough to 'play' in again. I took Garbo for a graze first on some long grass by the wash bay and then for a quick liberty session in the middle paddock. We just did a bit of stick to me at trot - some canter circles (eggs round the clay pile actually) and a little bit of figure eight.

A couple of times he headed back to the gate but I was able to get him back by asking him in and he cantered to me (from about 60ft away). Most people would be scared of that (normals) but the look on his face was so sweet - ears forward very cute. And I watch his back legs starting to stop just before he gets to me.

Tried them all on some dates today - Garbo likes them but spat a couple out, Maraschino ate his hand me downs. Coco loves them! I kissed Coco on the nose twice and nearly got him sniffing inside a bucket while I was holding it (that is obviously how people used to trick him into being caught as he is very wary of that one).

The boys have been out 24/7 the last week and a half with no rain and spring like temperatures. Lovely! No covers either! Great since they are moulting.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Spring time already

I decided to take Garbo up to see the lambs today after work. Maraschino didn't look too worried... apparently he was calling out while we were up the road but I didn't hear him and when we got back this was what we were greeted with. I had been watching the large paddock on the way back down the road to the house and couldn't see him running (couldn't see him at all).

I had to leave Garbo while I went to get my camera memory stick and this is what happened when I got back.

Anyway - we didn't see the lambs but Garbo was very keen to investigate the road setting off at a fast walk.

The next door dog came running over to the fenceline at one stage and frightened Garbo - he lept forward and spun round on the end of the 22, I led him towards me (and the dog) and to the grass until the dog buggered off - I gave it the evil eye.

We worked on "I am in charge of which grass you eat and when becaise I know where the good stuff is" and "when I walk you walk"...

Back in the property I groomed the big boys and then stuck the 45ft line of Garbo since the paddocks were drier and off we went for a play - just did driving from zone 3 and 5, some sideways (when I drive from zone 5 and the rope touches his side he goes sideways)... and some circle on the end of the 45 at walk, a change of direction and a draw, and that was about it. He was great. Looking forward to trying trot when the paddocks are a bit drier - maybe the weekend.
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