Thursday, August 20, 2009
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!!