Monday, August 11, 2008

Plastic Bag Training

My original title to this series was "Plastic Bag Torture", and we have progressed to "Plastic Bag Training". Hopefully, I can eventually type in the title of "Plastic Bag Buddy".

During this latest session, I followed Mrs. Mom's suggestion and worked with Bombay on practicing the halt without the plastic bags nearby. I lunged him, changing directions and halting often. I placed the plastic bags just outside the round pen and pressed him toward the rail when he veered in to avoid them. I then picked up the lunge whip with the plastic bags attached and began walking forward while Bombay walked behind me. I then turned toward him and dragged the bags on the ground while walking backwards and leading him toward me and the bags.

He was still nervous, but not to the point where his heart was beating out of his chest. He did not attempt to bolt, and I halted him each time he looked like he was about to pussy-foot his way around the bags instead of following them. I jiggled the lead rope to get his attention on me when I felt as if he was getting too obsessed with the bags. Gabbrielle and Lostine followed along on the outside of the round pen. They always have to get involved in each other's training sessions. It's as if they try to out-perform one another.

Once Bombay began moving up on the bag when I dragged it on the ground, I lifted it and carried it in the air in front of his nose. When he got comfortable with that, I lifted it high above my head. Each time I changed the position of the bag, he reverted to a fearful state and I just had to lead him toward it for a while until he settled down.

He sure looked handsome when he had those bags shaking in front of his face. I know a lot of Arabian horse breeders use plastic bags to get their horses amped up for photographers or to show prospective buyers how the horse moves. If Bombay were just going to be a halter show horse his entire life, I probably wouldn't want to desensitize him to plastic bags, but since I'm interested in trail riding, desensitization is a must.

After quite a while of just walking him around while he followed the bags I started thinking about what my goal should be for the end of the lesson. Clinton Anderson's next step was to move the bags in the air around the horse's body. I attempted that, but as soon as I brought the bags to him, as opposed to bringing him to the bags, he nearly had a wreck. I decided that I wanted to end this lesson on having him touch the bags.

I then used Mrs. Mom's positive thinking / visualization suggestion, and imagined Bombay reaching out and sniffing the bags. I think I waited a total of 3 seconds and that horse reached out and sniffed the bags!!! Horses really do read our minds, folks. I'm sure of it. Mrs. Mom has said that they know our intentions. I set the bags and whip down on the ground and walked Bombay around the pen, walking over the bags as if they were not there. For the grand finale, I stopped him in front of the bags on a loose lead and let him reach down with his nose to sniff them again. Yippee!

Thanks goes to my son for taking the pictures.


Mrs Mom said...

There ya go!! One step at a time, and KNOW that he can do this!!! See it happen, and you saw it happen!!!

Excellent!! Keep up the great job there!

ranchette said...

Sorry if you get this comment twice. Computer freaking out.

This sounds like really great progress. Here's to the power of positive thinking. Sounds like both you and Bombay are much more comfortable with this pace and that things are going great. Good for you!

Flying Lily said...

This is so worthwhile and I love the way you are taking it in little steps the horse can absorb, then moving up to the next stage. Great for the horse!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

I do believe that I am going to try this with the red-head. He is very non-spooky, but when something does spook him, he explodes. He does not like things above him and before I climb on him, I want him completely comfortable with stuff waving around beside him and above him.
We haven't heard from the kid that is supposed to put the first few rides on him so I will just keep going and perhaps get him to the point that I feel confident getting on him myself.

Andrea said...

My father in law has a plastic bag attached to one of is "sticks". He likes to "torture" our horses with it. He tends to come at them with the shaking bag and he likes to freak out my horses. I have had to tell him to keep away from my horses. I have a 14 year old bomb proof mare that was totally freaked out by my father in law and that plastic bag.
Just a note, do you lung your horse with that whip? Do you use that whip to send your horse away and make him go faster? Maybe try finding an old broom stick or just a tree limb, so you are not using your whip. Just a thought. I found that my mare was so trained to the lunge whip when I tried to use a plastic bag on the end of a stick she did much better.
Sorry for the novel!! :)

Nor’dzin said...

Thanks for this useful talk through on working with your horse. My mare is very spooky and I think this could be a good thing to try with her. Well done on your progress.

photogchic said...

I went through that exact same torture with Maddy. She wanted to "stomp" the bag when it came close to her. It was a couple days of patience, just like you, but boy does that approach work with them. Very cool and exciting progress.