Monday, November 30, 2009

Baggage Check

Every once in a while I do a baggage check with the horses to test out their spookiness level and get an idea of how much desensitization I need to do with them. First I lay a couple of empty shavings bags out in the paddock for them to inspect.

Hey, Bombay. Should I be running from these weird-sounding jellyfish things?

Nah. All you have to do is keep an ear cocked toward each one so you hear it coming before it jumps on you. Then you can run.

In fact, you can pick them up with your teeth...

...and shake them around, and you can make the weird sounding noise on your own. See?

I don't know about that. You're scaring me.

Uh, I think I'm scaring myself too. And the fact that you are running from it makes me even more convinced that it is something to be scared of.

Hey, Lostine. Should I be scared of that weird-sounding jellyfish thing?

Each time I walked near Bombay or Lostine with a bag in my hands, they ran to Lostine for safety. So, I laid one bag on the ground between Lostine and the fence, then stood behind Gabbrielle shaking the other bag. She had no choice but to either stand still or step over the bag on the ground. She chose to step over the bag...



Despite stepping on it and making the rattling noise, she wasn't scared of the bag on the ground. She was only scared of the one in my hands.

Lostine was a bit peeved with the other two horses pushing past her, so I tried separating Gabbrielle from Lostine. Gabbrielle would run away from my bag, and then turn with a startled expression like this:

What I really wanted to see was a relaxed pose with a cocked hoof like this...

and this...

Lostine was less than glad to demonstrate to the other horses how unscary a plastic bag can be. She wore it like a saddle...

Despite Lostine's bravery, Gabbrielle still said NO WAY...

Keep that jellyfish away from me!

Needless to say, Gabbrielle failed her baggage check. Horses have to learn to shed their emotional baggage over the sight of a plastic bag, otherwise they won't be safe to ride when they stumble upon some garbage out on the trail.

17 comments:

Shirley said...

Gabrielle sure is pretty when she is worried! Is that blue house in the background your nosy neighbors?

fernvalley01 said...

Good work, Lostine couldn't look more bored! Gabrielle will get it

Breathe said...

Not to mention they'll never be able to help with groceries.

I started feeding Canyon carrots out of a plastic bag. It was amazing what that association did. Plastic bags suddenly were worthy of inspection!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Shirly - No, the blue house is my friend's place where I ride when my nosy neighbors are driving me nuts.

Jame said...

This post makes me think it may not be a bad thing to do with our draft horses. Sure they seem bombproof to almost everything, then they freak out while driving past the flappy, horse eating blue tarp over the neighbor's tractor on the way to the general store. Your horses are beautiful, btw!

Katharine Swan said...

Breathe, I've taken that approach on occasion, too. As an example, I have a water bottle that makes scary noises, so I started pouring some water from it into my hands and letting Panama lap it up. He loves it. Now anytime he sees someone with a bottle in their hands, he tries to get to it. o.O

Flying Lily said...

Beautiful photos!! Gabbrielle on a spook run is one beautiful horse. I love how you work away at this. So good for them. I need to do more of this type work.

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

We do something similar with our horses. I will tape plastic bags to our round pen when it's windy, which is often in New Mexico.

Dan

PS: Found your blog through our mutual blog friend, Lisa, at Laughing Orca Ranch.

JeniQ said...

Arabs are funny creatures! But then my Bonnie is scared of anything white!!!! She about killed me one day when someone handed vet bill to me while I was riding her. The best I can do with paper is read a magazine while leading her around the yard. The minute I turn toward her with the magazine she completely looses her mind.

Rosie on the other hand... LOL... I've tied blue tarps to my waist like a cape while riding her, I've used white plastic table clothes as saddle pads... she just doesn't care.

Leah Fry said...

Pretty funny, Nuz. Jaz has this thing for black objects. If the bag is white, he may ignore it, but he's on guard if it's black.

That's a reminder to me that since I haven't been riding, I at least need to keep giving them new experiences, even if it's putting them in the RP with strange objects.

photogchic said...

Love Gabbrielle's face in her "startled expression" pic...I can almost hear the snort! Fun way to play and teach your horses!

Sydney said...

My pony used to be terrified of plastic bags. He would snort and wheel around wherever he was and it became dangerous. I started with a shavings bag. I cut one specifically so just one end was cut off. I rolled it all the way down and put a few pieces of carrot in it. I did this about three times then every time I put a piece of carrot in it I would roll it up once. Eventually he would stuff his head into the bag to get the treat. Then I started to place the bag in different locations. If at any time he were scared of the bag I would roll it back down. Eventually we progressed to all types of bags. When he sees one now he immediately goes over to investigate it and even lets me put them all over him. Simple treat driven solution. Used it on several horses now, hasn't failed me yet.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Good reminder. And don't forget to work with the spooky things on BOTH sides of the horse. In your case...times 6!

And it's nuts that a horse won't be afraid of something on the ground, but will jump out of it's skin if you're holding it.

Baby Doll gets pissy when I tie plastic bags to the fences in her paddock. She looks at me, like "Do you really hate me this much to torture me?" I carry her hay in a huge blue Ikea bag made of blue tarp material. At first she would spook at it, but now she gets excited to see it and I can shake it and rub it all over her with no issues.

Last week I started making crazy noises(like hissing, growling, blowing raspberries, etc) around Baby Doll and she would spook and take off out of the barn.

Then I started giving her a treat when she would come to me as I made those sounds. Now she perks up and walks over to me every time I make just about any weird sound. lol!
I swear, working with my mare is like working with Pavlov's Dogs. lol!

~Lisa

word verification: I love how Gabbrielle's pretty neck bends at the crest when she's excited.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Yes, my horses are not afraid of any of the plastic bags that I feed them out of. In fact, they know they have to let my rub the bag all over them if they want the remainder of the treats. However, once the bag changes, size, color, location... we have to start all over again. I'm at a point where I want to be able to simply shake all the pieces of trash like the wind does, and have my horses ignore it.

Once Upon an Equine said...

Cute dialog. I love the pictures of Gabrielle turning tail and running, although I know that was not the action you were hoping for. If only she knew she can run but not hide from those scary bags.

baystatebrumby said...

These pictures are so fun to see! I have to say--Gabbreille's reaction sure looks familiar! Is that picture of her with all four feet off the ground?? Oh boy!

Janice said...

Good post pretty horses. I would sure like to have your fence. That's as close to horse proof as one is ever gonna get.