Monday, December 31, 2012
The sun came out long enough this afternoon for me to take Bombay on his daily walk out into the desert. I first worked with him around the property, just trying to teach him to hang back on a loose lead, and rewarding him with treats when he did. He was relaxed and well behaved, so I walked him up the driveway and he instantly started balking a spinning. I tried my best to ignore it and keep walking. My neighbor drove up and pulled into his driveway and Bombay got a little wary, but didn't react beyond giving the truck the stink-eye.
I worked on getting him to halt at the street so that I could look both ways before proceeding. I have to give him credit, because as soon as we started walking up the paved street, my neighbor dragged in his trash can behind us, which makes a fairly loud sound on dirt, and then someone set off a firecracker, and Bombay didn't react. I think he was more worried about leaving the girls.
This time the walk started out better than it ended. He got increasingly nervous and started doing the jig in front of me and sideways like you see racehorses do at the racetrack while they are being led to the gate. I continually corrected him to get him back behind my shoulder and pointed forward, but he just couldn't control his nerves.
Then we saw a neighbor's horse running along a fence and Bombay had to puff himself up and put on airs. It was really difficult to get him to respond to anything after that. He ignored the treats I offered him for good behavior and the whacks I gave him for bad behavior. It was like I didn't exist. It was just him flirting with the mare across the road. Yes, he is a gelding, but you wouldn't know it with the way he behaves around the ladies sometimes.
Since I wasn't getting anywhere in training him, I decided to just enjoy my walk and ignore his obnoxiousness. I walked along singing, and he trotted all over the place at the end of my lead rope wide-eyed, trying to figure out how to get to that mare. More and more people started setting off firecrackers and shooting guns, and all Bombay could think about was that pretty horse.
When I led him back down the driveway to his mares, he balked and wanted to go down the road to see the neighbor's mare. Dude, really? Then, after all that, he started poking my fanny pack of treats with his nose like he thought he deserved a reward. No sirree.
I then spent some time refreshing Gabbrielle on her Clinton Anderson exercises, and she remembered them well. Lostine acted like she didn't have a clue as to what I was asking her to do. I wanted her to flex at the neck to see if her arthritis was affecting her spine, and she just kept moving away and ignored my whoa cues. I wondered if she just couldn't bend at the neck anymore. I tested that out by holding a treat in my hand behind her shoulder, and suddenly she was able to flex all the way around while holding still with no problem. I stretched her front legs out, and while she was balancing on three legs with her fourth leg in my lap, the neighbors' dogs ran up behind her and barked from the fence. She didn't react at all. A few years ago she would have jumped and scrambled to get her leg back if a pack of dogs did that to her.
The horses seem to treat the neighbors' dogs like they are a part of their herd. One day their Husky got loose and ran into my barn with my horses, and all three just glanced at the dog and then went about their business. I thought that was a pretty positive reaction considering that I have never kept my own dogs near my horses after Bombay tried stomping on my yellow Lab Simba many years ago. He also kicked my Sheltie like a soccer ball across the paddock around that same time. If a coyote or a trespasser's dog comes anywhere near the barn or their paddock fence, the horses will chase it off, so I thought it was interesting that they let the Husky hang with them.
I'm continually amazed at how smart the horses are, so I'm trying to use positive visualization to shape their behavior closer to what I expect from them. It's not a one-shot cure, but more like a broken record. At some point it will have to seep into their subconscious and have an effect.
Happy New Year, everyone.