Tuesday, January 8, 2013

First Walk After Lesson

While walking out into the horse paddock to do my ground training homework with Bombay, Lostine saw the halter and overreacted by charging toward and past me.  Oh oh.  Not good.  She buzzed right through my personal space.  I decided it was time to introduce her to the 3-foot circle around me.

I caught her, haltered her, and sent her in half-circles.  She kept coming in at me with her shoulder, so I whacked her on the shoulder with my whip.  Then she tried turning her butt toward me, so I whacked her on the hip.  Then she kept turning her face away from me, so I pulled her head around and made her plant both eyes on me.  I refreshed her memory about backing up, and then worked on flexing.  That's when I looked down and saw all the blood.


I didn't ask and warn first.  I was irritated with her aggressive behavior and went straight to the whacking, which resulted in her stepping on her own front leg and scraping the hide right off it.  I took her to the horse trailer, cleaned the wound, dressed and wrapped it.  I released her to convalesce while doing Bombay's ground work, and he was levels beyond Lostine in his understanding of what I wanted him to do just after having the trainer and I work with him for an hour and a half.

The only thing he struggled with was making the connection between having his head pulled around without pressure on his side means hold your feet still and flex.  He kept spinning.  He was ignoring my whoa cues and I could only spin for so long.  I was planning on releasing his head when he held his feet still, but he never did.  So, I went ahead and put pressure on his side while pulling his head around and he spun until I was satisfied with his position and released him to hold still.  I then pulled his head around without the pressure on his side, and it clicked then.  He just did his flexing exercises while holding his feet still.

We went for our walk, but this time I brought a halter training whip instead of a riding crop.  A halter training whip is longer than a riding crop, but shorter than a lunging whip.  I also didn't bring my fanny pack of treats, because the trainer asked me to not use them for training, but only for a treat after all the work is done and I'm about to turn him out.  They served their purpose for distracting him from his fears and making our walks enjoyable, but now that he's been on several walks it's time to step it up and fine tune his behavior.

He did okay walking out to the desert, but as soon as we reached a more open space, he tried walking faster and getting ahead of me.  When I pulled him back, he turned in front of me, stepping into my personal space.  So, I sent him in half circles outside of my three-foot bubble.  The trainer told me to walk him on the widest, most open paths I can find, so that I can always stop and lunge him should we run into trouble.  This went against what I was doing.  Previously, I purposefully walked him on the narrowest trails, because he tended to not run ahead when there were bushes on each side of us.  I think he was afraid something would jump out at us, so he hung behind me so I would get eaten first.  But I was using that as a crutch.  I need to work on his behavior of trying to run off as soon as we get into open spaces.

He ended up walking in the perfect position on a loose lead the whole way out, only I was having problems with him looking away from me and looking over his shoulder.  The trainer taught me that it's important to insist that he keep at least one eye and one ear on me at all times, so I kept giving his lead rope a shake until he looked at me and then I praised him.  I had to constantly do that, but by the time we reached the end of the trail, all I had to do was say, "Ohh!" and he looked at me without needing to have the lead rope shaken.

I had him stand by the road for a while, so that I could watch his reaction to the cars and trucks going by.  He wasn't phased by them, but he did want to keep moving.  He was walking in half circles around me and then he tried pushing me with his head to tell me to keep walking, so I pushed him out of my space.  Eventually, he just accepted that we were there to stand still and be quiet.

On the way back, he got ahead of me.  He wasn't pulling.  He just wasn't staying in the position I want him in, so I lunged him in half circles to get his attention on me.  He got ahead again on a narrow part of the trail, so I jumped in front of him and backed him down the trail.  He hung back a while, then forgot again and blew past me.  I decided there had to be a better way, because his attention span was so short.

I stuck the whip out right where I wanted him to stay next to me, but he just pushed the whip with his face!  I didn't want to whack him in the face and risk injuring an eye, so I tried whacking him on the chest, but there is so much muscle on the chest that he acts like he doesn't even feel it.  Then it hit me what exactly I should do.

I put the whip out in front of his face and watched him.  As soon as he touched that whip with his face, I jumped in front of him and shook the lead rope to force him backwards.  Once he took a few strides back and had both eyes on me, I started walking forward again with the whip out next to me.  As soon as his nose touched the whip, I backed him up.  Rinse and repeat six or eight times, and by the time we reached home, I no longer had to turn in front of him and shake the rope.  I just said, "Ahh!" and he ran backwards.

Huge progress.


appydoesdressage said...

Yay! Congrats! Am so happy the training is helping, it won't be long now before you have an enjoyable walk with him and then the girls

fernvalley01 said...

Good that you are putting your lessons to good use. And don't feel too bad about Lostine, Injured or not(perhaps even more so if injured ) she needs to respect your space

Katharine Swan said...

Picturing you saying "Ahhhh!" and getting a response out of Bombay made me smile. I growl at Panama when he's really testing my patience and I've had about enough. He seems to know that when I do that, the next step is getting in BIG trouble, and usually as soon as I growl his ears whip around to me and he starts minding his p's and q's. Funny how much they are like kids, in the way they learn the signs of having pushed too far, isn't it?

Marissa said...

Sounds like some of what the trainer said really stuck! I think you probably had just gotten overwhelmed and frustrated with the way everything was going, and now your back on track! Especially seeing that you figured out how to make him respect the whip and furthermore respect your space at the same time! Good problem solving! Sometimes its tough to start over and figure another way to approach the problem when your current solution isnt working!

Laura said...

Yeah! Progress! Great news... :-)

Bombay is getting it and you are feeling more confident already - I can "hear" it in your writing.


strivingforsavvy said...

Sounds great. You'll be riding the trails in no time!

Cindy D. said...

Gotta love those "Ah Ha" moments!

~Allison said...

Sounds like a good fit for you!

achieve1dream said...

Those are great ideas!!! Good job! I think the horses had you so flustered before that you were using your reactive side of your brain instead of the thinking side. ;) Now that you're not so overwhelmed you're going to make such huge progress. I'm so excited for you!