Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 2: Halters go on

Today I was like many of you and had to go out to another job.  So the ponies are only getting one training session today.  Our session started with an evaluation of yesterday's retention.  I did this by repeating the same procedure as yesterday.  I entered their paddock with a pocket full of treats.  Penny was her normal happy self and met me at the gate, but then quickly wandered off.  Sanjay (Jay) was more interested in interaction today.  He hung out for a rub followed by a treat.  I do this and gradually introduce more petting and less treats as rewards for behavior.  I do my best to use positive reinforcement on desirable behaviors and ignore unwanted or negative behaviors.  One thing I never do is pat a horse.  I rub, or pet, but not pat.  Patting is the closest behavior we come to bites or kicks from the ground.  So in my case is reserved for extreme negative behaviors than need quick correction. 

After our initial greeting I wandered off to dump the water tank for cleaning.  Jay was right on my hip looking for attention.  I stopped and rewarded his interest with lots of rubs and a few more treats.  I then quickly walked off ending our interaction before he had a chance to.  This way I left him wanting more.  He and Penny went back to some mutual grooming.  After I was done cleaning the tank I decided to approach with a halter and dragging lead.  I wanted to evaluate if this new object that moved across the ground elicited a flight or tense response from them, or if I have earned enough trust that they would let me approach with it.  Jay not only allowed me to approach, but showed interest and curiosity in this new item.  He allowed me to rub it on his neck and up and down his face.  I was quick to remove it any time I felt tension start in his body.  I always want to remove pressure before they go to leave themselves.  He remained calm enough that I was comfortable putting the rope halter on would not elicit a desire to flee. 

Once the halter was on he led like a champ to the roundpen following a respectable two feet behind me.  He showed a retention of yesterdays lesson stopping when I raised my hand, and walking off as soon as I started motion again.  He quickly learned to yield his haunches at a waggle of my fingers.  He was a little resistant to moving his shoulder in the same fashion, but yielded when I turned his head in the direction I wanted his shoulder to go.  He was more relaxed trotting on the rail today, but continued to start and stop on command at liberty.  I was also able to pick up and hold both front feet today. 

 I repeated the same activity in the same manner with Penny.  She lacks the self confidence that Jay has, so is not as trusting.  She worked well all the same, but requires more snacks than rubs still at this point as reinforcement.  Penny was willing to yield haunches and shoulder on lead, but struggled to change directions at liberty.  She is definitley more whoa than go.  She has excellent light floating movement on the rail.  She is more ambidexterous than Jay and works well from both sides.  She did pick up both front feet, but is going to take more work in this area than Jay. 

Tomorrows goals for Jay will include tying and possibly accepting water for a bath and hydrotherapy for his knees. Penny will be a repeat of today.  I won't move forward with her until she is quietly changing directions at liberty, and comfortable giving me her feet in surrender. 

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