Monday, June 2, 2014
Introducing Sanjay and Penny
KJ and I picked up two horses from Central Virginia Horse Rescue yesterday. They will be staying with us for a couple of months to insure a good start on their new lives. They started their lives as part of a mostly feral (wild) herd with VERY limited human contact. Sanjay is a characteristic appaloosa. He is about 14h, and 5 years old. He was pulled from the herd shortly after an altercation with the herd stallion that resulted in a bone chip in his knee and some significant swelling. He is sound on the leg, but the we are still working to get the swelling down. Sanjay has been at the rescue for about three weeks recovering from being gelded, and his knee injury. He accepts a halter, and will at least go in and out of a stall on lead.
I worked with him for about 20 minutes today at lunch time. He still shows a desire to leave if approached with a halter. I have no doubt I could get a halter on him, but I'm not ready to do that yet. I would like to have a horse seeking out the interaction with his handler, not just tolerating it. I also like to be able to control his feet forward, backward, start, stop, and turn without needing to touch him before a halter goes on. My ultimate goal is for him to do these tasks as a reflection of my body language. I mean if I start forward I want him right there walking with me. If I stop he should. If I back he does, etc. In order to achieve this goal I started today by reflecting his body language. When he was moving I was moving right there with him. When he would stop, I also stop and take my energy level down and my focus off of him. This is a subtle reward for him stopping and allowing my presence in his space.
After approaching him in the pasture and rewarding his allowing me to approach with a couple of cookies I was able to move him into the round pen at liberty. Once in the round pen I was really able to work on controlling his momentum. Sanjay is a very receptive sensitive horse. This means I didn't have to put a lot of energy into creating forward motion. His self confidence shows in his willingness to move off quietley, and when asked to whoa stand confidently and wait for me to approach him. He and I will continue this work in the round pen until he remains in a relaxed posture while I approach and/or he starts to approach me. Once he shows an understanding that interacting with me is pleasurable then he'll be ready to halter. Sanjay is going to do best with a long term owner who is ready to earn his respect, and in return will be given all the try in the world.
I worked with Penny in much the same way today. Penny is a bay breeding stock type POA. She does exhibit some characteristics, but is otherwise solid. She has a much different personality than Sanjay however. She is looking for leadership from somewhere. She is more timid, and flightier at this moment. That tells me she lacks the self confidence that he has. This is not unusual for a submissive mare in a herd, and is in no way indicative of how she will be once well started under saddle. Penny has a very low energy drive and is already showing a propensity for more whoa than go. At an estimated 13 hands I think she will is going to turn into quite a nice youth pony. She shows a desire to interact with people, and is very soft and gentle in her manners. I look forward to bringing her along in a way that will set her up for success in a youth home.