Welsh Cob Leo has made some significant progress with his owner, Melissa, since my visit a month ago, now accepting the feather duster all over his body. However, he took a step back when she asked him to cope with a plastic bag and having touched it once, ran away three times. It is this natural prey behaviour which we need to ask him to forego. Rather than every session being seen as an opportunity to scare him, we needed to turn his sessions into an opportunity to have fun.
'Self-conscious' horses, not in the sense that they blush every time you speak to them but they spend all their time thinking what everything (especially people) means to their bodies, need to be taken out of themselves a little, and given something to do for which they will be rewarded. Accordingly we coupled the feather duster work with clickered rewards. Holding Leo on a loose rein at first, we asked him to accept the feather duster on his body again and rewarded him with a clickered treat for doing so.
In time he grew braver and engaged much more. I switched him over to the three click 'system' and we also turned him loose so that he had complete choice about whether stayed or went.
We ended the session with him happily following any of us around - me, Melissa, or Julie, and with us 'stealing' him off each other.
Melissa's fiancé is a systems analyst and is going to produce a flow chart of incremental learning for her and Leo so that she can make sure every tiny step she takes is consolidated and maintained.
With a flit across the country and into Wiltshire it was back to work with Bond and Archie who have both had a three week break from loading practice. Not only did each horse remember what they had learned before, but they both made progress which could be called a breakthrough.
Bond now 'parks' himself in the correct position in his new trailer and seems to understand that we have no intention of squashing him; there is plenty of room for him and his pedigree.
Archie, who went over the bar within seconds the last time Richard and Jan tried to travel him, went on his first little trip, just six yards, and stood quietly throughout. It has been hard going through all of the preparation training not knowing whether moving the vehicle might precipitate his original behaviour so there was much relief all round.
"We were all very pleased with our session yesterday. Thanks for monitoring and providing advice and guidance at what we thought was going to be the make or break of the issue. Fortunately it appears to be the start of real progress. I had better start doing some training with Archie in the hope we will start going out to shows next year.
We were particularly pleased with the calm way he came out of the trailer after we travelled (20 feet)." RJ
Email received 7.12.16:
"We repeated our loading exercise with Archie this morning...and finally drove across the paddock and turned a circle to stop facing in the opposite direction. I went back into the trailer and reattached the Dually and Jan lowered the back ramp. Before lowering the back bar I clicked and treated him for a few minutes before lowering the bar and asking him to reverse out. He did this calmly and without any stress. I took him away and put his rug back on and turned him back out. Jan and I had a little bit of a communication failure when she suggested our next phase should be to take him around to the black barn. She was talking about the black barn near the stables and I thought she was referring to another black barn out on the Chitterne road. I told her she was being over ambitious and that was when we realised that we were talking about 2 different locations. I think she used the word twit somewhere in our conversation." RW
I came home to a lovely message from a friend who came to one of our Handling the Warmblood Foal courses.
"Just wanted to let you know I've been putting my foal handling training to use on this little beauty that I bought at the Beaulieu road sales in October. Obviously she's not a new forest but my friend bought a NF baby too! She's coming along really nicely, helps that she's incredibly sweet natured. Still very young, so I'm taking everything very slow. I'm going to raise her from the ground up without fear or force "