Monday, August 22, 2011

22nd August, 2011 Short Circuit

In the 1990's there was a film about a little robot that suddenly knew his own mind. His familiar cry in his thirst for knowledge was "more input!". There are times with horses when they are desperate for more input and, unless it it possible to provide some, they become bored and cross. Training for two of our regulars has come to a halt at the moment. Alby's owner is waiting for a slot to open at the yard where she wants him to be started. His loading training is at the stage where he is quite happy to stand about in the box for well over ten minutes with the ramp done up. However, I sense that if he were left much longer, stationary, he would find something interesting to do instead - not something that's a good idea in a small space! The box gets quite warm and uncomfortable at a stand still. Much better then to unload him and not get to the stage where he thinks I've had enough of this. We could take him for a trip in the box but the intention is to travel him in a different set up (with no front bar needed) for the journey as this will be the first time he has travelled and the first time he has ever left the field and his family.

In Beau's case, his playmates have had their grazing restricted and are now in a different area. He is bored stiff without them and the energy he would have expended cavorting with them is building up to such an extent that he wants to express it the whole time he is on the long lines even when he is faced with lots of interesting obstacles to go over through and round. Yes, I could restrict him with gadgets and I could go and get a big lunging whip, but this would just turn a 'no' into a battle. I would prefer that he didn't get the opportunity to practice his 'no' and would rather work with him when he is in a much happier and relaxed place mentally.

Boredom isn't always a problem. When desensitising a horse, you need to work until the thing that they are afraid of does become boring. I allow horses to move when they are afraid of something as to be standing still artificially can create another problem of it's own. If a horse is taught that it MUST stand still when it is afraid, it learns to stand still even though it is still afraid and then panics if asked to move forward because it is worried about the consequences if it does so. The art then is to suggest a halt to the horse and teach them that if they stop, the scary object will go away. This needs to be done incrementally, slowly, gradually and sympathetically rather than be full-on so that the horse doesn't just offer to stand still but really can't be bothered to move because the object is 'nothing' any more. Repetition is the key to desensitisation and once a horse knows that you know how to introduce new and novel items he starts to trust you and the new and novel things much more quickly. Slow means fast eventually. Narrow means wide eventually.