One of my occasional visits to see Maverick this morning, this time to assess whether he is ready to be started. Recently he took fright when a jockey tried to mount him for the very first time and his owner is keen to do as much homework as she can before she probably sends him to one of the other IHRAs to be started. With limited facilities and an athletic horse (see below) it is important that he is in the right place with the right rider. With groundwork and long reining under his belt we looked at some desensitisation work and found that he is still worried about seeing something out of both eyes at the same time and things passing through his blind spot. Whilst it is tempting to miss this work out, it is an important part of his education since his rider will not be able to sit like a statue whenever she is on board and what would happen if someone passed something to her? Although Maverick is wearing a Dually, no pressure is put on him if he feels he wants to move away but the stimulus stays with him until he chooses to stand still.
Once again I have been using clicker to enhance this work so that if Maverick stood, committed to standing and softened in some way - perhaps licking and chewing. lowering his head or looking calmly at the bags - not only does the bag move away but he hears a click and is given a treat. Since horses will not give up their safety for food, it's a good guide as to just how worried he is and it just helps him to try and to have positive reinforcement for his work. I am also careful to look out for conflict - if the horse gets angry during work with clicker then it is often a sign that there is too great a difference between what he wants (the food) and what he doesn't want (the bags close to him).
I also used clicker to ask him to park his lovely body next to the mounting block.
It was also lovely to see dear Peechay, who looks more and more like his mother, Nelly. He has got a slightly finer face but the same HUGE ears.