Friday, March 1, 2013

1st March, 2013 New Tricks

I always love working with older horses as they are never too old to learn new tricks and many absorb new things just as easily as a young horse. Of course some are sick and tired of humans and it's always nice to try to reach these horses to show them that some people do think about what they are doing and how the horse might actually feel about it.

Denys is a former eventer and dressage horse and has fallen on his feet with new owners who are happy to give him a quieter life. A sensitive soul, he's all right until he's not all right and then he can be really big and just leave. He's got this down to a fine art, turning himself around so that he is all the way in the lead and then either walking, trotting or even cantering off. Today we worked on answering his behaviour in two ways. First of all persuading him that humans were worth staying with and also that his behaviour wouldn't necessarily work. It was lovely to watch him working with his new owners, matching them pace for pace. However, later he caused hysterics because while I was chatting away, explaining all kind of things, his bottom lip was flapping away in complete unison as if he were doing his own running commentary. I'd love to know what he would have said if he could have said.

Feedback one day later: "Thank you so much for coming to see us yesterday! Both my Mum and I felt we learnt a lot from you, and our relationship with Denys really does feel completely different.

We went up to the field this morning to practise our leading technique, and to try some clicker training whilst my Mum rode. He took about three minutes to be glued to my side in the field, and when the treats came out I don't think he would have left me for anything. I walked out in the woods with him and My mum rode, and we introduced stopping, clicking and rewarding first from me on the ground, then we transferred to my Mum doing it on board. We had a test as we met a herd of deer - I thought Denys's heart was going to leap out of his chest and he was shaking all over, so we stopped, clicked and gave him a treat. He took it in his mouth but wouldn't eat it, and I asked my Mum if she was breathing....she had forgotten to breathe! She breathed out and stroked Denys's neck and he breathed out, chewed his treat and looked away from the deer! My Mum was amazed! We walked a bit further and stopped for another look at the deer, and though he was looking at them he wasn't too bothered. He ate his treat and walked off quite happily without any thoughts of running off.

Mum can't wait to ride again tomorrow, and I can't wait to see Denys again! I feel like I've fallen in love with my horse, which was really missing between us until now. I'm much more confident that if something made him want to run away in-hand, I'd now be able to distract him quickly before it actually happened.

"Thank you very much for your help, and we promise to keep practising!"  RB