Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Drifter and I Continue to Work it Out

Drifter and I had another ground work session today, and although we're not yet where I ultimately want to be, we did make some progress.  I started by moving him around in his small paddock.  I got some resistance - some rearing, some kicking out in my general direction and some avoidance of my asks to move in a particular direction at a particular speed - I was using a 10' lead line as my aid.  He was particularly sticky moving from a halt into a new direction.  We made some progress and he was doing well walking and trotting in both directions at my request, but then his patience started to wear thin and he was starting to think about coming in towards me when he was rearing - I don't know if he would have actually charged me or not and he wasn't angry but rather petulant.  But horses are big - even 14.3 horses - and that wasn't going to go anyplace good, and I didn't want him starting to think along those lines, so I decided I needed a way to look a little more formidable, and the footing in the paddock was pretty slippery.  I got the lunge whip, put him on the lunge line and took him out of the paddock and into the arena.

I started out holding the lunge whip - I didn't actually use it at all - and he started out by running in circles out of apprehension.  After a few seconds of that, I dropped the lunge whip and was able to go back to lungeing him using only the tail of the lunge line and my body language.  The only time he kicked out close to me he got swatted firmly on the rump with the tail of the line and that made a big impression on him and he scooted off - that behavior wasn't repeated.  There was still some resistance initially, particularly on taking up a new direction, but we worked through it and pretty soon things were going fairly well.  I took care to maintain a better body position this time and to watch his ears and head posture carefully to improve my timing, and we had no unintended changes of direction.  We started doing some serious transition work, using both my body language and verbal commands - he doesn't know these but is picking them up quickly - we did lots of walk/trot/walk transitions, and ended up with some inside turn changes of direction at my request.

He finished much calmer and more reponsive than when we started.  We finished by doing some just standing around work in the parking lot - his job is simply to stay out of my space on a loose lead, and ideally to just stand there and relax with me - he startled once but didn't move his feet which is good progress. I want to get to the point where he comes out and goes straight to work on the lunge without resistance, including changing directions and gaits whenever I ask.  We also need to work on desensitizing him to the lunge whip - I started today by holding out the butt of the whip for him to touch with his nose - this was still pretty scary for him.  The next thing we need to work on is accepting ropes touching his body and leading by the legs, together with outside turns, in preparation for ground driving.  It's clear that for him, this ground work is needed to fill in some holes.

It felt cold today - wind chills in the 20sF, but I certainly stayed warm!

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