Thursday, December 19, 2013

Playing with Caleb - Part 3

     Game 1: Friendly game
    This involved a lot of touching and brushing.  Sometimes he let me touch him without hesitation and sometimes he pulled away.  For example: I reached out to touch his nose (to brush a fly away).  He swung his head away from my approaching hand and eyed me suspiciously.  In response, I kept my energy very low and calm.  I reached for a place on his neck that he consistantly trusted me with.  Then, with one hand on the trusted spot, I eased my finger toward his nose.  When I reached his nose, I didn't grab it.  Instead, I rubbed my finger back and forth across the itchy place where the flies had been.
     "Ahhh, that feels good," Caleb seemed to say.  "That feels really good."
     So we did a lot of that sort of thing.  Sometimes he would trust me and then he wouldn't.  If I could get him to relax enough for me to get a hand on that place (wherever it was), then I would.  If not, then I didn't worry about it.  Like I explained in earlier posts, I had all the time in the world.  And I happened to return to such a spot later and he would be fine with it.
     Since this was our first day playing in the arena, I didn't go for any known horsey-sensitive spots: ears, tail, between hind legs, etc.  I worked on back, chest, belly, face, and neck.
     Caleb really seemed to enjoy and appreciate our time together.  Sometimes when I scratched an itchy place or when I just stood there with him, he would swing his head over next to me.  He didn't push me, but it was very cuddly, companionable, and sweet.  He was winning my heart pretty quickly already.
     Game 2: Porcupine game
     This game involves putting pressure on a spot on the horse, expecting the horse to move away from that pressure.  Pressure comes in the form of a look, a stance, or a touch.  A touch can be so light that it barely touches the horse's hair -- or maybe doesn't even touch the horse at all.  That is phase 1.  Phase 2 just barely touches the horse's skin.  Phase 3 is a light push.  Phase 4 is a firm push.  You always start with the lightest suggestion possible and slowly, slowly increase from Phase 1 (up to Phase 4, if needed).
     I did porcupine game to ask him to back up.  I did porcupine game to ask him to turn in a circle, leading with his forequarters.  Both of those went smoothly.
     I did porcupine game to ask him to step to the side with his hindquarters.  Phase 1...phase 2...phase 3...phase 4.  When I reached phase 4, he started backing up.  That is not what I wanted so I maintained steady phase 4 pressure.  Then he took a step to the side, and I immediately released.  Ah, good boy.
     I waited a little bit and tried again.  I wanted him to figure out, by my quick release of pressure, that stepping to the side is what I wanted.  So I again asked him to do it.  Phase 1...phase 2...phase 3...phase 4 - he stepped to the side and I immediately released. 
     I was pleased that he didn't back up the second time.  He figured out what I wanted.  Now he needs to learn to do it at phase 1 and not wait until phase 4.  But we can save that for next time.
     Game 3: Driving
     This game is very similar to porcupine game except that I use rhythm instead of pressure.  I may tap the ground with my stick or rock it in the air.  Caleb did all that I asked of him pretty well.  It was not as beautifully done as WhiteStar can do, but I did not ask that of him.
     Game 4: Yoyo
     This game involves him backing away from me in a straight line and then coming to me in a straight line.  He did great at this game, especially the "coming to me" part.  And, being a more dominant horse than WhiteStar, he had no trouble with approaching me straight on.
     Game: Stick-to-Me
     This game wasn't actually stick-to-me.  I just led him around a little bit. 
     Stick to me is suppose to say, "How about you copy me perfectly," and this was more like "let's both move somewhere together."
     But it was still part of building trust and relationship.

     Twice, he boldly walked away from me to get grass.  I doubt that it was intended to offend me.  I get the feeling that it is a common move for a dominant horse.
     The first time that he walked away went something like this: I saw him stride off so I braced my feet and clamped the end of the rope.  He reached the end with a bit of jerk, and it surprised him.  He looked back to see what happened.  I softened my body and smiled and invited him to come to me.  He turned away and tugged at the rope with a couple tosses of his head, only to find that I was still holding it securely.  Again, he looked back and, again, I invited him.  He then came back to me very sweetly.
     The second time he walked away came later in our time together and it went something like this: I saw him stride off so I again braced my feet and clamped the end of the rope.  When he reached the end of the rope, he looked back and was invited to rejoin me.  He immediately was like "oh, yeah, that's where I could I forget I was hanging out with her?"  And he came back to me.

     Near the end of the day, I offered him flyspray again.  He sniffed the bottle and then stood still for me.  He was relaxed so I took that as a "yes" and I sprayed his front left leg.  He stood beautifully.  I was so impressed.  That was so easy.
    So I reached to spray his front right leg.  Caleb politely took a step away from me as if to say, "no, thank you."
     Well, one leg didn't have flies on it.  I can't say much for the other three legs, but that was his choice and, all in all, I felt it had been a really good start.

 Goals accomplished!

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