These two horses I drew live at the EQ center. The paint is Jess and the Dun is Bow. Bow is a much older horse (in his 40s) but very healthy for his age. I drew this for their owner who has been very kind to me. She needs help for a few days with her horses and two others because of her sickness she's not able to carry any loads. So I'll be helping her and surprise her with this picture of her horses :D
Yesterday I worked with Sugar on yielding the hindquarters. While I was walking her to the arena, another equestrian (Mrs. Fennwick) was passing by me with her horse Peppy. She had a bunch of empty plastic milk containers tied together with most likely rocks inside. You can imagine the sound it would make. She was using that to desensitize Peppy.
Sugar freaked out at the sight and sound of it. She pulled back all of a sudden and reared, giving me a terrible rope burn. I didn't want to let go but I didn't want to pull back either. If I let go of the rope she might run off. I'm not afraid of her running off but scared she might step on her rope and trip, especially since it was her lunge line (much longer rope for lunging). If I pulled back she'll feel trapped and probably freak out even more, which can lead to kicking and just going crazy until she felt safer.
The best option is to let the rope loose so she can pull out some distance, which is what I did. I expect I held the rope a little too tight that it gave me a pretty bad sting of a rope burn (that hurt!). Of course she had to make a show of it so everyone around got to watch. I got her to calm down and finally got her to the arena where I felt safer with her.
For the first part of it I had half her attention, the other half was toward the milk containers. I'm thinking of making the same kind of containers to desensitize her with.
I started with backing her up. She did very well with that!
The next thing I practiced with her was desensitizing to a plastic bag:
Toward the middle of September I'll be going to Reno, Nevada, to help pick up Ruby and learn from horse trainer Clinton Anderson's method. Can't wait!
I've been watching Clinton's ground work videos. There are 5 DVDs;
1: Philosophy and Psychology
3: Desensitizing to the lead rope, Desensitizing to the stick and string, Student Lesson-Desensitizing
4:Yield the hindquarters
5: Backing up methods 2, 3, and 4, Yield the forequarters, Student lesson-backing up
I have watched all five. I like to watch the videos more than once in order to get the techniques down. I have 1, 2, and 3 down pretty well and can understand it so I can try them with Ruby and Sugar. Number 4 had a lot of content in it and I have to watch it a few more times to get it in my head. I have some of the backing up method training from 5 that I do with Sugar. But when it doesn't go as I want it I have to go back to the videos again until I know what I'm doing wrong. When I get stuck with Sugar with not knowing what to do to solve the problem, I usually do something else with her until I have another chance to watch that video again.
I love Desensitizing work and Round Penning, mostly because I have those the most down. Desensitizing is really fun because I like to have the feeling of the horse changing from fear to relaxing. I like getting closer and closer with the object until I can do anything I want with it and they'll stand still looking bored. In fact I like it so much that after they're so Desensitized to it I almost wish they can go back to being scared again so I could do it all over. But of course my goal is the opposite!
Round Penning (lunging) is fun too. One of my favorite parts is changing the horse's direction and I LOVE it when the horse reacts quickly and perfectly without stumbling. Another favorite is asking the horse in, and walking around with the horse following me closely. It makes me feel like I have horse powers and I can make the horse do anything I want! ;P
Of course there are a lot of times when things don't work out. I always have to be careful to not show my mood on those occasions...
Today I finished a few hours of mucking out the paddocks of four horses I'm caring for while their owners are away. The horses' names are Duncan, Athena (both quarter horses), Trouble and Dloo (mustang horses). My job with caring them is feeding them every morning and every night. Some of the horses eat different things depending on their diet.
Duncan and Athena both eat the same, two flakes of hay in the morning and two more at night for each horse. I check their water every time I'm down there and refill if it gets low. When it's really dirty or starts growing algae I'll clean their troughs too. And of course I'll muck their paddocks which is the most amount of work and time. Today I braided Athena's mane while she ate, and it came out really pretty. She liked it so much that when I walked away to finish my work she followed me around for more attention so I rubbed all over her neck and face. She loved it!
Trouble and Dloo eat different foods than Athena and Duncan, and they share their paddocks, unlike Athena and Duncan.
Athena is a 13 year old sorrel quarter horse. She's owned by a girl who's also 13 named Amber, the youngest person I know at the EQ center. Amber's mother owns Duncan, who's a few years older, and is a paint quarter horse.
Trouble is a bay mustang who is very shy around new people. Her pal Dloo is a 4 year old blue roan mustang who's still going through her training ('green horse').
Sugar came back from her training!
Sugar's been gone for 6 weeks in Nevada trained by a lady taught by Clinton Anderson himself. So Sugar's gone through Clinton Anderson's Method training. Ruby had left for the same training for 6 weeks as well so now I have Sugar to work with.
Today I worked with desensitizing her using a plastic trash bag. It seems that bags seem to be one of the worst fears of a horse. It's because of the sound and movement it makes it frightens the horse. Sugar at first didn't seemed bothered too much by it but I know Ruby would have been terrified of it. Sugar is the lazier and calmer of the two, which means it takes more to get her moving. It also means she doesn't need as much desensitizing as Ruby does; just more sensitizing. Ruby is the other way around.
I watched a lot of Clinton's Fundamental videos so I knew what to do on desensitizing Sugar. I took her to the big arena, and with the Stick and String (whip), had a plastic trash bag at the end of it. I took off the string and tied it loosely around Sugar's neck so I wouldn't lose it. So now I had a the stick with the bag tied to the end. I could make any movement in which Sugar might become frightened of the bag. She seems to have gotten some desensitizing to that but I did find places in which she would try to run away. She didn't like that bag right in front of her, over her head or having the stick across her back where the bag touched her side. She reared a little bit but mostly tried dodging it.
I am teaching her to stand still and not to become frightened of the bag. If she gets scared of an object, she might run away or if she feels trapped, will fight back. This can become really dangerous for her and anyone near enough to her. Desensitizing is to teach her that there's nothing to be afraid of, to not go to think on her 'reactive side' but her 'thinking side'. You're telling the horse that the object that they think is a monster is really harmless and just makes lots of sounds and moves around too much.
When I moved the bag in a back and forwards motion over her head she would get scared and try to move away. I can't take away that pressure until she calms down, stands still and shows a sign of relaxing. I learned from Clinton that I can't hold or tug at the rope to keep her still because that just makes it worse. She feels trapped and will try to get away more wildly and even strike out. Instead, I should follow her until she realizes it's not going to harm her.
Once she stands still and she shows a sign of relaxing I take away the pressure and rub her as a reward. That's telling her that she's doing what I want and there's nothing to be afraid of. She also finds that when she stands till the bag stops. If I thought 'oh no! She's getting scared of the bag' and take away the bag, that's telling her that getting scared and running away is the answer. A lot of people make that mistake with horses.
It has definitely been proven that it works if it's done right. In the end of the desensitizing Sugar she would stand still and not be bothered by the bag around her. I'm going to work with her tonight on that and start backing her up, which is another video I finished watching a couple of times to know what to do. Can't wait!