Australian Brumby Challenge ©
And the dance continues.
Scarlett is a very pretty, sweet, sensitive, sensible but quite conflicted little mare. She appears to want to be friends but cannot find the courage to make that final step to let me know she feels I am of her trust and friendship.
This week started on a positive note. I felt the warmth of Scarlett’s soft breath, for the first time, on my frozen fingers on Saturday morning, in the cold sleety rain. She sniffed at my fingers, stepped back and snorted. She must not have liked what she smelled though, as she then decided she didn’t want to approach me again. She also decided my long pole with molasses on the end is quite aversive and didn’t want to know it, either.
I got a bit of a fright when I got home from work on Wednesday afternoon. Somehow, Scarlett had managed to escape her yard and was out with Hero. No panic, I just got some Lucerne hay, opened up the small yard and let Hero in, quietly walked around behind Scarlett to encourage her to follow him, then, walked between them to move her back into her own space. A job that was scheduled for this weekend – putting some ground pins in the panels to stop them moving, was carried out in the cold and dark on Wednesday evening. Since then, there has been no sign of either Hero or Scarlett moving the panels. I’m not exactly sure how she managed to get out but I “think” she may have rolled and gotten partially under the bottom rail and in getting up, managed to lift the panels enough for her to get up on the wrong side of them. Thankfully, she got out of it with no visible injuries.
Every horse I work with teaches me something. Scarlett is teaching me that if one thing doesn’t work, I have to find another way to let her know she can trust me. (Something I always do but she is hammering it home to me.) So I have changed my approach a little, instead of offering her the pole (which as above, she appears to not trust now) I have started clicker training, without using any pressure. In a nutshell, what I am doing is having her feed tyre between her and myself. I wait until she looks at the tyre, click and drop a treat into it, then move away until she can walk up and eat the treat. At the moment, the only “treat” she will accept is a drop of molasses, so I usually end up with molasses covered hands and everything else. I am trying to get her to accept some pellets by smothering them in molasses, without a lot of luck, so far. I am working from outside her yard, with the tyre near the fence so I can drop the molasses in it easily, from a large syringe. Initially, I had to walk about thirty metres away from the yard before she was able to step up to lick up the molasses. By Friday afternoon, she has begun to approach the tyre as I approach it but still cannot eat the molasses until I have moved away but I now only have to move about 3 metres from the fence and she often takes a minute or two before she can step up to eat it. We are making progress, however slowly, it is progress.
I have often found the horses who take the longest to trust are the ones who, when they do, give themselves completely and will do absolutely anything for you and be the most affectionate. I feel Scarlett will be no different and once she does decide I can be trusted, our partnership will be awesome.