Australian Brumby Challenge ©
Well, the paintbrush did the trick!! On Saturday morning, Scarlett gave me consent to gently stroke her nose, not once, not twice but THREE times!! I shed a tear of joy and gratitude that this beautiful mare has finally realized that I am not quite the big bad wolf she was thinking I might be.
This week Scarlett has learned to associate the click with the food reinforcement.
She has learned the touch of my hand brings a click and reinforcement.
She has learned the target game. She knows that when she touches my target, she gets a little bit of hay as reinforcement.
She has learned that we can stand side by side, without having either of us having to be at full stretch while she gets reinforcement for doing so.
She has learned that she does not need to step backwards after EVERY mouthful of hay, she CAN stand still and take repeated mouthfuls.
She has learned to eat a little “domestic” food, being a quarter of a cup of Hygain Micrebeet with a dollop of molasses and some oaten chaff. This means I have been able to sneak in a little McDowells Herbal Equigesta-Pre into the feed, not a full dose yet but enough to get her started.
She began to realize that when she approaches me from some place other than her “safe” place in one particular corner of her yard, she is still safe and will be reinforced.
On Wednesday, Scarlett took her first tentative steps being led at liberty, with lots of clicks and reinforcement.
Before sunrise on Thursday morning, I was tying Scarlett’s Whoa Steady Neddy haynet to her fence. I turned around to find her standing less than one metre behind me. I’m not sure who was more surprised but when I jumped, Scarlett spun away but quickly came back and we forgave each other for giving each other a scare. She happily took some hay from my hand and accepted my apology.
On Friday morning, I let Scarlett out into the paddock, for the first time, for a bite of green grass that I have been saving for several months, just for her. Initially, she was reluctant to leave the safety of her yard but with lots of encouragement and reinforcement through handfuls of hay, she eventually ventured out. Despite the fact that I still cannot “catch” her as such, I was confident she would return to her yard as it is her “safe” place. I was quite confident that if she got a fright while out, she would return to the yard to feel safe. After she had been out for about half an hour, just having a look around and savouring the green pick, I walked up to her to offer some hay to see if she would follow me back in. She really wanted to approach me but being out in the open, she just could not work up the courage and headed straight into her yard, where she happily accepted some hay from me.
I will let her out into the paddock, for limited time, each day, while she both mentally and physically adjusts to the change in environment and diet.
Photo shows that magic moment when she consented to my touch.