Australian Brumby Challenge ©
This week, our focus has been on expanding Scarlett’s comfort zone and touch. Scarlett has had her “safe” zone in her yard, where she is happy to work with me and where she goes any time she feels threatened. I made the decision that she need to learn to expand that “safe” zone and began to work with her in the adjoining yard, which she has had access to for several weeks during the day but has not shown much inclination to go into it. Early in the week, I began leaving the gate open for her 24/7 and left some of her hay in the outside yard. It took her a couple of days to voluntarily go into it to eat the hay but soon showed she was more comfortable there so on Monday, I began to work with her there. Initially, she paced around the yard and showed me that she really wanted to head back to her “safe” area. I went back to basics by quietly waiting until she stopped pacing and looked at me, then immediately clicked and reinforced her for stopping. It only took her about five minutes to realize that when she stopped pacing around, she would get a mouthful of hay and soon happily stood quietly.
I have been steadily increasing the amount she will allow me to touch her, with the use of my magic wand. Most people would call my wand a whip but as it is not used as a whip, I don’t call it as such but it can work magic so I call it my wand. I can now stroke Scarlett from her cheek, across her ear, down her neck to her shoulder then down her leg all the way to her hoof – on her off side only. She is only just beginning to tolerate me holding the wand on her near side but positive reinforcement is showing her that it really is okay. Scarlett is one of those unusual horses who do not prefer you to be on one side or the other but has to have you standing right in front of her so she can see you with both eyes and anything behind either eye or off to either side is very challenging for her. She now can tolerate me walking all around her, at a distance but she does not like me doing so, yet.
On Tuesday I asked her to step up onto the pallet on the ground, reinforcing every small attempt. In no time at all, she put one foot firmly on the pallet, so I reinforced heavily and finished for that session. On Wednesday, I asked her again to step up and she quietly stepped up with both front feet. On Thursday morning, while I was feeding VBA Bush Hero, in the yard next to her, I heard a noise behind me and turned around to see Scarlett standing with both front feet on the pallet with a look on her face that said “See, I can do this”. J Oh, I love this little mare so much, in fact, I am totally smitten with her.
Scarlett is becoming far more confident when she is in the paddock, walks up to me in the paddock and will come back into her yard when I ask her to.
I may not have a halter on Scarlett, nor even be able to touch her all over yet but that’s okay. I can teach her at liberty to accept a lot of the strange things that come with being domesticated. Learning these new skills will give her confidence to accept my actual touch, in time.