Australian Brumby Challenge ©
The weeks are flying by at an unprecedented rate! I can’t believe we’re now half way through. We’ve had a fairly steady week this time, just plugging away. Had a few rides out on his own over some real challenging country, steep hills and uneven ground. Moonshine definitely finds this hard work but he’s learning to really put his back legs under himself going downhill, and I absolutely love the effort he puts in going uphill. He puts his head down and pushes from behind just as hard as he can, stopping if he needs a break and then continuing on when he’s ready. We’ve had other rides out down the road and through the woods with company. He’ll still get startled by things and worry about certain things but his ability to think rather than react and to let down again after is what impresses me most.
That being said there is still one source of worry that I deal with daily, and that’s his rug. In my experience most horses will get over their fear of the rug within a few days, and in Moonshines case it is not the rug he is afraid of, but the approach of it being put on and taken off, he has no problem with the straps or anything around his legs. I’d been hoping it would go away with time but his worry is not going away. It’s not like he’s freaking out, he’s learned to stand still for the most part, but raises his head and gets tense and it’s something I need to address.
So this week I’ve been paying a lot of attention to this. I’ve been trying to get him in a ‘desensitised’ frame of mind with a tarp before taking the rug off or putting it on. This has been working in getting him to stand still but I wasn’t getting him to actually relax about it. He would tolerate it, but wasn’t ‘cool’ with it, if that makes sense. A slightly different approach was needed I felt, so yesterday we didn’t ride or do anything else. I spent three and a half hours working on ‘the rug’. Starting with the tarp, I walked around him shaking it until I seen the slightest hint of him being worried, in most cases this was his head raising, anything from a centimeter to as high as he could put it. Then I stayed where I was, shaking it until I seen some sign of him coming back to me, thinking about it, not just running away in his head. Normally in the form of a blink, ‘if he’s blinking, he’s thinking’. Then I’d stop, retreat back around to the front of him, get his focus and wait for him to let down. Sighing, licking and chewing, lowering his head. Sometimes he’d need to do this quite a few times. Once I felt he had let go of any pent up anxiety I would repeat the process. This took a long time, but I eventually got to where I could take it off and put it on without him reacting, instead stood with his head lowered and blinking.
Just because he was good with it yesterday doesn’t mean he’s going to be good with it today, or tomorrow. So although this is a very slow process I want to repeat it until it carries over one day to the next. I feel like it will be a big step for us when he truly learns to accept it. Unfortunately I had a bit of an accident this morning so I’m laid up today and may not be able to ride for a few days but I’ll do my best to get out and do at least the work on the rug until I can ride again.