Australian Brumby Challenge ©
Week 3 update
What a week it’s been! What started as a week where VBA Moonshine seemed to be afraid of the lead rope again has ended in him being more confident than ever. The weather on Saturday was pretty horrendous and so I was unable to continue with the hooking on because the area was much too slippery. But as we have a little covered area I decided it was a good day to spend working on getting on his elusive off side as to be honest not being able to touch that side was becoming a barrier which was really holding us back. However when I was trying to clip the lead rope on he was having none of it. I’m always prepared to spend the time it takes to get things done but he had learned that it was well within his power to keep me just out of reach. So I enlisted the help of one of my hosts, Jimmy Kolovos, who is an experienced roper and horseman. As I have little to no roping experience I felt it was a much better decision to get help from someone who knows what they are doing. I know people can often think roping is less than ideal, and certainly in the wrong hands it can be. But this was simply a way to get a line onto the horse. On the first attempt the rope landed over his head and onto his neck. He ran around a little and then started responding to the pressure of the rope around his neck just as he had done before when I had initially haltered him. It did take a long time to get the normal lead rope clipped on to the halter but at least now he couldn’t get further than arms reach. So after a lot of approach and retreat and getting hands all over his near side, over his back to the other side and the same with his neck we eventually got the lead rope clipped onto the halter. I asked him to go off to the right, which he obliged and just like that I was able to scratch his neck on the off side! That was a good place to quit if ever there was one. I decided I would leave a catch rope for a few days so we could work on that.
The next day he was so much easier to catch and right from the get go I was able to get round and touch both sides. So for the first time in his life he got a groom. To begin with he was definitely a little frozen when when I was in contact with his body so I made sure to untrack his legs and he would let down almost immediately. As time went on he seemed to be enjoying being brushed and was much more relaxed. I also worked on touching his face as to this point I couldn’t get past his muzzle. Braced backwards at first I would wait until he came forward then step away. It wasn’t long before he realised he enjoyed being rubbed between his eyes, as when I would stop he would stretch forward and nuzzle my hand until I would do it again. He nearly fell asleep while I did.
Every day this week we have worked on being caught, if he turned to run away I would add quite a bit of pressure, and when he turned to face me I would back right off. Making the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy. Once caught I groomed him. Working incrementally on getting further and further around his body, under his belly and down his legs. When he was happy for me to brush all down his legs I started to teach him to pick up his feet starting just with one leg, being careful to differentiate between when I was just touching his leg and when I was asking him to pick it up. Then we would work on having the rope halter put on. For this I needed to be able to approach him and put my arms around both sides of his neck, reach over the top and then put it around his nose. I’m trying my best to be a little careless around him,(calculated carelessness), so that he can get used to people just being people, making noise and sudden movements etc.
Today I went out to his yard, he turned to face me, I rubbed his face, clipped the rope on, groomed him all over and picked up all four feet and then put the rope halter over his head all without any hesitation or worry from him. I’m delighted that he now wants to genuinely interact with me, if I’m ignoring him by talking to someone or looking at my phone it isn’t long before I feel a nuzzle from him looking for some attention. His big puppy dog eyes and innocent look on his face nearly melt me. I’m over the moon that I really seem to be gaining his trust, his distrust and fear has turned into curiosity and I couldn’t be happier. Onwards and upwards for this little diamond of a horse!