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Australian Brumby Challenge ©

Michael and Honey - Week 3

Day 15: Wow, in the third week already! This week I was focusing on getting everything that we have done in previous weeks absolutely solid. I started off with all the usual stuff. Halter on and off, full pat down, moving around her while she was staying still, her moving around me, leading, and brushing. This doesn’t take long to go over these things and by doing it I can see what I still need to do some work on. I did a bit of lunging work again to see if there was any stickiness in her turning or transitions from walk to trot. Everything was looking good so I decided to do some leading in the temporary paddock I had set up for her. She was a little bit reluctant sometimes when leading, so taking my time to reinforce the pressure off the halter to move forward was very important if she was going to get led out the paddock and around the property. I have a long, thin bamboo stick I use to encourage her forward. I apply a small amount of pressure with the lead rope while standing in front of her shoulder, and driving pressure with the stick if needed (the driving pressure is a constant tap on the ground until she moves her feet).  She only really stops when she is very unsure of something and needs a little bit of convincing that everything’s ok, and that it’s safe to follow me! Once we overcame these little sticky spots, I lead her out of the yard and over the bridge, and around the laneways where the paddocks are filled with horses and cows. She had a couple of spooks along the way but found comfort in being next to me, which is what I wanted. After 30 mins of walking and having a pick on some nice green grass, we headed back and called it a day- on a good note.

Thoughts of the day: “She’s not quite ready for a spell in a big paddock yet, as soon as she is, she can have a well earned break”

Day 16: Today started with the pat down, and checking all my controls where working. The pat down is comforting and it lets me check her over for any lumps, bumps or cuts, and checking the controls lets me know what kind of day she is having/ what mood she is in. After doing my ‘pre flight checks’ I think to myself it might almost be time to give her a break. She is still doing everything that is asked of her, but soon she will need some horse time to her self. Then for about 30 mins I took her out for a walk and a pick, and again at the end of the day for about an hour. She is quite happy to walk along with Kristen, the dogs and me. We even took her for a walk along a short part of the kings highway where lots of cars where coming past. It didn’t seem to bother her.

Thoughts of the day: “Honey has had a strange twitch/irritation coming from the right side of her head. I think its either something in her ear or a sore tooth, I will get the vet to check her over next week.”

Day 17: I only spent a short time with Honey today, which was used up getting her in and out the stable. It was cold, wet and windy outside and with not a lot of shelter in her paddock, I decided to bring her into the stable for a night. (Spoilt). She was a little reluctant to cross the threshold of the stable, so a bit of pressure, trust, and ‘following the feel’ was needed. I don’t want her feet to get stuck and brace when she feels confronted with a situation, so I believe it’s important to keep a horses feet moving FORWARD. I don’t think backing the horse up when they don’t walk forward is necessary, and I believe backing up should be done later in the training. So after she went in and out, and in and out, and in again (of the stable), I took off the halter, gave her a brush down and fed her.

Thought of the day: “I think I might try her in the big paddock tomorrow” and “I hope I can catch her again if I do put her in the big paddock!”

Day 18: The weather cleared up and I decided to put her into the big paddock with my 5-year-old cremello quarter horse named Tia. She is a very gentle soul but will put a horse in their place if she needs to…and she will. They get on very well, even though they are both very independent horses they seem to like hanging out together, and watching the paddock of Angus steers next to them. I went back to the paddock later in the day to put her halter on. Success! She came up to me and accepted the halter straight away (much to Tia’s disgust that I wasn’t getting her out). I did this a few times with her, and she seemed very comfortable with me approaching her in a big paddock. I took her to the round yard and started to work with her feet. Even though I can rub her legs down to her feet with my hands, I still like to start by asking her to lift her feet using the rope. I start higher up at her knee and ask her to pick her feet up from there. I find it easier for the horse to understand when doing it from the knee first. Once she has got that, then it’s easier to ask for the foot to be picked up. I only put a small amount of pressure on until she moves her foot just a little, and then continue asking for more until eventually she is happy to stand on three legs, and hold her foot up for me. She got it very quickly and I didn’t feel the needed to do anything else that day, as I think taking one of their most valuable limbs away from them is a big thing.

Though for the day: “I’d like to get her to the point where she will lift her feet up when I ask and hold it there for me”

 Day 19: Honey had the day off.

Thought of the day: “Hope she doesn’t go back to wild Honey…”

Day 20: I went back a step or two today. I went to get Honey out the big paddock and she decided it was more fun being in the paddock, than it was to have a halter on and come with me to learn some new things. I went up to her and gave her a pat like usual, but then she walked away… and walking turned into a trot… and a trot turned into a canter, with a few pig roots and farts along the way. I didn’t want this to become a game for her, so if she moved away from me as I was getting near her, I went back to exactly what I did at the start. i.e She moves away, and I move towards her, she faces up to me and I back off. This went on for 5 mins or so, and then I could walk up and put the halter on. Instead of leading her out and starting to work, I took the halter off and walked away came back and put it back on. I just wanted her to know there is no need to move away from me. I repeated this a few times over 20 mins or so. I then went in and haltered her, led her out, then put her back in the paddock and repeated this a few more times. Now that I had that sorted I took her into the round yard and went ahead with my pre-start checks. After a good brush (and removing the last of the rain scald and dirt from her coat), I put the saddle blanket on a few times to check she had absorbed everything we had done the previous week. I then introduced an elastic rug keeper around her girth, keeping it unattached and using my hand to control the pressure. She was fine with this so I put the blanket and rug keeper on, and walked her around the yard. She coped with all this very well (she had no excuse not too, as I’d introduced everything separately before I introduced them together). Small steps = happy horse. Next I wanted Honey to understand the pressure of the halter with no one next to her, so next step was ‘tie up’. I tied her to a solid up right on the round yard and watched her from a distance. She stood for a while then tried to walk off, but realized she was still attached to something. After having a quick play with the rope, she leant back bracing her front legs and realized neither she nor the post were moving anywhere. So she took a step forward and relieved herself of the pressure. She stood and had a think about it, and then had a power nap. Kristen came back from work and has been itching to start loving this horse, so I untied Honey and let Kristen take control. Honey is a bit unsure when she has multiple humans in front of her, so a calm approach from Kristen eased Honey’s anxiousness, and both of them melted together after the first touch on the head. I left them in the yard and Kristen was scratching all over, and found a sweet spot that needed a scratch on her rump. Kristen and Honey are now good mates.

Thought of the day: “Kristen pushed me to do the Australian Brumby Challenge, and helps me every week to put my progress and thoughts into readable material, so that others can follow this great journey. Sometimes things I write make a lot of sense in my head, but wouldn’t make sense to anyone else. This is where Kristen steps in. She points out things that don’t read well, so that I can make things easier to read. I find this is the same with horse work. I know what I am trying to say, I am confident with what I am saying, but that doesn’t mean every horse is going to understand it. So I take a step back and re think how I can explain better and make it easy for the horse. This is why I adapt my methods of training to each individual horse. To make it easy for all involved”.

Day 21:Honey had a well-earned start to her 4 days off.

Thought of the day: “Thanks again to everyone who is following Honey’s story. These Brumby’s are incredible animals. If anyone has any questions about things I’m doing I’m more than happy to answer them, just get in touch through my Facebook page.”

Go to Michael's Week 2 ... week 4

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