Australian Brumby Challenge ©
I feel this week we’ve had a bit of a break-through, despite not really spending a whole lot of time actually training. For four of the seven days I caught River twice a day to rug and unrug him and spent maybe 5 minutes asking for some hindquarter yielding. River has struggled with this exercise, especially on the off-side, he tended to shuffle his hind legs sideways instead of stepping under with the inside leg. This is a fairly obvious sign of worry and anxiety. Towards the end of the week River was managing quite a few steps of yielding on the near-side and a couple of good steps on the off-side, as well as moving from the change in my body position only – no need to click or reinforce the cue.
At the end of the week we started on the circling exercise where River is to respond to the feel of the rope and my direction and energy to yield his shoulders away and circle around me. The first attempt was pretty messy with River backing away and snorting (the snorts come back when he is feeling particularly anxious!) I only ask for one step initially and then release all pressure and let him think on it. It only took about 4 -5 tries for River to move off just from me pointing to the left (we only worked on one side at a time). It astounds me just how quickly River can pick up new exercises if he is rewarded for the tiniest try and given lots of time in between asks – he needs the lickey/chewey processing time!!
The really rewarding thing for me this week has been River initiating some interaction. He has started to come straight over as soon as he sees me approaching his yard with his feed, follows me closely while I put his hard feed in the tub and stands very close when I’m hanging the hay net. He has even whinnied out a couple of times – I’m sure he’s really calling to the bucket but I’m pretending he’s pleased to see me J During our little sessions River has also started approaching and sniffing me all over my jacket and on my face. This is not a behaviour I would generally accept or encourage, but given this is the first time River has really initiated the contact with quite a lot of curiosity I don’t see how reprimanding him would be a benefit at this stage. Of course if he gets too pushy, we will have to redefine the personal space boundaries … but for now I’m just happy that he seems a bit more confident living the domestic life!
Earlier in the week River had a go at standing on the target, and also had his first bridle path and tail haircut – such a hairy little pony!!
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