Dec. 2004

December 7, 2004

How did it get to be Dec. 7 so fast? Gracious, the month is already slipping away. Sadly, I think that's pretty much indicative of my whole life.

The kids are doing fine, though I haven't worked with them much. Jay got the posts driven so I can enclose the "riding ring." Poor guy, he bounced the T-post driver off the top of a post and clocked himself in the head. Gave himself a goose egg and cut his forehead. No stitches or anything, but like most head wounds, it bled a lot.

I'm just going to run a few lines of rope (like I would do with electric tape, but without the electricity) around the ring. I'm not trying to make a place where I can leave the horses unattended, so I think the rope will be sufficient. I'm planning to use it as a training ring where I can do some at-liberty work with each horse individually. The ring is almost ready now -- all I need to do is run the rope.

The horses got their feet trimmed yesterday. This time Guin was a breeze, and Blue was a handful. Last time Guin was leaning heavily and really reluctant to have her feet picked up. That was also when she was having hoof trouble. The farrier theorized that her foot hurt just enough to make it uncomfortable for her to balance extra weight on her hind end, so she leaned.

Blue was just... three. He was into EVERYTHING. We trimmed in the aisle, with the horses waiting in their stalls until their turn. Blue reached out of his stall and played with the farrier, played with the horse being trimmed, played with me to try to get free treats. When it was his turn, he didn't want to stand still. What a goof!

Quincy was sweet as could be, of course -- with the humans, not the other horses. She makes the ugliest faces you've ever seen when another horse is anywhere around. Christina (the farrier) made me laugh because she said Quincy was swearing -- and had a definite potty mouth. Words that a lady should never say!

Both Blue and Guin are uncomfortable with hands around their heads. I've finally decided that bugs me, and so I've decided to work on fixing it. I want to be able to reach up and have them hold still. So today, after the horses finished with their dinners we did quick sessions in their stalls with me reaching up and putting a hand on their nose. With Guin I could get my hand on her nose, but she didn't want to stop moving her head. So I clicked for moments of stillness. Blue would pull his head back, but settle once I touched him. So I clicked him for remaining still when I reached for him.

My computer is driving me nuts, so I'd better sign off and see if I can get this uploaded!

December 8, 2004

I got up the first line of rope on the corral and realized I need to buy more. Wouldn't hurt to trim some of the blackberries too.

I decided to start carrying the clicker and treats around with me all the time. I like it, because it makes the horses really attentive, and it's a real pain, because it makes the horses really attentive. Hmmm... <cough>

Case in point, have you ever tried to muck out a paddock with two horses trying everything they can to get you to click them? You know, what I really need to do is to teach each horse a "station" in the paddock where I can send him or her to stand until I give a release cue. Zoo trainers do this. Very, very helpful. It would be ESPECIALLY helpful when I'm trying to get Blue out of the barn door so I can get Quincy out, something he wasn't of a mind to do tonight because we'd played with the clicker so much.

Any ideas on how I'd teach station? I'll have to think about it.

Worked with both Blue and Guin on letting me touch their heads again. Guin was MUCH less frantic in her stall. Blue is just smart as a whip. At one point I reached up and he flinched back, but then he froze, looked at me sideways, then lowered his head and held it in front of me so I could touch him. By the end of the day, I was scritchying all over his head with both hands, hugging his head to my body, and <gasp> kissing on him. He's so funny about kisses. I swear he says, "Ewwww! Girl cooties!" every time I kiss him.

But you know, a few more days of this work, and he just might grow to like it.

December 9, 2004

Did the coolest thing this morning. I again took my clicker and bait bag with me when I went in to muck the paddock out. Blue was ALL OVER ME. I couldn't even move the wheelbarrow, much less shovel any manure. Okay, time to fix the problem.

I backed Blue several steps away from me. When he walked forward, I would walk him right back. If he hesitated there, I clicked and treated. Man, I really had to use a high rate of reinforcement just to be able to walk a few feet away to the wheelbarrow. And I thought I was going to get the paddock mucked out this way? It was slow, but I persevered... and gradually he caught on.

I absolutely would not allow him to take steps forward. If he moved forward, even to get his treat, I walked him right back to his spot. Slowly we made progress. Soon I was able to put a shovel full in the wheelbarrow before clicking. Then two shovels full.

When I moved the wheelbarrow, I had to put him in a new spot, but he was okay with that. Then Guin got in the game. I really don't recommend trying this with TWO green horses. Lord, we were back to square one. It was exhausting, but I slowly started to make progress. After a while, something startled them, and Guin trotted off. Can't say I was sorry.

The funniest thing was that Blue figured out he wasn't supposed to move forward, and then when I wanted to reset him in a new spot ahead of where he was, I couldn't get him to move. Oh, no, he's no dummy. Not going to set him up! He also had moments where he would push his head into me for some cuddling and scritchies. I guess he thought I'd pay off faster for that than for standin still. (He was right.)

By the end -- which took forever, I swear -- I was walking a good twelve steps away from him, moving the wheelbarrow, and dumping multiple shovels full into the wheelbarrow before clicking and treating. And it was sooooo nice not to have him standing on top of me while I mucked out.


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