Extreme Mustang Makeover 6/11/07
Monday, June 11, 2007
Big'un has been here two full days now. Ted worked with him about fifteen minutes this morning, just on petting, standing and giving his right feet. He passed everything with flying colors again. This evening we went out about 5:30 pm, supposedly AFTER the heat of the day. It was still about 91 and 65-70% humidity.
The flies were out in full force. After a bit of liberty work and being haltered in a working rope halter (he takes that right in stride so far) Ted decided we weren't going to get too much farther with the mustang being so distracted by the flies. Out came the fly spray bottle, and I got ready for our first rodeo. But I was to be sorely disappointed. No rodeo, just a LOT of curious sniffing, wanting to play with the bottle, and a few steps away until he realized that it was not going to hurt. Within about five minutes, he was fully sprayed and very accepting. The first couple of minutes of the spray are linked in video...
Once the flies became less of an issue, the real work could begin. Big'un is learning to move on cue, quiet, easy longeing with an ear on Ted, moving and disengaging his hindquarters, giving to pressure and all the other skills it will take to be a good equine citizen.
One of the things we use in our training in addition to immediate release of pressure for the right response is a LOT of verbal praise and petting. This horse seems to particularly respond to that, not all do. Other horses may respond to treats or cookies, clickers, etc. It is important to find the right method for each individual.
In addition to giving to pressure, the horse needs to learn to move specific body parts on cue. Here he is learning to move a foot, this can be beneficial in many ways, not only in picking up the feet, but also in situations where you may need to extract a foot from a fence, or other obstruction. And it's just good to be able to have complete control of each body part. No pictures (I do have video, but not uploaded yet) of Ted picking up each foot. The only mishap was a swift cow kick with the LH that caught Ted a glancing blow on the thigh (did I mention that working with ANY horse can be dangerous?). He was disciplined, took it like a champ, and proceeded to pick up the foot on the next attempt.
The other piece we worked on last night was meeting the saddle blanket. Ted uses a soft wool blanket folded up as tight as it will go. He lets the horse sniff, lick, whatever he wants to do. Then opens it one fold, repeats the process, etc. By the end of our session last night Big'un was wearing the blanket as he followed Ted around.
Issues to overcome:
One of the issues that we are having to work on is learning to lead. He is giving to pressure pretty well, and will follow as long as Ted is out in front. He gets a bit nervous when Ted is beside him. We are working on this by taking baby steps. So far he can go about five steps before getting past his comfort zone. So Ted goes three and PRAISES, then four and PRAISES, then we work on something else. Soon he should be leading without becoming nervous.
I've mentioned several times how curious Big'un is about everything. We have a "flag" that we've made from a PVC pole and an old bed sheet that we use to teach more finished horses how to carry a flag for parades or rodeos. It was standing propped against the outside of the round Pen where Big'un is staying. I guess he just thought that old flag looked like way too much fun. He had grabbed as much as he could, tore a huge piece off and proceeded to throw it around and stomp it, pick it back up and tear it some more. He was pretty proud of his accomplishment as he followed Ted around the pen picking up the pieces of the tattered remains. I guess it's another trip to the second-hand store for a new sheet!