Hi folks! As promised here is the next installment in Oliver’s training log. Training started in earnest for Oliver 12 days ago. With a rescue horse you never know what training they have had in the past, so you always just must ask them all the basic questions and see how they respond. This is the how we proceed, through a series of steps that begin with just putting the halter and lead rope on, through a series of exercises including lunging and work over ground poles and cavaletti, then moving on to more complex maneuvers ‘in hand’ as it is called with long reins, until they are ready to be ridden. This is the stage we are at with Oliver.
We call this step 8 in our program. We have accomplished this all in 13 days and working less than an hour a day. Of course, all results vary by the age of the animal, it’s previous training, it’s disposition, and history (eg if abused or neglected things may take longer or may never be repairable).
Oliver has accomplished all these tasks, with ease and enjoyment, except for one seemingly minor issue, which is him not wanting to long rein out of the barn and into the outdoor arena.
He has been led through this area and walked back and forth on it probably 12 or more times. He was always a little nervous about it, but he developed a complete refusal to proceed forward from the barn to the outdoor arena. He will go when led on a halter on lead, but with head erect, neck stiff, ears pricked at strong attention, at barely paying attention to anything I ask as he is fixated on everything around there, from the shadows, to the barn, to the horse trailers parked nearby, to the horses around him, etc.
I have been ignoring it because it didn’t seem like a real problem to me, since he would lead with a little encouragement, and I figured he just needed some time to get used to all the sights and sounds.
However, the two times I have asked him to go first, as in, long rein him with me behind him, he gets very frightened and refuses to proceed. If I become sterner in my asking him, he begins to panic and tries to spin out and evade, trying to go up dangerous embankments, and generally causing mayhem with the reins and making it so that it’s dangerous for passers by to accomplish what they need to around us because he is so unpredictable and panicky.
Having an assistant walk with him by his head works every time, but it feels too pampering and unrealistic. After all, this isn’t the first time he’s seen this area or walked through it. The difference is having to go first. But of course, when your riding your horse has to ‘go first’, so the trust HAS to be there, and you want it there before you risk your life and get on the animal’s back.
Needless to say I didn’t feel good about how the lessons were going, and I had been giving it lots of thought for several days trying to brainstorm and figure out what could be going on in his head.
So yesterday I tried something completely different. I just brushed him, gave him treats, then used the clicker and my treat bag to just lead him, me first, down the short path to the outdoor arena. To my surprise, even with no pressure from the saddle, cavesson, surcingle, side reins, or any other equipment, he was STILL reluctant and scared, and would only barely take grain from me, chewing nervously and throwing his head around in fear, having to stop and encourage him about 18 stops and starts to get him the simple 75 feet from the barn door to the arena gate.
This was like a light bulb illuminating what we always teach at the Resqranch, ANIMALS DON’T LIE (for the very most part). So if an animal tells you it’s scared, it probably is, even if it seems flipping ridiculous to you. All you can do, as the mammal with the more advanced brain, is give them the benefit of the doubt, and help them work through it. Which I did with Oliver, and will continue to do so, until he can accomplish this task without fear and anxiety.
Sometimes we must take a step back to notice the obvious in front of us.
Thanks Oliver for teaching me once again to be more sensitive and caring as you do your very best every day to learn everything asked of you every day. Good boy.
Thanks for tuning in. If you have questions about how we are working with him, please don’t hesitate to ask! I love sharing information, after all, that is the whole purpose of the ResqRanch.
If our vision moves you, please find it in your heart to support us as he move towards accomplishing a mammoth goal. Every little bit helps. At least you know with this charity all the money is going to the animals, and not to a big marketing budget.
Thanks for caring, and god bless!