The morning after Zeke came to Yucca Valley Equestrian Center, his training began. I was all ready to jump right in on my own, but first I jumped on in to his stall to clean it out. While I worked, Zeke checked me out, then approached and let me pet him. Then he became a pest! He kept moving into my space, crowding me in a curious (not aggressive) way. He also attempted chewing my fork a time or two.
Since it was only the first day, I decided to wait until Cindy arrived. Judging by his behavior while I cleaned, I knew if I didn’t set the right tone for his first session, I could easily make a horse who was pushy and rude if I was too soft on him. And being too soft is a specialty of mine! Once Cindy arrived I went in while she kept her eye on me, reminding me each time I became too passive.
I moved Zeke around the rounded pen until he stopped and faced me several times, then I picked up his lead rope.
Over and over, we worked on keeping his eyes on me and his hindquarters away. When his attention wandered I sent him trotting around again (Cindy reminding me that each move had to be full and total – he wasn’t allowed to ‘sort of’ listen to me!)
He quickly got the idea that when he turned and faced me, I allowed him to stop. Eventually, we progressed to more steady touching.
I also worked on touching other parts of his body using my training stick. The stick allows him to get used to touching without putting me close to his hind legs or forcing me into any close spots.
We ended our day with beginning leading, Zeke learning to follow me, and me learning to catch his attention before it wandered too far. A favorite move for a wild horse who doesn’t want his head to be captured is to turn his hind end to the handler, then run the opposite way. He will basically pull you off your feet, unless you let go of the rope, which is his idea all along.
Zeke managed to get me to drop the rope twice by doing that, while Cindy reminded me to keep his head always slightly tipped towards me to prevent this. It’s very helpful to have someone watching and reminding me – for me, I am so busy being awed by the experience of what I’m doing that I don’t react in time. And each time you’re too slow, you’ve taught the horse exactly what you didn’t want to! He wants to be left alone – and he discovered that if he turned his butt to me and then ran, I’d let him go – so he must have done the right thing! And that’s how fast you can make mistakes.
But we did get the job done – and the rest of the day we worked on the same thing, getting the idea to sink in. We did 4 short sessions. Not a bad first day!
On Wednesday, Feb 15th, we managed to get in another four sessions before the sleet and rain started! We worked on leading, on being rubbed all down the legs with the stick, and on brushing. Zeke allowed me to brush his head, neck, and withers, but beyond that he’s still ticklish! One important thing happened today, though. Zeke tried to turn his butt and run on me, and I caught it in time and kept pressure on the halter – and he gave in and went forward, the way I was asking! We’re both learning.