I love new tools! Today, I got to try one out, and am so excited and happy to report that it worked! I have used it on Sunshine quite a few times, and was able to see it be effective today on another horse. Kathy showed me this game changer when my red horse decided that being haltered was not in his planner. It has been the reason why I have been able to raise the bar, and decide that he doesn’t get to decline the invitation to be haltered anymore. And, now I know he isn’t the only horse that I can use the tool with. (Maybe I really did know that logically, but I got to prove it to my inner critic today.)
I was just taking Sunshine back to the field after his round pen session when Dave got to the farm. He met me down at the gate, and had his halter rope. He caught Missy up, and then asked if I had time. Fortunately, I had 40 minutes still, and couldn’t refuse the offer to play with another horse. I said sure, I’d get Jewel. Right. Get Jewel. It proved much easier said that done.
I walked toward Jewel, watching her closely, because she is known to choose to shy away. I tried to time my approach when she gave me “green lights” and she still left. She left with quite a statement. Not just a little turn away, but a wheel and bolt. Dave said “Or, maybe not.” I checked with him to make sure he was ok if I didn’t give up, and pursued her with the technique that Kathy taught me. He said that would be fine, so the game was on. (My own personal victory is in my thinking that the game is on, rather than how I have miserably failed. This is a huge step for me that I will share just in case anyone else has a similar struggle.)
Kathy has been trying to get me to realize that I don’t have to be as close to the horses as I think I do in order to influence their movement. Playing this game with Jewel really helped me see this. Not sure if it was because I don’t have any patterned habits with her, and not very many expectations, regardless, it shed a different light on things.
Since Jewel had decided that she needed to move, I helped her out with that decision. From where we were, I asked her to walk on with a verbal cue. She moved a little, but not in the direction of my intention. I raised my hand with the halter rope a little. To my amazement, it worked! She turned and went in the direction that I asked her.
She got the direction correct. However, Jewel ignored my request to walk. She was off and running! I moved as little as possible to make sure that I could continue to influence the direction of her movement. I also asked her to slow and walk. Many, many times. This I was not nearly as effective with as getting her to move in the direction I chose. Always room for improvement!
As we continued with this game, the other horses in the field continued their non involvement. They did not react when I would say something to Jewel, or use my body and my rope to communicate with her. The only time they really had any response or reaction was when Jewel ran too close to them. Yes, there was much running. Occasionally, she would slow down or pause and had started turning toward me. Letting me approach her close enough to pet her was still not yet part of the game. We continued for 10 minutes before I was able to halter her and lead her out of the field.
During that 10 minutes, I think we established a rapport that influenced how we interacted out of the field. Of course, Jewel was breathing pretty quickly from her antics. And, as I walked her around and made some little requests of her, she was quite focused on me. Even with her bff Missy heading off in a different direction, I didn’t lose her attention. We moved around together with a pleasant connection. I am looking forward to the next opportunity I have to catch Jewel. It will be interesting to see if she chooses to play our game, or……just caught myself……..I wonder how long our game will last the next time I have the opportunity to catch her.