It's grey and dreary outside, the weather cooled off, and it actually feels like winter. In Texas this is what we expect for "winter weather" not that white stuff that people closer to the North Pole are used to seeing. (Snow is often cause for panic here in the south, especially on the roads!)
But the rain is holding off, so I managed to sneak in my lesson with Hanna today. Yesterday, we did pretty much a repeat of the day before. I tacked her up, did some lunging, and then introduced her to the idea of 2 lines off her face (for ground driving). I lunged like normal with the second line running from the bit, across her back, to my hand. This gives her a chance to have most things the same, with only one change.
Today, I had intentions of doing actual ground driving. Sadly, that was not to be. My entire hour was spent trying to catch Hanna. With the cooler temperatures, she decided that flagging her tail and running in circles was MUCH more fun.
So, instead of getting upset, stressed, anxious, or anything else that would make Hanna associate my handling with unpleasant feelings, I simply decided to change her thinking. You might notice that this is one of my prefered ways of training horses.
I offered Hanna a treat, which she stretched her neck out, took, and then darted off (her owner doesn't mind treat feeding). So, I got more treats, grabbed the halter and lead rope and made them very obvious. I then proceeded to reward every horse in my way (and all the babies wanted cookies!) only after I had slipped the halter over their nose. Hanna watched the whole thing.
I honestly have no idea if horses rationalize like that, but it does seem to show them that the "scary object" isn't scary to every one else, so can't be that big of a threat. I then walked up to Hanna, halter very visible, and offered her a treat. Before she could run off, I walked away.
Then, I tossed out extra hay to every one. This kept the kids out of my way (because they are So helpful!). Hanna wanted to eat, but didn't want to get caught, so she had to choose. When she would stop to eat at a pile of hay, I simply petted her. She would walk off, I would follow, and this repeated for a while. Because I was always right there behind her, she couldn't get to actually EAT anything.
This means that the right response of standing still when I walk up to her gives her an immediate reward - food. Hanna got this idea pretty quick.
Soon, she was letting me pet her with the halter and rope. I slipped the halter on, and let her eat more. Then I took the halter off, and walked away and messed with another horse. I wandered around for a bit, and returned to Hanna. As I went to pet her, she lifted her head, flinched her hide, and thought about leaving, but decided against it. A few good girls, some petting and loving, and she was quickly munching away.
Repeat 2 or 3 times, and that was our lesson. At the end, I did halter Hanna, take her out, brush her nicely, pick her feet, give her a few treats by hand, and then put her right back where she wanted to be. Sadly, getting caught is our worst problem at this time. It's delaying our training, because I have to spend so much extra time trying to catch her, but I think that once this problem is solved, it will be truly gone. She really enjoys attention, she just hasn't realized yet that in order to GET the attention, she needs one of those big bad halter thingies.
Tomorrow and Saturday are farm holidays, but I will be back to work on Sunday with many more fun stories. For those who plan to come riding, at this time we will be here with horses ready on Sunday morning, but if it rains, there's always the chance that I will have to cancel. Sadly, I have a very nice chance of rain tomorrow (80%) and we sure need the rain!
A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses
I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.