Things with June continue to progress quite nicely. I have to say, under saddle, so far, she has been amazing. We’ve been riding at the trot on our own quite a bit and I am getting more and more comfortable with all of it.
We had a wedding at the barn this weekend, which essentially just meant it was completely chaotic there. I wanted to ride June one of the three days that the wedding prep was going on, so decided I would take her out to the field and ride her in the jump school corner. I figured I would see how she was on the lunge line and take it from there.
Well, she was perfect on the lunge, even with the new footing that had been put down and the fact that all the jumps were askew around the edge of the footing. After about 15 minutes of calm lunging I decided to hop on her.
Now, keep in mind that we are about 100 yards from the barn, there isn’t a fence, and I still ride June in a side pull, so if she wants to bolt back to the barn there is really no stopping her.
I hopped on and we calmly walked around for about 10 minutes. She was so calm I decided to ask for the trot. And we trotted around calmly and happily, changing direction and having a grand old time. Baby horse exceeded my expectations for sure.
So, while our under saddle and ground work seem to be solid and moving in the right direction, June’s ground manners are pretty horrific. Specifically when I have her tied and am grooming or saddling her. She seems to think that any time a person comes up to her it is to give her treats, so she immediately throws her head at you. (I rarely hand feed her treats, but her owner/breeder was basically nothing more than a treat dispenser to her, and she has not forgotten that people=treats.) I can’t groom her without her throwing her butt and/or shoulder around and pinning me between the post and her body. She can’t JUST STAND. And she’s not much better on the cross ties. She moves constantly and will move backward and forward the entire time. Ironically, she is great to bathe. Stands there perfectly, but she cannot stand still otherwise.
I understand she is a baby. And Sarah has even said that as she grows up she will become more patient. But yesterday she pushed me past my limit. I tied her to the rail while I cleaned up and she began pawing. Hard. And then kicking out. And throwing her body left and right. Once I was done cleaning I knew I couldn’t reward her by un-tying her, so I hung out while she had a temper tantrum. And it got worse and worse. I hid just outside the indoor arena to see if it subsided if I wasn’t in view, and it didn’t POUND, POUND, KICK, was all I could hear.
So, I came back inside, untied her and made her move her feet. Re-tied her. No difference. We did this a few more times. She was now lathered in sweat, and it had been about an hour. All she had to do was stand. But she was giving that a big fat nope.
I got her to stand quietly for 5 seconds, called it a day, did ground work the entire way back to her pen and left über frustrated.
And then, that night, I awoke at 2am and couldn’t fall back asleep. And that’s when it came to me- an idea to work on June’s behavior while tied.
This is not a new idea to many of you. So I won’t get into all of the theory behind it. But I will say it is a GREAT way to mark a behavior you like and get animals (and people!) to understand what you are asking. Maybe June just needs to understand what I want, as well as get rewarded for when she does something correctly. Now, my one hesitation is that I will have to hand feed her treats. But, she only gets a treat post click. She only gets treats when she does what I ask. She will soon learn (I hope!) that she doesn’t get treats just becuase she mugs me for them. I’m a bit nervous about this, but I think it’s worth a shot. I have a clicker, plenty of treats, and I think small increments of training this way may be super beneficial. And while no one would say my dogs are incredibly well behaved, I did clicker training with both of them, and it worked well. I could eventually wean them off the clicker, and treats, so maybe I can do the same for June.
I’d actually love any thoughts you have on the topic- am I setting us up for success? Or for complete disaster?