It's been a a couple of weeks thereabouts since I've worked with
Faith. My seating repair business took a spurt and I was pretty much
wrapped up with that for a week or so. A couple of the young ladies,
sisters, 8 & 9, who board at the Therapeutic Center where I do
volunteer work decided to have a combined birthday party at the barn
and in lieu of presents wanted donations for the Center. They raised
$1600. Ennyways, getting the place tuned up for that took up some of
my time as well and I didn't get to do too much with Faith until today.
In my despooking work with horses I don't desensitize them to
particular objects. It is impossible to desensitize them to
everything and sooner or later something you haven't worked with will
fly up in front of you. I want them to look to me, to focus on me
whenever anything disturbs them. When they look to me they'll see me
ignoring the spook no matter what it is. When they are focused on
me, the spook is secondary. This is mimicking the herd dynamic where
the herd leader determines the value of the spook.
In Faith's case her spooks are many but it is not the spook as such,
it is her reaction to something unusual no matter what it is. And
her reaction can be quite spectacular.
Today the spook was 55 gallon clear trash bag tied to the lash end of
a longe whip. I used the noisy constantly fluttering bag to put her
through a bonder session by having the trash bag do it. Needless to
say, she was extremely reactive.
And at about the 5 minute mark as she was being herded around the
enclosure by the bag I saw extremely obvious mouth action. Her mouth
began working like a foal and a very young horse would do in the
presence of an uncertain threat from an older horse - "Don't hurt me,
I'm just a baby!" Not as quickly but just as obvious and for a good
Not too long after that she would stop and look from the bag to me,
the bag to me, the bag to me, with her looking me the major
portion. I stopped what I was doing and just stood there. She then
walked away from the bag and around me and stood beside me putting me
between her and the bag.
We stood quietly for some time while I scratched on her and let her
relax ("This is where peace and security is.").
I casually moved around the enclosure dragging the bag and she stayed
by my side well aware of where the bag was and keeping me between her and it.
I have often demonstrated this at clinics with people and their
horses. I'd get after their horse while they stood in the center of
the enclosure and the horse would obviously put them between me and the horse.
The main problem I have with horses is losing sight of the fact that
what I do flat works. Period. End of story. When it doesn't work
like it usually does - takes a little longer than I think it should,
for instance - a little "What is going on here??" creeps in. I tend
to start wondering what I'm missing or what am I not doing that I
should be doing. Filling your head with too many thoughts can be
confusing to both you and the horse. It always works and that's the
thought I need to keep focused on.
Plus with Faith everything is taking longer than it normally takes to
accomplish and the headway is slow but it's still headway. I find
myself sometimes overlooking the headway while looking for speed.
I have a funeral to attend tomorrow and after that I'm heading back
to Brave Meadows for Faith face time.