Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fells Do it Again!

Yesterday was pretty cold, so all we did was feed the horses. I wondered how that would go. Dove is still pretty worried about being fed in the group, and now Ranger and Journey need to learn the ropes. They all made it through the gate, which currently opens near the feeding area, but it was a bit chaotic with the Fells throwing their weight around, Hunter trying to boss the new mares into sticking with him, etc. So in the end the three new horses all ran around toward the loafing shed, and we just gave them their buckets there. 

I didn't want to continue this pattern, as the loafing shed spur is not a good place to catch horses. So this morning we blocked the track a bit up from the gate before I called them in. So it ended up that the three new horses had enough space, but were also contained. So far so good. Now I wanted to catch Bruce, Journey and Dove. Logically I would have gone for the easiest horse first, but Dove, Journey, and Hunter all got busy hiding behind each other, and behind the rather oblivious Ranger. They squirted back and forth past me in the long narrow space a couple of times, while I tried to get their respect, and Bruce and Iona decided that it would be a fun game to hold them at one end to help me out. It did help, and I caught Journey first, handed her out to Mark and went back for Dove. 

It's so cool when the Fells do this, and I see that they are getting better at it and more obedient about not taking pot shots at the horses I'm trying to catch. I think it's amazing that they have decided to do this without any real encouragement on my part. I've written about this behaviour before (Fells to the Rescue), but even so, it felt like a fluke. It's becoming clear, though. Just like a sheepdog, it's vitally important that I can control them. If I can, wow!! It's a huge help. I am really thrilled at their desire to partner up in this way. Next question, though: does it cause the horse I'm trying to catch to respect me less?

Journey was pretty easy to catch, but she's hard to halter. She gets high headed and stiff necked. Each time I devote some time to helping her lower her head and relax. I'm sure we'll get there. We had a session together in the arena, playing the first three games. The Friendly stuff will need more work before she is as relaxed as I'd like, and I need to resist the temptation to move on to other things too quickly. However, she seems able to learn, and we also need a language, to oil the wheels of day to day life together. It seems that the act of being haltered is the hardest thing for her, so far. 

I also spent some time with Bruce, although it was getting very cold by that time. We worked on Porcupine Games around his head, and he was very soft and easy to move around this way, even though he was goofing off, and not terribly attentive. I moved on to some Zone 5 Driving with one line. He has done quite a bit of this over the years, but it's been awhile for us. At first it was just rubbish and all he wanted to do was go to obstacles and he kept turning around or backing up in order to get his head near me to ask for treats. Really annoying, and it was working. I got annoyed. Oops! Initially, I just nagged and grumbled, which made him even more scattered. Ar one point he managed to swing his rear end into me and on a reflex, no doubt fueled by the frustration I was already feeling, I whacked him pretty hard on said rear. At least I had the emotional fitness to go "How interesting." NOT apologize, and have a look at his response. He lost a little confidence, but he started paying a lot more attention. We managed a Figure 8 around two half barrels without him putting his foot on them, so I was glad I stuck with it. THEN I apologized and rubbed his poor little butt.

He then did some very respectable walk-trot-canter transitions on a circle. His impulsion is sooo much better since his time with Livia. I wonder what she did!!

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