I had another little session with Journey yesterday. It started well, but having at first made a little more progress, things seemed to slip backwards. I'm really not sure why. I came away with the feeling that I should have kept the session much shorter and quit after the first bit of progress. However, as I thought about it in the evening, I also came to the conclusion that because she has such a pattern of evasion, it might be much more effective to get a rope on her. I was kind of expecting this to turn into a rodeo event. We even watched a video of Pat halter breaking a mustang after supper to get in the mood.
This morning, as I was mentally preparing for the day, I really tried to put myself in Journey's place and feel what she feels. My impression was "No, I mustn't give in...but what if is isn't so bad?" I had a strong sense of Journey's need to learn to become a "horse-man" in order to get along in life and have a bright future - maybe even some fun. But first we had to pick up a load of hay for the cows, and unload last week's horse hay. Then I played with Dove, which I'll tell you about shortly.
By this time it was late enough in the afternoon that I felt I could reasonably not bother with Journey. I admit I was having some doubts. I checked the footing in the round pen. It was okay. I got my 45' line and played a bit in the small part of Journey's pen. I could see that it wouldn't be too hard to get a loop over her head. So I set up the barriers that allow her to go from her pen to the round pen. Last time, I had to push her quite a bit to get her there, but today she surprised me by just calmly walking out of her pen and around the corner and into the round pen.
I made a couple of tentative attempts at getting the loop on. Mark was watching and declared that he could get the job done. She really is his horse, so I said "Go for it!". He took his time rubbing her head and showing her the loop, and sending her around the pen if she wouldn't let him progress, or decided to leave. His timing was really good. I know that we were both wondering what the heck was going to happen when she finally felt the pressure of that loop. Well finally Mark made his move, but so did she, and the rope ended up behind her jaw but in front of her ears. Eek! She was surprisingly calm about this (and the light began to dawn on us...) and let him put it back over her ears. We were still waiting for the explosion that never came. Instead she gave us the classic "Oh, well, you've caught me now" look, of the horse who hates to be caught but accepts the halter perfectly well once it's on. So in spite of the guy we bought her from thinking she hadn't been halter broken, it appears that she was.
I then played a LOT of Friendly Games with her. She was very tense. I rubbed her with a carrot stick. and then my hands. It wasn't too hard to get into the zones behind the drive line. I spent a lot of time rubbing her crest, as her head was very high and he neck tense. She began to relax when I rhythmically rocked her crest from side to side. I took a halter, and using the 45' as a safety net, I haltered and unhaltered her a few times. Taking it slow, trying to make it pleasurable. Giving her a treat every time I put it on. She got more and more relaxed and we began to see lots of headshaking, yawning and licking. Pretty soon, she was doing this over every little thing I offered her. We played some Porcupine Game. More yawning. She made huge changes. We finished up by seeing how she felt about Mark slipping a rope over her head again (pretty relaxed) and then me asking her to lower her head and give me some lateral flexion. I led her back to her pen and unhaltered her. I stroked her back and face, just like I'd been doing with the halter on.
We're hoping that we've made a big breakthrough with her. We'd really like to turn her out, but only if we feel she's catchable. At least catchable in a small area. Fingers crossed for tomorrow.
This morning's session with Dove was just awesome! As usual, I had a bit of trouble catching her, but then she decided to let me. I hope she will be catching me, soon, but for now this is okay. I left her in a pen while we moved hay around, and even though it was a small pen it took me a couple of minutes to catch her again. Off we went to the arena, where she was pretty skittish and it took us awhile to get out Friendly Game going. However, once we did, it was pretty solid, but I knew it was more toleration than true acceptance. Until I found her itchy spot. That changed everything. Wow! There it was, just behind her jaw. The change was very quick. I almost couldn't believe it. Suddenly I saw the soft eyes and sweet, relaxed face that caught my eye the day we bought her. You could just about hear her thinking. "This is nice. These people are nice. I'm enjoying myself" I felt so happy to be able to give her that.
The Porcupine Game was pretty easy after that, and we also did some basic Zone 2 driving between various obstacles. I then played around with jumping up and down next to her. That freaked her out a bit, so I got to skip and sing and jump around for awhile. It got better. I stepped up onto the pedestal. and that scared her a bit because I grew so tall! However, I was able to rub her and lean over her and stuff and have her stay calm. I had no intention of mounting her, but I thought it'd be good for both of us to have the experience.
I finished up with lowering her head and took her back to her pen. I really like this horse. There is something very sweet about her, and for awhile there I thought it was lost, but we've found it again.