Just got back in from another breakthrough session with Xena!
She teaches me something new every day. I love her so much!!
It was raining all day today, up until about 7. Nasty rain with thunder too, not the kind you go outside to play in. So I was stuck inside most of the day, answering every topic on the SC forum and looking at some Quarter Horse pics, trying to look up the new mare's lineage. (Wait, new horse!?! Bottom half of my last post, there's a story!) It's such an exciting feeling, you know that bounce of the walls anticipation! Hard to get anything done anyway. So I was looking through the SC vault videos for direction on what to do with Xena first. I've seen every single one of them on there, many multiple times. But there's always things I forget, so even the fifth time they are still fascinating lol!
The one that took me a few views to sink in was actually a seemingly simple tv episode called "Go Get Your Horse." It was centered on respecting thresholds, and not just taking your horse from a to b. Which, in a stalling situation, I can get pretty bad about. Side note: the next project is getting the back pasture living-safe with a shelter so the big horses can stay out there all the time; confinement sucks. I have/had a bad habit of just haltering the horse and dragging it out, there wasn't much communication/catching game to do in a stall right? Or so I thought. ;) Tonight it hit me when I went out to put Xena in the round pen - planning to leave her there and let her entertain herself while I went back inside - but her head was out her back window, her butt towards me, and she didn't come over when I called. How interesting! Outside was more interesting than me, how to fix that? Okay I'll stand here with the door open for a while. No response. *Close door, run into tackroom, return* ...Correction, I'll stand here with a cookie! So I held my cookie hand out and she did a bit of a double take and then came over. She ate the cookie quite happily, and when I went to halter her she put her nose in it. YES i did the right thing!
I took her to the round pen after some grazing detours. She still had a RBI unconfident expression, so I didn't want to leave her and abandon her with her fears. Played all the games online, trying to keep her attention and focus and get her to think down to her feet. I really love when she's more RBI because I understand her thought process so much better, and when her emotional changes happen it means a lot to me. So I took the line off when she asked a question going over the pole, rather than blindly bursting through it, and she stopped with one leg over it. I had some cookies in my pocket so I played some more with getting her used to noises she can't see outside of our solid round pen. I banged on the side with a stick, only up to the point that she froze, but not explode. Then I made myself visible, and when she came over I gave her the cookie. I did this first on either side of the gate, then made my way around it like I have been doing on this pattern. It's been helping so much, she rarely cares about noises she can't see anymore. Once I ran out of cookies, I went to go back into the barn and clean up before puttin her back. I looked back out the barn door and saw her doing something she'd never done before - she was walking around the edge, eating the tops of some branches that had grown over the side of the round pen! It wasn't that she had been particularly scared of the round pen walls, but now she knew she could reach over them and investigate and get food, she was munching away.
It shows how she's not an innately curious horse. She is usually just kind of complacent within her environment. The wallflower. But thanks to Parelli, I can inspire that confidence and curiousity in her, to where she can feel like she can explore even when I'm not around. Like the Katie Drake song goes, "With my hand in yours I can take on the world." Since she has both LBI and RBI days... and is pretty food motivated when she is comfortable enough to take food, my next plan of approach is to routinely take her into new and trying situations, and give her cookies any time she chooses staying LB, and getting curious, over having a RB moment. If I use her LBI side to my advantage and reward her being brave, I'm gonna have one confident horse!
New Quarter Horse gets here in 10 days. Oh boy oh boy! Another partnership in the making.