With the Open House behind us, it is time to really focus on Raven and his progress. It is amazing to me that it has been almost a week and a half since brought him home and all I have to say for our progress is he will eat out of my hand, I have a rope around his neck and I can touch him on the nose, and all this can be accomplished most days without him attacking me!! Man I am making progress! One thing I know for sure is that I am in no rush, I am enjoying the journey.
Monday I did a lot of what I have been doing with him like working on leading and accepting contact from me. The one new thing I introduced today was the training stick. For those of you that don't know what that is it is four foot fiberglass stick with a leather loop on the end where you can attach a six foot rope and make something like a whip out of it. It is a training tool that I use primarily as a extension of my arm. In this case my goal was to get Raven to accept this tool so that I could use it as an extension of my arm and be able to stand in front of him and be able to touch him on the neck and still be out of striking distance. I was able to get him to tolerate me rubbing his forehead with it, but as soon as I reach past his his cheek to touch his cheek he would bolt. I have to say i prefer him moving away from me as opposed to other options he has exercised. Up to this point his world has been his 20ft by 12ft pannel enclosure. This smaller area has its advantages, when Raven decides to bolt he gets 3 strides in and has to stop. I got him to a point where he would tolerate being touched by the stick on his neck on both sides and left things be for the day.
Tuesday We continued on the same path. Leading by the rope around his neck is getting better and I am now able to walk circles in the pen and he follows. Every now and then he will hit the panic button when we make the "U" turn and he has to scooch around me to keep me in front of him. As these mustang get acquainted with domestic life the will go though different stages of acceptance. Initially they approach everything with skepticism and has a raised sense of flight. Right now this is where Raven mind is most of the time. The next stage is Tolerance. So far any contact with Raven has been merely something he tolerates. When I watch him while I am touching him his muscles are tense and many times he will bow his body away from my touch. It is when I push the envelope when he is at this point that he can sometime strike out at me. The next stage is acceptance. It can look a lot like tolerance but now the muscles are relaxed the eye looks softer, and the horse is no longer contorting himself to avoid contact. The last stage is turning loose to something. Now say we are talking about contact, at this point the horse will approach you and initiate the contact. That is a horse that has turned loose to the idea. This is the goal I have with all of these horses. At the end of today's session for the first time Raven started to accept my touch on his head. His posture started to soften and he no longer would back his ears when I would make contact.
Wednesday Each day we are making more progress. It is taking less time to get to where we were the day before. This is always encouraging. On top of using the stick to increase my range of contact I have started to desensitize him to movement by spanking the ground next to me rhythmically. You guessed it, the first time I pick the stick and string up to start this Raven bolted to the other end of the pen. I did get to the point where I could be at one end of the pen 20ft away and he could stand with his but in the corner on the other end and keep his feet still (tolerating).
Thursday we worked on some of the same stuff and I was finally able to stand next to Ravens neck and pet him. In order to get a halter on I will need to be able to stand next to him to fasten it on. All this work just to get to the point that I can get a halter on! At one point during the day when I was bringing water to his pen, I came in and kneeled down to let him drink. Once he was finished drinking he started to nose me and my straw hat. Excited that Raven might getting to the stage of turning loose to my presence, I kneeled there quietly to let him explore and get more confident. He grabbed the top of my hat and pulled it off my head. This of course immediately freaked him out!! I can imagine what was going though his "Oh my god! I just scalped a human!"
Friday Evening We worked again but this time I had company. Cindy Appling, a local photographer that is photo-documenting my journey with the mustangs paid us a visit to see where we are in our journey. Most of the photo that I have added to this blog were taken by her. I was excited to show her that I was able touch him as far back as the shoulder. Raven must not have gotten the memo. He was a little camera shy and reluctant to allow me to touch as far back as the withers like he had the day before. Oh well, we did what He would allow and called it good!
Saturday and Sunday were off days, Saturday was busy and Sunday it rained. During one of the breaks in the rain on Sunday one of the best rainbows I have seen in a long time had formed. In case you ever wondered what was at the end of the rainbow... now you know...a wild pot of gold!