Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 73-79: Raven Therapy and Attempt #2

Monday- Up to this point I have done all of my ground driving in just a rope halter, so I decided to introduce a snaffle bridle to Raven. He actually accepted a bridle nicely for the first time. To introduce it I spent some time asking him to bend laterally to each side. On the left side Raven bent nicely but to the right he was more resistant. I then backed him up from the bit. Like Raven likes to do on occasions, he went straight up in the air imhorsinating Hi-Ho Silver. This is not the first time he has stood on two legs with me. Sometimes it is out of dominance trying to intimidate me, this time it was out of confusion and panic. I tried it again this time slower and he backed up. For the most part the transition to the bit was easy. Raven almost naturally prefers to move in a rounded frame, the bit helped accentuate that. After our session in the arena I brought Raven into the barn hallway. Up until now we have not spent much time in the barn area, it is tight quarters and with Raven being touchy with his hind end it has not been safe. Myself and one of my students spent about an hour talking and touching Raven all over finding his itchy spots and "yah, But" spots (those are the spots that horses don't like you to touch). I call this Raven therapy, it just another way to develop trust.
Tuesday- Raven met the farrier today for the first time. It was time to see how he would be with some one else handling his feet. For the most part he did well, he only pulled his front feet away from the stand a couple of times. Raven is not quite ready for the back feet yet.
Wednesday - Raven and I took a field trip to Wills Park. I loaded him up and headed out. He did great in transport and we toured the facility once we got there. He did great, cautiously exploring every thing. We worked first in the round pen getting him warmed up. I introduced the concept of hobbling, the first step of teaching him how to ground tie. I place the hobbles around his front feet and walked away. He stood there for a moment then he tried to take a step. He stumbled then had a small moment of panic then he remembered to what I Had taught him about yielding to pressure and stopped moving his feet. I put a little pressure on him to get him to move again. He hopped around a couple more times then planted his feet and refused to move...mission accomplished. We also spent some time in the covered arena ground driving. He was less confident in his new surroundings and reverted back to getting scared and squirting forward whenever we would change directions. Because of this we worked mostly in circles. For the most part a successful day.
Thursday- It has been a week and a half since our failed attempt at a first ride. It is time to see how much Raven's confidence has come. My biggest concern with Raven and his blow ups becoming a habit that he resorts to any time he does not agree with something. My goal is sooner rather then later find a way to break up the launching pattern before it gets to this point. Raven is a horse's horse. It is horses like him that we created rules like never walk behind a horse and never trust a horse. He epitomizes prey animal behavior. So far I have put him through the rigors that I put all of my new starts through and I have never had one not learn to trust and bond with me enough to let me mount. Because Raven is not a traditional horse I have had to branch out. Typically I only use Hobbles to teach a horse to ground tie or handle their front feet. I decided to experiment and use the hobbles while mounting in hopes that it would break up the pattern. After a good warm up I placed the hobbles on. Once Raven realized that they were in place, I started to play with the mounting exercises that caused him to lose it the last time. I ended the day feeling like we had made great progress. I had mounted halfway up on both side and raven didn't move.
Friday it rained and i went black Friday shopping.

Saturday- We had a mustang benefit playday at Whispering Hills Farm. It was a great turn out and a wonderful opportunity for me to spend the whole day hanging out with Raven. We spent the morning playing on the ground in the enchanted forest and trail course. Raven showed all the others how to go through the cowboy curtain, over the bridges, and even how to stand on a log! I took the opportunity while in the play yard to spend some time standing on logs and being above Raven and getting him to accept me above him behind the withers. We have coined a move called" The Raven Lean". I have never seen a horse lean so far to one side without moving his feet when he is afraid of some thing. I got a little of that when working on the log. We also got a game of liberty stick to me going on in the arena. To help build draw between raven and I, I employed some of my advanced students to put pressure on raven when he would leave me and to help him understand that the safe place is with me. In the afternoon Raven and I did a trail walk with the rest of the mounted group. We crossed creeks and ditches....what a work out for me!

Sunday- Attempted first ride the sequel. Misery loves company so I selected a one of my students to help with the first ride. Previously when raven had his melt down, I was the only one in the arena at the time. I decided that it might be of comfort to Raven if I stayed on the ground while my student is the one that gets on. I warmed him up and then brought him to the center of the round pen. I placed the leg hobbles on his front legs. Once he knew they were there I had my student commence with the mounting ritual. As always pictures always say it best....

Note to self....A horse can still lunge and buck with leg hobbles on....now I know:) Also being one of my students can be a dangerous job! Making sure I ended the session on a good note I went back to taking my play ball and rolling it over his back. His Fear is effeminately isolated to humans becoming higher then him. It is back to the drawing board for me...the third time is the charm, if i do not find away to break up this pattern riding may never happen for this horse! The Raven lean is back!

Day 65-72: Ground driving

Monday- after my failed attempt to ride the day before I decided I needed to expand Ravens comfort zone and increase his confidence. Up to now Raven is only confident with me in front of him and just tolerates me by his shoulder and squirts forward any time I am further back then that. Keeping in mind his huge personal space bubble, I have been having a hard time coming up with a way to increase his confidence about things behind him. I decided to introduce two line ground driving. This would put me behind the saddle but far enough out of Raven's personal space that it will hopefully not push to many of his buttons.

I started this in the round pen on Monday and Tuesday. At first I introduced the idea of the long line wrapping around his back side and having him follow a feel and untangle himself. As expected this was challenging to him because it required him to move in a way that would have me start in his left eye and end in his right eye. For a split second he would have to take one eye off of me and change me to his other eye. As I expected he was resistant to follow the feel of the rope and once he would follow it, he would squirt around until I was back in front of his nose. Once he got better with this I then got him to accept having one line on either side of him. Working in the round pen I was able to introduce the concept of going forward while standing off to his side while working a circle. Raven was unsure at first but finally got the idea. There were a couple of times he would try to escape fore ward and was caught by surprise when he got to the end of my two lines. By the second day of playing with this I started playing with changing directions. Again the act of going from his right eye to his left through his backside would instantly put Raven into flight mode for a moment. We worked until this got better, slowing it down when I needed to.

So many times so far Raven has caused me to scratch my head. He picked up on The two line driving very quickly. On Wednesday I took him out to the enchanted forest where Raven powered through the curtains, tarp, and bridge ... no problem. On Friday I walked Raven past the pedestal that he has never seen and asked him to stand on it and he hopped right up! I then went to the trailers and had Raven walking on and backing off on his third try. So I ask myself, "How can I have this level of communication with this horse and and still can't get him to understand that having me on top of him was not going to hurt him?"

By Sunday we were working in the large arena, walking, trotting, cantering, stopping and backing in the lunging cavasin. I figured if I can not ride him yet, I will ride him from the ground! He really picked up quickly on voice cues for trot, canter and stop. Steering was getting pretty good as well.

Day 55-62 First Ride Attempt Number 1

Monday through Saturday- With the saddling going well with Raven, this next week I spent preparing for our first ride. I didn't take as good notes as i have in past weeks on what all we did. I know that when we worked on line raven was saddled. we did our usual hopping around in the saddle area on both sides desensitizing Raven to the mounting motion. I also worked on feet handling with ropes on the front and back feet, getting him to relax and follow a feel with the rope. I had him leading by the front feet and starting to pick up the back feet.

I spent a lot of time in the evenings in the feed stocks. While Raven would eat I would halter and tie him. I would then use the wood dividers to get hire then him. At first he would try to back out when I would rise above him. Once he realized that that is not an option he would stand still as a statue. I would gauge his confidence by weather or not he would go back to eating. Over several evenings I was able to climb from one side to an other and even stand on the saddle (while hanging from the roof rafters).

With the prep-work in place I planned a first ride on Sunday. Once again pictures speak louder then words so here we go.

The half way up position. Notice the saddle was slipping. Just the excuse that Raven needed to explode...


Attempt number two... Yah so we are just not ready yet! Back to the drawing board!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 48-54: Humans and their "stuff"

Monday Morning it was business as usual at Whispering Hills. Eclipse performed well and got him a wonderful home. Raven and Pandora made it home safe and sound. Sunday night we had a light rain shower. I had left the 22 ft line on Raven forgetting to change to the shorter one when we got in the night before. Agitated by the rain raven had decided to roll and when I found him Monday morning the 22ft line wrapped around his mid section with slack in it. The opportunity was too much to pass up. It was such a great opportunity to desensitize him to girthing pressure. While he was in the stocks I was able to get my hands on the other end of the line and was able to slowly snug up the pressure around his girth area. The increasing pressure didn't seem to bother him much to my surprise. This was encouraging.

Tuesday and Wednesday it rained so my time spent with raven was in the feed stocks. I Haltered him and put him on the 22-ft line and threaded it through the boards in front of him. I grabbed a grooming brush and began grooming him through the stocks. When he relaxed I actually climbed to the top of the stock divider and began to brush him from on top. I was able to brush him from head to tail on top from both sides. I also continued to touch his hind legs with the training stick and it didn't cause him to kick anymore.

Thursday- It is now time to embark on Raven's learning lesson about humans and there stuff! They one thing that sets us humans apart from other mammals is our stuff, and us horse people have a lot of it!. (You can ask any husband of a horse owner!) Our recent rain left a towel semi damp from rain in the hall of the barn. It was just what i was looking for! the wet town was better then a saddle pad for throwing on him. The wet gave it drape and cling! I tied Raven to his processing post and began tossing the towel over his neck back and hindquarters on both sides. I could tell raven really wanted to move, his eye on me the whole time. Once he relaxed a little bit, I spread the towel out across his back like a saddle pad and untied him. I then moved him around the feed pen area to see what he would do. He actually didn't mind the towel at all! We continued to play on the ground. When it comes to leading and handling, Raven still struggles with going through gates because I have to send though and turn him around so that I can close it. This of course requires Raven to show his vulnerable sides to me as he goes by. To help with that we spent a good bit of time getting his confidence by going back and forth through the feed pen gate. At times he would do his classic back up and pull me with this please don't make me look. Most of the time I was in a position to wrap the rope around the post and stop him. We got this to a good place and called it a day.

Friday- I played full body rub down. What this is basically is me hopping up and down and rubbing my body against him. He did well with this all the way back to the shoulder on both sides.

Saturday- I upgraded my stuff to a saddle. He did great with this and never offered to buck! Pictures are more valuable then words so take a look.

Sunday- I saddled him again with no issue and played on line in the pasture. Enjoy some more pictures.

Day 41-47: Raven's trip to Tennessee

Monday and Tuesday- As most of you know and might even have followed, during this time I have also been training a young mustang for the Tennessee Mustang makeover. Monday and Tuesday were spent mostly getting prepared for the trip. I have decided that Raven would be going for the ride.

Wednesday I had the time to work on raven's personal space bubble. As he was eating in the feed stocks in the feed pen I put a halter and lead rope on him and and ran the lead line around the board in front of him. I climbed down into the empty stock next to him with a training stick. Up to this point I have been doing good to get him too accept some petting on the top side of his rump, I have not dared to touch down his legs. Using the stocks I feel safer having a wooden fence between me and his the back legs. The stocks also limit his ability to escape. I started at his withers with the stick and slowly worked my way back. As I got closer to his hind end I could feel the tension mount in his body. As soon as worked my way down his leg fast as lightening he kicked out with his back legs striking the support post of the stock. He must have kicked out a half a dozen times before I was able to rub all over his back legs with the stick. Another layer of his onion has been peeled back!

Thursday we loaded everyone and every thing up in the goose-neck trailer raven first arrived in. Raven was slotted to go in first and have his own deluxe Box stall in the front of the trailer. With a little enticement of his hay cubes and oats he walked right on.. I carefully got him turned around where i could safely close the divider clear of his hind end. He was on and eating his grub contently. We loaded up Eclipse and Pandora into the back half of the trailer and rolled on out, Tennessee or bust! Well we didn't get far. About the time we got to I-75 merely 20 miles from the barn, we noticed the unpleasant oder of burning break pads. Never a good thing. WE were having wiring issues with the trailer! Our options were to complete the drive with no trailer lights or brakes or stopping and finding a repair place. We opted to find a repair place. So there we are, all three of our mustangs lifted up on jacks in the trailer munching on their dwindling supply of hay. All of them stood there patiently while three mechanics worked feverishly to find and fix the problem. We were finally on our way.

We arrived at the show grounds in Murfreesboro. Once I got suitable stall arrangements for all of the horses, we began to unload. I now had the daunting task of off loading Raven and walking him past all the decorated stalls of his windrow. I put my gloves on hung on! He did come off the trailer with quite a start but I was able to get him back under control. We very cautiously went down the isle and with a little hay enticement got him in his stall.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were not all that exciting for Raven. As far as I know he enjoyed his room service house keeping in his new pad. It was a good experience for him to have people constantly milling about peeking into his stall constantly wanting to pet him on the nose. It has been 45 days since Chase Dodd (a fellow competitor in the Magic) had picked up Raven from Oklahoma. He calls Chattanooga home and was there to help put on the make over. Cindy Appling was fortunate enough to catch him peeking in on Raven and was able to chat with him about Raven. He was quite impressed that Raven was allowing him to touch his nose! He spent some time with all five of the horses he brought back from Oklahoma in the round pen to insure they were all sound. As I was told earlier, out of the five Raven was the most jumpy and reactive of the bunch. He relayed the damage his trailer endured when Raven was loaded... kinda glad it was his not mine. He also said that when he arrived Raven was being kept in a holding pen by himself. Evidently he shows aggression during feeding time and sharing was not in his nature. I am so glad that I am working to fix the problem child of the BLM!!!

Day 34-40: Pony that Mustang

Monday- Time to teach Raven to follow a feel! One of Raven's favorite thing to do go backwards when he doesn't want to do something... and man can he pull! Once again I employed Pi for the task. I tacked up and got raven in the arena. we started at a walk. At first there was a lot of leaning but not a lot of pulling back and panicking from the pressure. After he got the hang of the walk we kicked it up to a trot. It was soon after that, that I learned that one should not use a flex tree to pony! The first time he bogged down and I could feel the tree of the saddle give it was scary, but not as scary as the owner of the saddle if she found out!! We did get enough out of the session to greatly improve ravens leading ability. After our session I tied raven to his thinking post in the feed pen for a few hours while I worked around the barn.

Tuesday- Since Raven has learned to tie so well I have used this as a tool to achieve more acceptance of contact. I got out my grooming stuff and worked on grooming while tied. Up to this point I have always had one hand on the lead rope and one hand on the rope and one hand on Raven. Making the transition to being able to touch him with both hands is not as easy as one would think. As soon as my other hand would come off the rope and travel to his body, you could see that worried look come across his face and every muscle in his body tighten up. Of course when the tension reached its peek he would leap out of reach. By the end of the session I could successfully pet him with both hands on the neck. We ended our session with working him on line and sending him to the water trough.

Wednesday- Today I upped the bar on raven's duties so to speak. Now when I enter his pen to bring him food or to bring him out he would only get the opportunity if he came close enough to me that I could reach his lead rope. Several times though out the day I gave him the opportunity to come to me. At first as always any time I entered the pen he would back away. I would wait patiently and over half the time he would allow me to reach and grab the lead rope directly below his chin. Since he was able to give me that I decided to change his lead rope to a short on that no longer dragged the ground.

Thursday- Happy to have no issues getting raven out of his pen, I had him spend more time tied to his patients post in the feed pen. What has been difficult with Raven has been his flightiness. He moves away from pressure out of fear which means he can't learn any thing positive. It has been my job to get his confidence good enough that I could then put pressure on him and have him respond to it in instead of reacting to it, this is a fine line. We are slowly getting to that point. Today we tried working on moving his front end in a full circle. I would put pressure on him until he would take a cross over step in the front. In the first direction he would try to leap forward and I would correct him. In the other direction he would go backwards to avoid the pressure. I would keep on with the pressure until he would take a step over in the front instead of back. When we got that successfully we called it quits.

Friday - I have had to come up with some nontraditional methods to get over some of the training hurdles that Raven has thrown at me. To get him to accept the a simple thing like throwing the lead rope over his back i decided to try using his new found tying skills. Just the gesture of tossing the rope in his general direction would either send him bolting away or backing away trying to drag me. Both reactions would leave me putting both hands back on the rope. Now that he ties nicely, I tried tossing the rope over while tied to the post. At first he tried to do his back up thing and very quickly he could not get out of my reach and because I no longer needed to hold him with the lead rope, I could continue to toss the rope over him. Once he realized that he could not move his feet as much, he had to learn of another way to cope with the pressure. He eventually grew roots and would stand while I tossed the rope over. Because he still felt like he needed to move something, he would stand there and toss his head up and down every time the rope would touch him.

Saturday - We had a little fun. I took the opportunity to school my 11h pony cross Hercules. Just for fun after our session I rode hercules into the round pen with raven and grabbed his lead rope and ponied him around off my pony! It was quite the sight.

Sunday and Monday- Raven had off.

Day 27-33: Misery loves Company

Monday- Raven has definitely been one of those horses that make me get out of the box with my horsemanship. The biggest trial that I have with Raven is his huge personal space bubble. Getting to the point where I can take the training stick and toss the string over his back with out having him drag me while he back away has been quite the challenge. So my thought was lets put my more seasoned horse in with him and let him be the example. I grabbed Pi, my seasoned warm blood and put him in the round pen. I then stood him and Raven side by side and began to toss the stick and string across Pi's back in a way that I would also brush Raven's top side in the process. This was relatively successful. Having Pi in the arena and me focusing on him really took the pressure off of Raven. Raven is very sensitive to any focus directed at him. This strategy greatly reduced his need to pull back and drag me. I still never got to the point where I could toss the rope over him only, but that will come.

Tuesday-I added Pi to the mix again today to continue my strategy of taking the focus off of Raven but still be working with him. As I am sure I have mentioned before if I have a goal or an agenda when I start with Raven, he knows it, and his opposition reflex will kick in. Like the day he got his halter off and it took 45 minutes to get it back on. The next day he was more stand offish because I got more direct line. I would stand Pi next to Raven and rub all over him then turn and stroke Raven. When I was ready to change sides I would put PI on the other side and do the same thing. I got to the point where I could touch both front legs and his rump. And for the first time I was able to pet Raven's next with both hands! (at the same time)

Wednesday- I did more of the same..adding Pi to the mix. This time about half way through the session I slowly phased out Pi from the ground work and focused just a on Raven. The Pressure seems to have been easier to bare then a few days age.

Thursday- Raven spent some time tied in his usual spot. During that time I groomed him head to hip. Not quite ready to accept contact in the tail region yet. Again We worked on me touching him with both hands at once. I have to laugh about this, in his eyes life is good when one hand is on the lead rope! If that hand comes off the lead rope...can't handle it!

Friday- We branched out! We left the round pen and hung out in the arena while I taught my morning lesson. We even ventured into the upper pasture where Raven welcomed the opportunity to graze. We even got so brave as to walk through the barn hallway. This was a slow process, we would take a few steps and stop, take a few steps and stop. Once we got to the other side of the hall way he did his wolrd famous schooch through the doorway back out into the open.

Saturday-we took the day off.

Sunday-We went back to the arena. I have given up on the "i should be able to touch Raven all over before I start to put pressure on him" theory. Raven does not play by traditional rules, this I have figured out. So i decided that maybe I should make him move his feet and show more leadership... maybe that will boost his confidence. I played the game of put your nose on it. I simply send him to an object and have him put his nose on it. He caught on to this idea very quickly. Pretty soon he was picking different things to explore in the arena. Once he got comfortable with this I had him squeeze between me and the fence.