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!