08.04.30: Learn Burn

Wednesday evenings are Jim McDonald's classes, so we decided that it would be good to head down with several other horses around to work on some things. This was the first time that we were in the arena with several other horses around. Jim went to get Midnite out to play with him a bit for Kathleen since she is out of town.

I approached the pasture, and he came up out of the bottom to the gate where I was waiting. I rubbed on him and put the halter on asking him to put his head down to do it, which he is learning well. We made our way down to the arena with much less trouble than the first few days, he remained calm the whole time.

We began the play session with a review of the basic games again, which he is beginning to become very sensitive to. I checked in with his ability to follow me and stop when I stopped, which was still pretty sensitive. I was pleased to see that he seemed to understand my request for lateral flexion better than the first time we tried. He was beginning to attempt to turn his head towards me on the right side instead of evading me by moving sideways away. His left was much better as well.

We began to work with some attempts at circling, however, when he passed my shoulder his trajectory took on more of a straight line away rather than following the arc of the circle. I am going to have to work on increasing the communication to make sure that he understands the job.

Squeeze game was my next attempt, and he did that well. So long as he is fairly confident he doesn't seem to be too claustrophobic. I guess being that large he would have a hard time if he was! I began working on the squeeze game next to a pile of cavaletti that had some trash cans under them making them into a jump. Instead of squeezing past it, he kept wanting to step into the middle of the pile, which I wasn't so keen on because I didn't want him to get tangled up in it and end up scaring himself. He did well the first few times, even with me having to keep him out of the pile of cavalettis. I asked him to come through again, and after he did I asked him to disengage his hindquarters. For some reason he didn't do this, so I leaned over and asked again, using the stick and string to encourage him to move his hips away. He began to pull away from me abruptly at which point I realized that the rope was looped over my ankle. I didn't want to let go for fear of ending up getting dragged by the foot for a distance, so I tried to stop him and asked him to disengage again and he pulled away harder, and by that time the rope was near the end so it slipped off my foot and I let him go.

He cantered around the arena willy nilly for a bit until he finally stopped near Marta and Skye. She held him for a moment so that he didn't cause anyone else to have any problem with their horses and I went and retrieved him. The only down side was that in the proccess of trying to get the rope off of my foot and holding on with my hand I had burned an inch long hunk of skin off the inside of my middle finger. I think that this was largely due to the fact that the sand was wet which caused it to stick to the rope all that much more, and thus just scraped the skin right off my finger.

I continued to work with him, asking for small things, squeezes between things, and asking him to explore a bit, as well as asking for flexion, disengagement, and porcupine movements. We also worked on picking up his feet, and bringing his head down.

He began to get more confident and wanted to explore the arena a bit, so we wandered around. I asked him to squeeze between me and the tarp on the ground which had two barrels on either side of it. He offered to walk across the tarp (which was wrapped around a piece of 4x8 pegboard so it was rather flat) so I allowed him to do so. Since he offered that so nicely I asked him to do a figure 8 around the tarp and barrels which he did very well. It took him a bit to figure out what I was asking for, but he responded well as soon as he understood.

We finished on that note, and I took him into his stall where his dinner was waiting. He eats quickly, and paws the ground a lot while doing so, which isn't so polite, but hopefully it will go away eventually. It was a good night with many accomplishments (Including 3 1/2 yawns and lots of licks and chews!), despite the skin being removed from my hand.
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