13.05.12: A Test

Jeffra was here this weekend, and to my relief she was thrilled with Storm. He didn't need any real adjustments. She went through the stretches with him, and he is very limber and able to stick his head so far between his knees that his ears almost touch his knees! She put oils on him, specifically Ylang Ylang for emotional balancing, and I turned him out in the pasture.
Since he didn't really get any work done on him I took him out on Sunday morning to practice with the trailer. Its been long overdue, and I knew it was a good time to revisit it. Anne's big trailer was parked in the field, so I opened all the doors and headed out to get Storm. I wasn't sure what I would get since it had been a long time since I took him into the field, and so I was prepared for the worst. As it stood it wasn't until I got outside that I realized it was one of those days that conspires against horses. For starters it was super windy. Up in the field on top of the hill the wind blows across with quite a bit of force, and it roars in the trees at the edge of the field. I began working with him just attempting to get into the field maintaining calmness and confidence. It began to be a bit more of a challenge when several of the bowmen began moving around their building in prep for their big event the following weekend. Someone started the mower, and there were several of them that drove in the gate next to the field. I began simply asking for his focus and working our way into the field. As he would get nervous, I'd circle him around and go back towards the safety of the barn. The first time we didn't get very far into the field before we had to circle around again, and I took him all the way back past the gate closer to the pasture gates again. I let him eat grass for a few minutes before we resumed our work. It turns out grass breaks make it harder to continually maintain focus. No more grass breaks. 
We headed out into the field again, making it further this time. There were times when he struggled, twisting his head and working his jaw trying to emotionally contain himself. And there were times when he could stand relaxed with his head down focused on me and not fidgeting. The pendulum kept swinging, but each circle we made of the field we got closer to the back of the trailer, and further into the field. We finally reached the back of the trailer, and I stepped onto the ramp making some noise to help him be prepared for that. He breathed rattling in his nose a bit, but stood looking into the trailer. I moved my hand so that the rope would clear the divider to prepare to give him the go forward cue, and much to my surprise, he stepped forward onto the ramp. He got one foot on, and reached with the second before rocking back off the ramp, and then reached down to sniff it. I was surprised that he made that much effort from me doing nothing more than lifting the rope. It wasn't intended to be a cue, but he obviously took it that way. I repeated the motion, lifting the rope to clear the divider, and he again stepped forward, further up the ramp, and reached into the back of the trailer sniffing and rattling in his nose. I was so pleased with his effort that we backed off the ramp and circled the field again to give him a break. 
About this time the neighbors arrived with their dog, and just opened the door and the dog shot out of the truck. They didn't see me, but it was still nerve wracking to know that the dog could come bolting at us. I moved back around the trailer to make sure they had a clear view of us, and sure enough the woman had to call the dog firmly to keep him from running up to us in a leaping bundle of white fuzz which I'm sure Storm would interpret as being a horse eating fur ball. I had to bring him back to the "safe" corner of the field, and they went around me out toward the middle. Except when I turned around, they hadn't gone more than 50 feet from me and I watched him throw the ball and her take the leash off the dog again. The dog bounded back to them, and this time he threw the ball back across behind the trailer! I was rather irritated, but I think they finally got the message since I began working my way back up the field toward the trailer again. 
Once they were out of sight we both calmed down again, and I brought him back to the trailer. Again, all it took was a lift of the rope, no whip at all, to ask him to step forward. He got his front feet in and back feet on the ramp before he got nervous again and backed down, pooping partly on the ramp and mostly on the ground (thankfully!). I was mumbling to myself that I hadn't thought to bring a rake up with me, so I couldn't clean it up. We circled the field again, now looking out for the scary mower that was putt-putting its way around the field on the other side. We made our way back to the trailer, and I began asking him to really try to get up into the trailer. He eventually went all the way in, and stood there sniffing and shaking for a moment before backing out again. I was really proud of how much effort he was putting into really getting up into the trailer. It was like we had been working on it all along. The only issue will be building his confidence so that he'll stay on comfortably and calmly while he's there.
Jeffra recommended an animal communicator that is a friend of hers, so I'll have an appointment with her tomorrow afternoon to see if Storm has any information for me, and also to hopefully find a way to convey to him something that will help him be less afraid. He's come a long, long, long way, but I still worry about him getting fearful and when he's fearful he's powerful and unpredictable. Finding a way to help him find more calm will only benefit our relationship and allow us to move forward faster with our progress. There really isn't anything that he needs to be afraid of (well, I guess dogs are legitimate, but he should just try to kick them!). Not bolting or running away is key to my safety, as well as his own.
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