Friendly Games & Warm Up
And so it begins…
I had been around Kameo throughout the Summer and Fall, but she was always a bit of a handful. Most of my time was spent with the older, more experienced horses out on the track or on the trails.
Having watched a number of Parelli videos loaned to me, I thought that the friendly game and some general getting-to-know-you was in order if I was going to be the one to train her.
So we started with a carrot stick and a soft face brush.
No need to push this.
When I got to Getaway Farms on Thursday morning, I had a cup of coffee and sat down to talk about direction with Cyndi, the farm’s owner. She warned me about moving too fast and letting things get out of hand. “Make sure that you are matter-of-fact with her. You don’t want to have to dance around and tiptoe all the time, but you don’t want to be too rough. If it starts going wrong, jut stop and let her think. You’ll see her get frustrated and have to think when you do, just rest and let her think.”
And with that, off I went to the barn.
This being the first day, I didn’t have anything else on the agenda but friendly games. I wanted her to feel comfortable with me and understand that I wasn’t a threat. I only have two days a week to train, so I can’t let my rush for results interfere with the process. How annoying would it be to approached by someone who says: “AREN’T WE GOOD FRIENDS? DON’T YOU SEE HOW MUCH I LIKE YOU AND HOW I AM REALLY NOT A THREAT??!?” over and over again while they try to put their fingers in your ears and rub all over you?
I went out to the pasture and singled her out. Without too much trouble, she took a halter and allowed me to lead her into the barn. Even though she likes me, we didn’t start off with a lot of aggressive direct contact. I walked her up and down the aisle, then started working out physical touch with a carrot stick and lead rope.
She has a strong flinch and it seems like I will never be able to touch her directly for any amount of time. It is like a scared full-body shiver that runs through her from the tip of her nose to her hooves… the back two click-click-clicking on the floor of the barn in a kind of warning rush of nervous energy. I am no cowboy, so I took it easy with her and let her decide how much she trusted me. To be brave and bold are noble goals. To be foolhardy around a scared horse (especially THIS scared horse) is lunacy. I was able to run a brush down her back eventually, but she wouldn’t offer up her legs or hooves and currying her was out of the question.
One of my jobs in my city life is teaching design and sewing to adults. This doesn’t ordinarily impact the horses, but there are interesting side effects when I talk about my rural life to city women. I was talking about Kameo in class one night before I started this training experiment and one of the students mentioned that with few alterations I could be describing a person with PTSD. This is not to belittle the pain of those who have suffered, but rather to give them some understanding in human terms of what this mare is going through as I gently work with her.
We kept the sessions short but on a schedule. I was working with her for about 10-15 minutes at a time every three hours. I wanted her to feel comfortable but still focused throughout the day.
After the third session of the day, she started hanging out in the pasture right outside of the barn door. When she would see me out in the yard on the other side of the fence she would walk over and look. She is alert.
By the end of the time at Getaway, she was taking a halter and being led into the barn with no problem. A couple of the sessions we did out in the pasture because she seemed to be too wound up to be led away from the herd.
And so our first training week ended well – she seemed to be okay with me leading and working and she didn’t mind the schedule. Next week we will add a couple more things and start with some desensitization.
I am not going to push this. I would like to have her under a saddle by the middle or end of Summer, but I am not pushing things. I want all of our sessions to end well. With her that may take a lot of work.