Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday Swap!

Guest blogger Robin here, posting on the Sham blog for the first time.

Today Brian and I decided to switch horses. Since "The Game" can take quite some time and only one person can effectively play, when we are at the barn together one person ends up playing and the other ends up watching. Watching is even slightly less fun than playing (and playing is not all that great). Today we decided I would catch Sham and Brian would use his barn time to hang out with Steen. So, I went into the pasture lot and Brian went into the feed lot. My horse walked up to him and his walked away from me. He groomed, tacked, and rode my horse while I caught and did groundwork with his.

Catching Sham went well today. I've started taking the stick out there with me, and having it helps a lot. For one thing, I can reach into his bubble and start interacting with him without having to first persuade him to let me get close, and I can reach back and rub his withers from quite a ways off, which always starts to make him relax. Second, it's a big help when Sham goes to one of the bale rings. I've found if I approach his head with my arm and the stick held straight out to the side, it makes him think better of turning his butt to me, and he'll usually side-step a few times and then move calmly off the bale without the undesirable act of pointing his rear in my direction.

Last time I caught Sham we hope he learned that catching can be totally exhausting for him. He can run around like mad, stir up the whole herd, gallop and evade and try everything, but I'm still there pestering him once he out of breath and sweaty. The only time he gets any relief is when he's near me, letting me touch him. Today we hope he learned that he can choose to make catching be pretty easy. It took about half an hour for me to get his halter on, and most of that time we were in close proximity, with me petting and soothing him. I've found going very, very slowly from the start makes the whole process faster, so I wasn't pushing it even when things were going well.

Once I did halter him, he was again a bit difficult to get going. As usual, though, once I unstuck his feet with some quick disengages and backs, he gave up resisting.

I took him to the strip of grass between the pasture and the cornfield where we did more groundwork. He was even more relaxed today than yesterday, to the point that I had to get his attention a few times by swinging the stick in pretty large arcs in the air behind his butt (not actually hitting him). Once I got him turned 'on' things went well. He is already learning to give me the responses I'm looking for with most of the exercises. I also made sure to include plenty of downtime when I just let him stand quietly so he can hopefully start learning that being with people isn't work all the time.

I did about half an hour of groundwork with Sham and then put him away. In the meantime Brian had a very positive day with Steen, so all in all we came away feeling good.

Tomorrow I will (hopefully) catch Sham again, have another day of easy groundwork and then instead of putting him back with his herd, we're going to put him in the feed lot with Steen for a week or two. We've decided the addition of a once-a-day snack to his routine might be a good way to include a positive daily interaction with a person that is neither demanding nor particularly interested in him personally. We also think he'll be easier to catch without his whole posse acting as his wingmen. Let's just hope he doesn't start picking on Steen...

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