Sunday, March 21, 2010

Vacation Homework

Sham has been a little tough lately. He is certain that he is the boss, and as a result, I can't catch him. So in my frustration (which nicely coincided with some vacation time in sunny Arizona) I went back to some of the training books we have around the house to see what I could learn. Downunder Horsemanship is my favorite. It is clearly written and full of great information. Plus the two horses Anderson uses as test cases are way worse than Sham, so that always makes me feel good.

This time the book didn't have exactly what I wanted. Re-familiarizing myself with being the boss and how to start the groundwork training really helped; I love the apply continual pressure until you get the desired response and then reward the horse with release concept. But he didn't talk about catching a horse, or how to do this without already having a rope halter and lead line connecting the two of you.

After a little Google searching I did find some good and not so good articles on catching a horse in the pasture. And all the good ones talked about applying pressure and rewarding with the release of said pressure. The pressure is simply standing in a tall and deliberate manner and staring your horse in the eyes. If he turns away, you slowly follow in a roundabout way (being sure not to actually chase him). If he takes a step toward you, release the pressure by relaxing and taking your eyes off him. Eventually he will learn that it is more comfortable to go to you than it is to stay away. As Anderson says, "make it easy for your horse to choose correctly."

Some people call this the mirror game, staring down, or even walking off your horse. I'm simply going to call it 'the game.' I'm sure there are other games I will end up playing with Sham, but until he willingly comes to me for haltering, this will be our game. And it could take awhile, but I'm excited to try it out. And I'm curious to see how the time off affected Sham. I'm thinking the R and R will have a positive result, but we'll see.

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