Wednesday 17 January 2018

1 1/2 Steps Forward

Tuesday night start off much more promising than the previous day for Cisco. There were no hijinks happening in the field, so he came into the barn very relaxed, and stayed that way as we made our way into the arena.

There were a couple of new horses in the arena when we entered. The neighbour was riding one and had another one tied at the end (in the scary end). Cisco did his normal attempt to drag me over to try to make new friends, but otherwise didn't really lose his brain. About the horses at least. He was still spooking at everything at that end of the arena.
Redonkulously cute nose of the mini in the stall Cisco was tied in front of while we were getting ready.

But I had come prepared for groundwork.  I asked him to lower his head as we walked at that end, and he got a click and a treat when he did it. This helped him focus and the stuff down there wasn't quite as scary as it had been before. Still somewhat scary, just not as bad.

I lunged him at the good end, which was my plan all along because I just wanted him to relax for once. But since I had the clicker (and treats), could he learn something on the lunge?

The plan was to click when he dropped his head and softened the underside of his neck at a trot. It didn't take too long for him to offer it the first time. Click, whoa, treat, back out. After a couple more times, I could see that he was really thinking. Unfortunately, my lack of coordination meant that while trying to hold a clicker and a whip or lunge line in the same hand meant that I missed a couple of chances to reward him, and he gave up really easily when I didn't instantly reward him. Then it took a few more circles before he would drop his nose again, and I could click. I did see some wheels turning in his brain, and I think he was starting to get the idea.

The relaxation continued into a bit of canter on the lunge. As in, this was probably the most relaxed I've ever seen him canter. And I don't know if I liked it! His stride was longer, but he was kind of on his forehand and the rhythm was weird. I didn't want to take away from the relaxed mode but inside I was screaming "more forward".
Eating his noms.

After lunging I actually fed him for once (don't worry - he's far from starving). He normally doesn't get anything except hay, and well, a bunch couple of treats. In another attempt to make the scary end the good end, I had brought a bucket of food into the arena before I worked with him, so after I was done working Cisco I hung the bucket up on the gate. And left him alone down there.

He ate (of course!) and stood there until the bucket was empty. He looked around as he was chewing but didn't seem too stressed. I figured that as soon as he was done he would come flying back to me at the other end - which he did. (By flying back I mean trot real fast.)
Chewing his noms and giving everything at the end the side -eye.

This night was the most relaxed I had seen him in a while. If I had thought it would gone that well it would have been a good night for the first ride back. But after the last couple of days I totally did not anticipate he would be that quiet. Hopefully this will continue over the weekend, when I do plan to get on him, but I can't get out the next two days so I might be starting from scratch again. Thankfully the forecast is looking much better so I can hopefully be more consistent for the next bit.

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