I went out after the everyone had finished eating and Annie was hanging out in the round pen. After a brief introduction she let me halter her. We did some leading practice (supported by click, of course) then I did the old muzzle massage / slip the wormer in before she figures it out trick.
She was working so well that I decided to take her for a short walk around the stable. At the end of the walk, I put her into a regular paddock and let her explore around.
After about a half hour I went in to be sure I could halter her. Again, I had to go through the introductions but she haltered nicely. I attached the lead rope and we led around a little bit. When I went to remove the halter, she had a little hissy fit. She took two, then two more, gave me the little snaky head gesture and pretty much had to work herself through it. After quite a bit of storming and huffing she abruptly stopped, took a couple of steps toward me, licked her lips and I took the halter off and she was as quiet as could be. I put it on and off a couple of times more.
In the afternoon I repeated the exercise. On about the third rehalter, Sharon came into view on the riding lawnmower. Once again we had a hissy fit. Instead of letting her rampage around, I got out my line and pole and put her in a sliding neck loop. She fought the loop for a couple of minutes until Sharon motored out of sight, then calmed right down.
On Sharon's next pass, I motioned for her to come really close. I thought at first that perhaps Annie was put off by the sound of the blades hitting twigs and stuff. I just stood there with her and she calmly watched the mower. After Sharon left I went back to haltering with no difficulty. After I left, Annie would watch Sharon on the mower any time she was in sight, not out of fear, but apparently out of curiosity. I'm thinking now that she had made up her mind that she wanted to watch Sharon and got ticked when I interfered. (We'll see if this theory pans out or not.)
Later in the day Cheryl came over, haltered Annie a couple of times and led her around the paddock. We started working on "Pick up!" which Annie started to do, but it had been a long day for her and it was getting more difficult to hold her attention, so we decided to pursue the concept in the morning.
Cheryl and her husband Craig came over at 10AM. I decided to let her start things out. I had the camera ready and the photo series on the right is of her haltering Annie "cold."
We worked together on some clicker training and picking up feet on command. Cheryl was working on her timing and Annie was catching on. We did body work on both sides before attempting to pick up feet, spending most of the time on her prohibitive "off" side.
Farrier Roger Hubbard, who trims many of the area's mustangs once they've been gentled, suggested I do the initial farrier gentling and initial trim with my farrier's chinks on. (I usually just grab the tools when the time seems right and don't worry about the chinks.) His point was that this way the farrier wouldn't look so different when he showed up in chinks. This seemed like a rational idea, especially since I caught and tore my Levis with my nippers when doing Shiloh, so I went and put them on.
I started working down her legs with bare hands and the wind was blowing my chinks all around. Annie was naturally a little edgy and would often back up one step. Cheryl would ask her back. If she stalled out, Cheryl would shake the rope and back her up. Annie got pretty handy at this. She also learned that if she stalled out when being led, she would get backed to the fence. Pretty soon when she did stall, all it usually took was a reminder tug and she would move forward.
By the end of the session, Annie would pick up both front feet on cue and allow me to hold them for a few seconds. We weren't quite ready for trimming, but we had just about run through her attention span.
Later in the day Sharon did some reinforcement of click targeting. Afterwards I picked up feet a few more times, however it was past evening feeding time at this point and time to move on.
An important side comment:
Anyone with a freshly gentled or partially gentled mustang should study the photo sequence on the right. I was lucky enough to catch Cheryl with the digital camera just as she entered Annie's pen on the morning of her 3rd day here. (I was also lucky the camera batteries didn't poop out until right after this sequence was shot!)
This is not a staged series and Cheryl presents a textbook example of exactly how to halter these animals. If you study the images, you can see how alert and unafraid the horse is through all of this. It's through approaches like this that we can go out into the pasture and halter a green mustang without any chasing or problems.
Cheryl astutely demonstrates how to halter a wild horse (first thing in the morning after two days' gentling)
Cheryl quietly approaches annie
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