KBR Horse Net
Training Case Study:


Sheba is one of the horses adopted at the end of Wild Horse Workshop '98. She was a Saturday adoption horse which did not undergo the week of gentling.

Sheba was good at keeping her adopters at a distance, She wasn't big on treats which made attempts at clicker training a bit rough. She was curious, however, and would face humans and keep them at a distance. She's also a pretty large horse, which discouraged her adopters from grabbing the halter lead and trying to get up close and personal, although the adopters did try to work with her some using a pole.

We loaded Sheba up on May 2nd and brought her over to the ranch. After about an hour rest in the mustang pen, we tried touching her with the pole. Sheba quickly sized up the pen as escape proof and decided to avoid the pole by running into the chute. No problem. We let one of her adopters stand quietly right next to the chute and if Sheba wanted to run in there, she had to deal with it.

Shortly into the exercise her adopters had to deal with a minor emergency so Sharon stood next to the chute. The next time Sheba ran into the chute, Sharon began rubbing her.

I don't think Sheba actually disliked being rubbed, but this wasn't exactly what she wanted either, so she backed out of the chute. I worked her with the pole. If it got to be too much, she went into the chute and got rubbed. It was all her choice. We worked for about a half hour and broke for lunch.

After lunch I went back into the pen. This time I closed the chute. Sheba had enough contact that she should tolerate the pole. She shuttled back and forth along one fence a few times, then decided the pole wasn't so bad after all. I rubbed her all over with the pole. I spent a great deal of time around the shoulders and withers, then moved up her neck and back toward her tail, "sawing" as I moved.

She tolerated the pole well, however she still got jumpy when I would break contact and touch her again. The trick here was to set up a rhythm of break and touch, with the breaks increasing in duration slightly each time. We soon got to the point that I could lift the pole and again make contact without her feeling the need to step away.

Next I went back to the regular rubbing on her shoulder just below her withers. After a few minutes of this, I inched closer as I rubbed, eventually replacing the pole with my hand. I scratched her with my hand, grooming out shedding hair until my arm got tired and started to cramp.

Starting to touch
Scratching out old hair
At this point it was time to move on. I took the pole and fished the lead rope to where I could grab it and asked her to face me. She tried to wheel and run. I stayed with her and each time she wheeled, I buttressed and made her face me, releasing pressure the instant she did. It took maybe a dozen tries before I could approach her face with my hand. When I got within a couple of inches of her whiskers, she had to take off a couple more times and I'd draw her head back around and we'd go again. Then she smelled my hand and I rubbed the side of her lips with the back of my hand.
Sharon rubbing in the chute
Making contact with the pole
Working the shoulder
Rubbing to the tail
Pulling the rope with the pole
Approaching the nose
Just a whisker away
Contact with a slack line

From there I went into facial massage, working mainly around the muzzle with a mesmerizing feel. She started to relax and pretty soon I could play with her tongue, lips, gums, teeth and go up the sides of her cheeks to her ears. She was a little sweaty and seemed to like the base of her ears rubbed. The whole idea here was to make the contact soothing and pleasurable. Pretty soon I was actually able to drop the lead line and she would continue to stand to be rubbed.

Continue to Part 2

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