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March 23, 2015: Strengthening Communicative Bonds

This, to me, is what being an animal owner is about. I’m most interested in having my horse be a friend. And to this end, finding ways of for us to communicate with one another that are fair and consistent is my goal. This is with the goal of creating what’s important to all friendships – equitable respect. If I don’t respect the horse, the horse is not going to respect me. Respect, on both parts, involves communicating our wishes in a non-adversarial fashion. I do not twist ears or flail on the horse with a crop, and the horse does not bite or kick me. If I do things right, the horse has no reason to bite or kick. If I do things wrong (in a way that is painful to them), well then, I’d say yes, the horse has reason to let me know that I’ve erred.

I do not like it when I go into the pen with an armload of hay and Tinni, Raudi, and Hrimmi all reach out and pull at it. Not only that, but they place themselves in such a way as to appear to have ganged up on me. This is not their intention – they want hay and they want it now – but this does put me in danger. I could easily be knocked over.

For years, I dealt with this problem by first chasing them off with the crop. I never felt good about this – it seemed to me to indicate that this was inconsistent with my belief, that the use of positive reinforcement would in the long run be more effective. For sure, the use of negative reinforcement wasn’t working, for a few days after I put the crop down, they’d again all be on top of me. I then tried tossing the hay over the fence. Problem was, I wanted to spread it over the pen. I then tried tossing some hay over the fence, and then spreading the rest further out. Smart horses, they wanted what was in my hands.

It took many years, but I finally came up with a solution that complemented my belief that when possible, I should use in this particular instance, use positive reinforcement. I decided to instead enter the pen, put my hand up and out, and first say “wait,” and then say “back.” All three backed off, and so I gave each one a wisp of hay. I am now slowly increasing the wait time. This has been working, so I’m now thinking about going with a variation on a theme by using the clicker and treats. I’m not sure yet how I’ll do this – I might just have to use a clicker and hay wisps.

I enjoy this sort of problem solving. It’s fun.

What I’m doing works because I continue to spend time with my horses. I say “spend time” with as opposed to working with because the latter implies a less hierarchical relationship.

I just got the 2014 USIHC Pleasure Rider Program results – I logged the most hours in time spent with my horses than anyone else in the country, which is 923 hours. I also recently learned that I was the high point agility person in the starter division, with a score of 98 out of 100. Interesting, participating in both events was on my own terms,and did not involve direct interaction with others. I walked/rode on local trails that Pete and I put in. And I did agility in our horse paddock. And I’m going to continue to do these things.

The weather’s good today – in a short bit I’m going to do agility with Raudi, and then I’ll go for a trail ride. I might then do the saddle fit kit with her. We did this with Tinni yesterday – and it worked quite well. We determined that Pete’s saddle fit Tinni fairly well; though Pete might be putting more weight on one leg than the other. We need two scales – this way we can see if he’s evenly distributing his weight on both legs.

I will ater get Tinni out and ride with my saddle and see what the differences between the two saddles might be.

As for agility – I’m going to do half the required course today, which is the first five obstacles. Tomorrow I’m going to do the next set of five. Raudi did very well yesterday – I discovered that her doing the trot part energizes her. I didn’t think she’d enjoy this as much as she does, but I was wrong.

Sunny, high temperature – hard now, to get work done. I just want to be outside, strengthening the communicative bonds with all my animals.

Next: 77. 3/24/15: The Heart and the Mind

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