This Sunday morning before I began working on my blog for Tuesday and after feeding, I was coming up from the horses and I heard bird sounds that were not natural to this area. I ran to where I heard the sounds coming from and found about 16 parrots on the telephone lines next to the house. After watching them for a while, they swooped down into our arborvitae trees and began to eat the berries on them. I went to the house and put out fruit and seeds. They were not interested. They were here all morning and now they are gone. I just had to share this as it was so beautiful an unexpected. Last Thursday I worked with the first Ritual, Sharing Territory, with Lucero and wound up in a spontaneous ball game with him. Lucero is a 14 month old Andalusian-Arabian cross gelding that I chose to help me with coaching for the Insider Circle group. I had intended to sit quietly and just share space but the game started when he started throwing a ball he has in his paddock. He was just playing by himself, while we were Sharing Territory, when he accidentally threw the ball in my direction. So I threw the ball back to him and he tossed it back to me and we continued to do this back and forth about eight times. Then there was a time-out before another round of tossing but this time with more accuracy and style.
So he started the ball toss and I just jumped in the game and took charge of the rules. This is how I train my horses with most of the tricks and liberty dancing we do. I find out what the horse wants to do and then I shape his behavior from there. For instance, Lucero was not allowed to walk up close to me. He had to keep his distance when he had the ball in his teeth. What he would have liked to have done, was walk up to me with the ball, smack me in the face with it and try to rear and push me over as he held the ball. But since he is trained with the Waterhole Rituals and by using my reed, I was able to discourage his over-zealous interest in shoving the ball in my face.
By shaping his politeness, he has learned that catch and toss is fun. In the beginning when he tossed the ball at me, there was no intention on his part, but when I picked the ball up and tossed it back, he got the game instantly. After a few tosses though, he started bringing the ball to me in a way I needed to stop because he could have hurt me. Horses just play rough, so I just took the reed and drove him out of my personal space. He then took this information, stood at a safe distance, and then threw the ball back to me every time I returned it for eight rounds. I have no idea if he will play ball again tomorrow, we will see.
That same day, I used Lucero to work with a person having their first lesson. As usual, we just went into his paddock and sat. Lucero came over in his big, friendly, over-bearing manner, so I explained to my new student that when he did this, I needed to drive him away from me and to not sit back down until he would not come back for a while. I explained to her that this creates polite behavior when he comes back to me and I am sitting down.
I went on, that simply asking him to not bite the chair instead of moving him away, causes the horse to be a bigger nuisance and eventually, rude and aggressive behavior is the outcome. This is because saying 'no' and 'no' again is fun for the horse and he will start to challenge just like a child does. But if you get up and Lead from Behind, until he does not want to come back, this builds respect and a desire to be polite in your company is the outcome. It gives a horse a feeling of being special when we do allow him to hang out closely with us. I would enjoy hearing from you about any activities your horse volunteered and that you were able to use to shape behavior.
Have a lovely weekend