By the middle of last week, I'd worked up a long laundry list of things I want to accomplish with Danny Boy.
Introducing things and stuff on my terms, not his
Expanding the envelope
Equipment is necessary to do the job (if you haven't seen it before, that doesn't mean I'll harm you with it)
Pick me up on the fence (sure I'll mount from the ground, but only if I absolutely have to...)
Open gates from both sides
Start, Steer and Stop lightly, softly
Lead up you lazy beast (I can't stand a horse that drags back and won't walk right along with me)
Get yer feet wet (Basically, when I want to go in the pond, GO!)
Separate your front end from your back end
Go straight (yeah, that TOO!)
There's more, but I'll pick a few to talk about now...
Danny Boy wants to stay safely tucked inside his little envelope, all warm and cozy and familiar. His limited acceptance of gear needs some broader horizons. For instance, what if his owner's grandchild decides to fling a lead rope around and Danny Boy goes ballistic on the single tie because he doesn't like it when little-bitty two-leggers fling things about? That child wouldn't be safe. Lots of rope work this past weekend and now Danny Boy is much better about things flinging about.
Danny Boy will allow me to introduce new things, but he wants it introduced his way. On the first go round, I approach with matter of fact firmness, not too much, not too little. I don't push him over the fear edge, but it's my job and I get it done. Danny Boy prefers that I introduce new things as if I am afraid of them too. Not gonna happen that way. He's becoming less and less reactive to new introductions.
Danny Boy isn't used to me being above him. Seems kinda strange, doesn't it? I mean, when I ride him I'm above him; that isn't a problem, yet, when he sees me on top of the round pen panels, he gets pretty bent out of shape. It's a perspective issue. So I change his perspective. The first time I climbed up there he watched closely. I could tell this was new to him and when I got all the way up there and his eyes went all white around the edges, I knew he needed help in this department. He ran off, of course. He needed to get far enough away so he could focus better. I let the rope out as far as he needed, so he could size me up. He did that head bobbing thing horses do when they have difficulty focusing. Up, down, up, down. Then he just stared, all wide eyed and not blinking. I waited. When he seemed to get a hold of his thoughts, I gently asked him to come a step closer; which he did. I waited. Then I asked for another step and another. Soon, his head was next to my knees and I reached out to rub him. He sensed my hand coming at his head and flew back to the end of the rope again. No big deal. More time needed to focus. No rush. No hurry. More asking to come one step at a time. This time when he made it over to me and I reached to rub, he stood for it. He wasn't comfortable, but he tried. I rubbed, soft and smooth, just the way he likes it when I do it at ground level. He made the connection instantly and softened. He licked for many minutes and then leaned in for more.
By the end of the weekend, Danny Boy was rushing up to have his head, neck and back stroked. On Monday, he came right up to the fence for me to mount. He understood the exercise completely and really thought it was cool. The first time I got on from the top of the panel, I just sat and rubbed him all over. Then I climbed back on the panel and rubbed him from there. He sidled up closer and I returned to the saddle. More licking and a lot of yawning. I repeated this several times and then put him away. Made perfect sense to him!
Cool stuff, as Danny Boy learns about the items on my Laundry List. I'll be adding things daily....