So What’s the Hurry?
In my first post I stated:
“There will be no thoughts or discussions about how quickly I can accomplish any level of training. I will take the time that it takes to accomplish any particular training task.”
So, why am I fretting over getting stuck with Timber. Well, I still hold that philosophy but it needs to be understood within the context of some other considerations.
1) If every session ends with even minor progress, then we’re not stuck and there is no need to fret. However, if we don’t make any progress in several sessions in a row then there is a danger that Timber will “plateau” and come to accept that as his new “normal”. If I continue sessions and get the same results, this new “normal” becomes more and more deeply ingrained and it is tougher to break thru.
2) I have to keep in mind that if something drastic happens, such as a fire or an injury, I currently have a horse that I cannot deal with to get to safety or to give medical attention to. This makes it important to continue to move forward so we at least get to the point where I can catch him to load him in a trailer or to let a vet attend to him.
So, there is a balance that I’m trying to weigh.
The Next Nudge
In a previous post, I mentioned that I might have to consider various options to give Timber a “nudge” to keep moving forward. I am fond of the expression: “If you get 10 horse people in a room and ask them a question you will get 11 different answers.” The horse world is full of highly opinionated people and I have had to filter these in order to figure out for myself what approaches to take with my horses.
After reading lots of articles and watching endless videos, I decided that I need to “capture” Timber in order to help him deal with the new things I am asking him to do. It’s kind of like grabbing a person who is hysterical in order to help them calm down and deal with the current situation. Of course, this cannot involve pain and it cannot be, in the end, a bad experience for the horse that will actually set things back. So, the best I came up with is that I needed to “rope” Timber and use that as a way to “grab” him and help him to deal with new experiences by dealing with them rather than by running off. The issue of “roping” horses is a real hot button for some people. Yes, there have been abuses but there are plenty of examples of ways to do this in a helpful and, ultimately, calming way.
Here was my problem: I don’t know how to “rope” a horse! So, true to my MO, I read articles, watched videos and set up a practice “horse” to learn how to rope. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time on this: I just wanted to get the basics down. People spend years learning how to do this well. I figured I’d just try it on Timber and figured I’d eventually get in a lucky throw. I did think about all the “failed attempts” (throwing the rope at him and missing) and wondered if this would be a bad thing for Timber. However, I determined that this really wasn’t any more “traumatic” than the “join up” process that I started out with in the first session.
So, after about 20 tries I managed to rope his ear. Hey, anyone can rope a great big horse head but how many people can rope just an ear?
Once it was on his head, I stood still and made sure there was slack in the line. Timber just stood there and didn’t really seem to be bothered by it. After a bit, I lightly pulled the rope off his head, walked away and ended the session.
Laurie took pictures, but we had no video of this session.
Just to check, later that evening I went into his pen (with nothing in my hands) and was actually able to approach him and briefly pet his neck. This was actually the first time I have ever been able to do that. Timber was telling me that I didn’t screw up bad enough to set him back. That was a real encouragement.
So, tomorrow morning I’ll try to get the rope around his neck and see if we can make more progress.