Allen was here when we brought the horses in. I told him about the bubble game. He came and watched and suggested: “How about holding your hand over the horse’s far nostril and holding the bubble maker below the near nostril.” Turns out, the air expelled from the horse’s nostril often is more forceful at the base of the nose. I’ve learned that the longer I have the fluid on the wire the greater the chance that the fluid will disappear. So, I need to dip the wire into the fluid and immediately place the wire at the horse’s nose. To get my hand under his chin and over the far nostril takes time. The bubble blowing game morphed into a two-person operation. Allen positioned the horse with his hand lightly covering the far nostril (cuddling the horse’s head) and I got the fluid on the wire. We started with Zeloso. He did great! A stream of small bubbles came out of the wire, going downwards. The force of air coming from the lowest part of Zeloso’s nose.
On to Zelador. It’s obvious that Zelador has decided bubble blowing is potentially life-threatening. We need to help him relax with the whole idea. I stood at his left side to cuddle his head. I’ve never held him like this. His immediate response was to pull away…bummer. I went to the right side and he was happier about this new position. I held the wand with no fluid and I offered treats when he stood quietly. Trusting in “Gap Time” we moved on to another horse.
“Hey, Allen, how about showing this to Blue!” Allen stocked up on small pieces of carrot and we both went into Blue’s stall. I was a few feet from Allen and Blue, blowing bubbles away from them. Allen calmly gave treats to Blue while he stood quietly. Blue had no problem with the bubbles. I held the wire about two feet from his nose. He was curious. Allen gave another treat. Things were looking good. We forged ahead. Allen was once again in charge of the horse’s head and I prepared the wire. Blue loves his head being held in this cuddling manner and it’s done to him several times a day. With Allen’s hand lightly covering the far nostril I moved the wire closer. I did this slowly. Blue wasn’t worried. Finally the wire was near his nostril. During an exhale Blue created a stream of bubbles. We praised him and he got a treat. We did this several times. In our minds the bubble game was a great success with Blue. In Blue’s mind the “get the people to give me a carrot game” was a great success.
On to Kye!!!! Kye is 23 years old and highly opinionated. He has a stall gate. I stood in the aisle and blew bubbles away from his stall. He didn’t snort. He didn’t spin. He didn’t have a hissy fit. However, he did leave the front of his stall and place his head in the far corner. Bill prepared a pocket full of carrots and entered the stall. Kye’s love for food overcame his annoyance over the bubble game. Bill assumed the position (standing beside Kye’s head, arm under Kye’s chin, hand near the far nostril). Kye gets head hugs similar to this on a regular basis. He accepted the cuddle from Bill. Slowly, but surely I brought the wire closer to Kye’s near nostril. I aimed for just a smidgeon below the nose and, Kye snorted. A stream of bubbles was created. Kye didn’t pull away from Bill. The horse stood still and received treats.
On to Pax. He, too, was de-sensitized to the bubbles from the aisle, then from a few feet away in his stall. Pax is also very fond of food. He kept an eye on the bubbles floating in his stall, but didn’t step away. Bill cuddled Pax’s head and I slowly brought the bubble maker to him. No problem. Pax exhaled and the bubbles were followed by food. Pax liked this sequence!
We played with Blue again and he was amazing. He actually BLEW into the wire. We returned to Pax and he did the same thing. Smart boys!
Back to Zelador. Obviously something was troubling him. We decided to break this game down into even smaller steps. We started with Bill outside the stall blowing bubbles. I was inside the stall. I placed the halter with lead line attached on Zelador. Every time he stood and did not move his head away from the bubbles I said, “Good” and gave him a treat. We opened the stall door and figured out our next step. Bill blew bubbles near Zelador and I rewarded him for standing still. Zelador was happy, so decided to blow bubbles with my mouth a few inches away from his, simulating Zelador creating the bubbles. I got out my clicker. Every time I blew bubbles and he was able to not move his head away, he heard the click and got a treat. Within a few clicks he was solid. No problems! We ended our session on that note. Zelador was calm. He was tolerating the sight of the bubble, the smell of the bubble, the movement of the bubble, the sight of the wire.
In thinking about the horses and their reactions I’m going to start cuddling Zelador’s head from the left and from the right, randomly throughout the day, in the arena, outdoors and in the barn.