One of the horses down the road, Mikey, is a new arrival. He came up from Florida a month or two ago. I learned that he’s a bit unsettled in the arena. Last week I started playing with him at liberty there. The first day he trotted and cantered around the entire LARGE arena. After about ten minutes he was able to come to me and stand still, but not really relax. Day two he trotted a bit around the arena, then came and played with the carpet. In the barn he can roll it out in one big push. In the arena the footing isn’t as smooth so it takes him a while to roll it out. Day three he didn’t feel a need to go around the entire arena. He was able to stay near the entrance and use about one-fifth of the huge space. Once again the carpet was baited and ready for him. I also brought the big ball. I introduced travelling around me. First I used the lead line, then removed it. He got the idea. The owner helped block off the rest of the arena by standing quietly . She didn’t need to move her arms very much to deter his leaving me.
Day four we practiced the travelling around me without starting with the lead line. He did a great job. We added the trot and he was still able to stay with me. Day five the weather was rotten so we played in the stalls. Day six we were back in the arena. Although Mikey was able to travel around me he had not come in when I stood still and called his name. He’s not a cookie monster, darn! All the other horses I’ve worked with love food and coming in for a treat is very easy for them to do. On this day Mikey was able to stop when I stood still, turn his head to me and take one step in my direction. Wow!!!! I walked to him, praised him mightily and gave him a jackpot of treats.
Just for fun I introduced “one step”. For this game we place a pole on the ground. I walk with him on a lead line and stop at the pole. He stands still and I walk over the pole, then turn and face him. I say, “One Step” and back up, giving him room to step over the pole, then stop. He did this easily. I praised him and took him for a walk in a circle, bringing him back to our starting position. Then, I checked to see if he was reading my body language or listening to me. I stepped backwards and did not say “One Step”. When he started to raise a hoof I blocked him with my hand. He again stood, waiting. When I said, “One Step” he stepped over the pole.
Since things were progressing so nicely I showed him the “sideways over the pole” game. We started with “one step”. When he was standing politely over the pole I asked him to move to his right. I had a long wand in my hand to help direct the left side of his body, specifically his hind end. He shifted his weight to the right. I rewarded him and we took a walk, in a circle, then back to our starting point. Within two hints of moving sideways Mikey was able to travel sideways several feet down the pole.
It’ll be interesting to see how Mikey does all these things again this afternoon. I’m pretty sure he’ll put his overnight Gap Time to good use and come out performing like he’d played these games all his life.