In between spending more time helping my mother, I pondered what to do with Magnum.  How could I start to change his behaviour.  He was taking the treats with so much tension… he was unpredictable.  I had to be careful and always have myself in a safe spot.

I was learning that clicker training wasn’t simple.  Each horse was different – and Magnum in particular was a huge challenge.  He reminded me of a terrified child – wanting so much to be part of the process – but unable to overcome his fear.  He was forever on alert – with a very tense neck and jaw – and sensitive to noise, moving arms etc. – even if I accidentally scraped my foot on the ground – or anything similar…

Here is a video from my YouTube channel horsemagicblog  which shows some of the challenges I captured on film.

I received lots of help and advice from the very supportive clicker community and tried various ideas.  Some helped…. a little…. but I didn’t know how to move past this combination of eagerness to play the clicker game versus anxiety with every movement.

Eventually I decided to observe Magnum carefully and click for even the smallest sign of relaxation – the blink of an eye, movement of the mouth, softening of the jaw etc.  In fact I had abandoned the sound of the click as he was sometimes startled by it.  I started saying ‘good’ or ‘yes’.  I spoke very gently. I wanted him to associate me with relaxation.  I became very quiet and observed carefully.

I watched relaxation videos on YouTube and spoke in those tones.  It helped greatly.  In fact all the horses loved it – they would all relax.

I was careful not to spend too much time with him.  I always left him wanting more (of course with a suitable amount of treats for the end of a session!) and I regularly returned to him after doing the rounds of the other horses.

I also started to walk behind him – rewarding him for any relaxation… before that he had always turned to face me – no matter  where he was.  I could never touch him beyond his wither.  I would casually walk to one of the other horses while they were eating – a reasonable distance away from Magnum – but still behind him.  Eventually he got used to that – and he learnt that I would do the rounds of the horses and there was no need to worry.

All of this took time – lots of time.  It didn’t happen overnight.  Being consistent with my own behaviour plus taking lots of time adds up to success.

In time his neck started to relax and I could move further down his body – past the wither….. but there was a long way to go…

I was happy with our progress though – even though the time spent together was short.  I was spending more and more time helping my mother…. and in the November of 2012, things were about to take a turn for the worse.

I received a phone call……..

COMING UP – FAMILY CRISIS…

IF YOU ARE NEW TO THIS STORY, PLEASE START AT THE BEGINNING HERE – Part 1 – An Introduction

PLEASE SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR PREVIOUS BLOG POSTS

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