Part 111 – Magnum – Treading Gently

Fortunately by the middle of 2015 I was in a much improved physical and mental state.  I could walk fairly comfortably on my foot even though I was still hobbling – and my mind was in a good place.  I was still working on the ‘issues’ – but thankfully I was now a long way from being a ‘statue’!!

The stable area continued to work well – Magnum was getting used to the stable at the back.  I never shut the gate in case he needed to run.  That happened quite a few times.  I spent quite a bit of time trying to undo his tension about the stable.  I backed him in and then brought him out – always with plenty of clicking and treating.

This led to asking him to take a few steps back so I could get into the stable with him – say to retrieve his bucket.  I always positioned myself in the corner, to keep myself safe, so he had access to the entry.

I learnt to read his tension – but sometimes it caught me out.  I could tell during the food delivery whether he was anxious – his mouth would tense up and he would grab for the treat.  When more relaxed you could feel how loose his mouth was and he would take it gently.  I now use this all the time for all the horses to judge how they are feeling.

Here are some short videos showing a couple of frights.

There was also progress.  It was often a case of one step forward, two steps back.  And then some days were better than others.  There were so many factors that could spook Magnum – but having that protected area allowed small miracles to happen.

It gave us a safe place to really get to know each other.  Some days it was windy, or wet – or there was obviously some smell blowing in etc.  I learnt not to persevere – it’s never worth doing anything with an animal under stress….. or a human!!!   At times it could be nerve wracking, and I was often exhausted after a session  from the concentration – but every day added up.  We were developing a relationship.

The changes just took time.  It didn’t happen overnight – or in a week – or even in a  month!   There have been changes that have taken a year – or years.  Magnum has taught me such patience.    And when you think you have achieved nothing, suddenly things can fall into place.

Then I’ve had incidents where, what I have thought has been a solid behaviour, has fallen apart.  Here is a current example!  I’ve been  rubbing a potion into Magnum’s legs to treat pastern dermatitis.  He has started to move away from me when I approach with it.  I realised the last batch was a bit runny and he didn’t like the mixture running onto his hoof!!!.  I’ve had to go back to basics (and I’ve made a better mixture!) starting with a click for him standing still, then letting me touch his leg…. now we are back to where we were!

The small day to day events make more difference than a  big training session.  In the video below it happened gradually that Magnum would stay in that pen while I swept the mat.  Finally it was no big deal for him.

The whole experience with Magnum has taught me so much – in particular not to expect big changes in a short period of time.  It can certainly happen – but I learnt that we tend to measure changes in time periods that are way too short.  We tend to underestimate the ‘magic’ (processing) that is going on over time – we tend to think an animal ‘should be over it’ by now…. meaning – they shouldn’t STILL be scared.

Our judgement affects training so much.  If we can let go of the judgement – then we notice all the tiny miracles happening – the offering of a behaviour – instead of running away – more blinks of the eye, more relaxed muscles – I’ve learnt that making changes for the better in the ‘inner horse’ is so much more valuable than teaching a fancy manoeuvre.

But my biggest triumph with Magnum was yet to come!




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