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!
COMING UP – A WHIRLWIND USA/CANADA TRIP!
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