Part 131 – Ducati – Changing My Perception – Removing the Labels!

For this post I first want to  revisit some of  Ducati’s history. 

Ducati is a registered Australian Stock Horse  and came to us before he was three.  My daughter found him at a Performance Horse sale and fell in love with him.  I thought he was way too young, but  she said she would be fine with him – and he had a lovely personality.  He was also voted the ‘star horse’ at the sale.  The owner was a nice lady and I think he was started quite well – but probably much too young .  He performed beautifully in the ring – chased the cow around – moved athletically –   his owner was a good rider and kind on his mouth – and so he came home with us.

We had a saddle fitted – Emma rode him a couple of times – and then fell off….. she was going beautifully – went into a canter – he seemed to collapse in the hind end and falter….  and that was it for her – she lost her confidence.  

Ducati was then ridden on and off by others over the next few years.  He was always a gentleman, very willing – and caught on quickly.  I rode him a few times – always feeling a bit uneasy because he was an athletic horse with quick turns …  Then several years lapsed where he wasn’t ridden at all…

Now here I was, in the arena doing the ground work with positive reinforcement.  During the ‘bitless bridle experience’ I had time to ponder.

I still felt I was missing something.  I had gone through all these steps to rectify the anxiety I had caused – but still something troubled me.  Then it came to me..

It was my perception of Ducati!!!   I saw him as a quick learner, athletic – a can-do horse – a high achiever –   I expected quick results from him, no fuss, willing to do what the others can’t/wont.

So my perception was hindering my ability to really ‘see’ him –  This is what I said to myself:

“So……I’ve never treated him like a ‘beginner’ – I expect more from him than the others.  And he delivers – – but at what cost – underlying anxiety.  Was he not given a chance to just be a baby?  …. Started as a two year old – expected  to learn the ins and outs of campdrafting.  It reminds me of a child, pressured way too young to perform – the anxiety – whether internal or obvious – takes its toll.  Peeling off that armour reveals a still young, vulnerable horse, trying desperately to please.”

How do I remedy it?  Acknowledge it first – then start to look at him through new eyes …. or a ‘new frame’……has he learnt that to be accepted he has to be perfect – but sometimes he just can’t?      I need to get through it’s okay to mess up, it’s okay just to ‘be him’.

The next day  I went to him with new eyes to see if I could meet him somewhere where we could begin this journey again …. with the skills and understanding of good clicker training  – but without my expectation.

I felt very emotional – I’d had this image in my head of what I thought about him.  My previous image had not been helpful.  So I added my new image into my relaxation work with Ducati.

Slowly we started again – my number one priority was to train with no signs of anxiety.  This was hard to do at times.  Ducati would become anxious/excited.  He would chortle away – always so excited to be training – and then I’d almost see his mind start ticking  “What’s next?  What will she ask me next?”

So I started more repetitive behaviours.  We would partially walk around the cone circle then head for the mat.   I sometimes   asked for head lowering – or I gave him a massage – then we would repeat that behaviour.  I was looking for a clean loop – and in that loop had to be a calm horse.

Now this worked sometimes – not all the time.  We then did walk and trot transitions and walking with the halter and lead rope.   Over the time I had been doing the cone circle work – and teaching him to stand square on the mat, his body changed – he was just shining!

I’ve put together a ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo.  Now to be fair – the ‘before’ is a photo from when we were coming out of winter – and it’s from around 2011 – when he was 10 – before clicker training.  The ‘after’ is the feature photo.  It’s from 2017 – when he was 16 – he was waiting for me to get organised for a training session.

before after

This was all from this very gentle cone circle and rope handling work.  He was truly blossoming.  And his eye became softer…

ducati blogpost1

All these small details made a difference….

Now it was time to reintroduce the reins and introduce the mounting block…..





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