Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Friends

Yesterday Brian and I went again to the barn in the afternoon and I gave my well-behaved Steen the day off. Brian and I once again focused on Sham and building positive experiences that involve us and going indoors. Yesterday, we had a great one. Sham left his afternoon snack to meet us at the gate and let us pet and rub his neck and withers immediately without drawing back. Brian got the rope around his neck in seconds and then coaxed the halter onto his face after just a little bit of non-mobile reluctance on Sham's part. No airlock needed!

We took Sham indoors. He was interacting with us from the start in a way he wasn't just three days ago. His head carriage was low and his ranch-horse inclination to conserve his energy surfaced a bit. He began to walk much more slowly, never crowding Brian or trying to pull ahead.

We had a pretty intensive ground-work session, adding a few more advanced exercises to the basic ones we've already taught him. Sham is an intelligent horse. When I was watching and giving Brian pointers on how to teach the new exercises, I could practically see Sham straining to put two and two together. He really seems to enjoy trying to understand and rises to the challenge of figuring it all out. His face is also becoming increasingly expressive and there were moments I was cracking up just watching.

Best of all, though, the ground-work has given us an avenue to connect. I can't believe how much Sham's attitude towards us has changed in two visits. He is starting to become goofy and playful. He thrives on the pets and praise and attention. When Brian put him back in the pasture, he did what Steen often does - hung out at the gate until we walked away.

While Brian was spending a little extra time with Sham, Steen walked to HIS gate and gave me a "what about me?" look. So I ran down to his pasture and gave him some love, too. At one point I was hanging out with my lone horse at one pasture gate, and Brian was hanging out with his lone horse at another. A good sign, I'm sure.

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