Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thank Goodness for Small Victories

Today Brian and I returned to the barn after our spring break hiatus. It was sunny but windy, and we found things at least partially dried out after a week of relatively warm temps and low moisture.

Our primary objective today was simple. Halter Sham. We had a strategy and a whole lot of time and had also promised ourselves we would be very patient.

As usual, Sham approached without hesitation when Brian first entered the pasture and as usual lost interest after a few sniffs and pets and walked off. Then Brian drifted after, not trying to get close but not letting Sham forget he was there, either. Whenever Sham started in Brian's direction, Brian would release the pressure, turn his eyes away and make himself soft and approachable. And after a while, Sham approached.

After about the fourth voluntary approach, Sham was happily hanging out and receiving pets and not trying to get away when Brian touched him, so Brian slipped the halter on. It was actually very easy. Brian didn't try to be sneaky about it. Sham knew what was coming, and he didn't mind. He didn't try to pull away at all. Unfortunately, the lead-rope was not attached to the halter (my brilliant idea, thinking Brian would be able to act more effectively with the halter alone) and when Brian let go of the halter to clip the rope on, Sham wandered off.

So round two began, which was actually far more difficult than round one. Sham seemed to have decided he'd done what we wanted and so deserved to be left to eat hay in peace. Getting him to pay attention again was challenging. In the end, however, he gave in again and Brian was once more able to pet him all over, and then clip the rope on without any protest from Sham.

All that only took an hour and ten minutes.

Brian brought Sham into the airlock and we gave him a couple of treats and loved on him effusively and let him relax for a few minutes, then we put him back out. He ran off and at a full gallop, gracefully jumped part of a round bale and raced around the pasture a few times. He really is quite an athlete.

So, although it was hardly an easy day, I feel pretty good about how things went. We got Sham's halter on with no tricks and no treats. It wasn't catching him, it was teaching him that allowing himself to be haltered is by far the most relaxing thing to do when we show up and start pestering, and that what follows immediately after the haltering isn't so bad, either. So, I feel pretty confident that what we accomplished once we can accomplish again (hopefully a little faster next time).

We brought Steen in afterwards and cleaned him up, but I was a bit exhausted and it was windy and I didn't quite feel like riding. So Steen got an easy day. Brian and I headed home, with one small victory under our belts.

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