Paddock Games, 5-14-14

5055_1074828111617_8255080_nWe did some more play and practice at paddock games today.  A couple of days ago Atticus reacted strongly to his saddle slipping forward onto his shoulders.  At least I think that’s what happened.

I was putting up his tree target and I heard him leave the hay box to investigate.  Then I heard louder footfalls that indicated he was trotting, but I wasn’t looking at him.  The next thing I knew he was bucking all around the paddock and back up under the overhang of the barn/run-in area.  He stopped at Ollie’s stall with his head up and he looked a bit scared.  The saddle pad had slipped back, so I assume the saddle had slipped forward.  I guess I didn’t tighten the girth enough.  Bad me.

From there I took the saddle off, but I did want to recheck the fit.  I targeted Atty into the wash stall and put the saddle back on him without a pad.  He stood very still for this.  Then I took the saddle off and tacked him up again with the pad.  I wanted to try to end on some sort of good note.

I targeted him out of the wash stall, but he really didn’t want to move.  He inched his way out, stretching his neck and lips as far as they could go to get the treats.  Then maybe he’d lean a little and I’d CT.  Or maybe one front foot would move an inch and I’d CT.  Then when he was rather parked out, he finally moved a hind foot a little.  Then the other.  He inched his way like this.

What was interested to me here was that I was heading for going straight out the wash stall and then turning left to get out from under the over hang.  Atty had different ideas.  I could see him clearly assessing the line of travel and he decided that the best course of action was to angle out of the wash stall so that he could travel less.  I followed his lead and out we came.

When he was fully out from under the overhang, I took the saddle off.  He got lots of treats and a scratch.

To help him work through this fright, I switched to trying a surcingle on him the last couple of days.  With the surcingle on, we played the tree-targeting game and he seemed quite fine.

Today, he followed me into the wash stall and I went slowly to get the saddle on.  He has a tendency to back up.  But he did finally stand still and I tacked him up with the saddle, making sure that the pad would not slip and the stirrups were crossed over the saddle so they wouldn’t bang him if they slipped down on the leathers.

I went very slowly in tightening the girth and made sure that it was, in fact, tight.  Then I targeted him out.  However, he didn’t come all the way out from under the overhang and he even backed up a couple of steps.  I targeted him out some more and in the process switched sides.  Maybe that’s what he was waiting for as he them went away from me, humped his back, and almost sort of thought about bucking but didn’t.  He stood planted then; he didn’t want to go any farther.

I used lots of broken up Stud Muffins for all this.  I needed to keep him in the game and offer me something.

I wanted to get him to get used to the saddle on him as he moved around but also wanted a fun way to get him to do that so I got out his mattress.  That is one of his favorite toys.  He fairly readily followed me to the mattress and he freely offered to get on it going forward.  Then I asked him to come off of it going forward so that he could then back onto it, which he did.

From there we played the tree-target game.  I lowered the criteria for him regarding how far away he had to travel to get his treat (Stud Muffin) and go back to the target.

After practicing the target game a few times, he willingly followed me to the blue barrel and threw a couple handfuls of Alam cubes into the barrel.  It was on its side and I was hoping he would push the barrel upright with his nose.  He tried, but wasn’t successful.  I set it upright and left him to his treats.

Since the last several nights the boys have come in to dinner by being called, I thought I’d try calling him from the barrel when it looked like he had eaten all the treats.  I waited up by the barn and then called him the way I would if I were calling him to dinner.  He came!  He had to walk past the tree target, and he thought about going there first, but then he changed his mind and came to the mattress.  That was too hard to pass by so I went to him and we played with that a bit more.

Then he came with me back to the wash stall to untack.

I thought he did a great job and that he’ll be alright as long as I am VERY CAREFUL about tightening that girth!

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About Laurie Higgins

I play with clicker training - with my horses, dogs, and cats. I also attempt to grow vegetables with the hope of one day being able to feed my family from my garden. My daughter and I are learning ballroom dancing. Well, we were. But she left me for a paying horse job, so now my husband and I are learning ballroom dancing. I'm also now helping Peggy Hogan, of Clicker Training Horses (and The Best Whisper is a Click) to teach people how to train their own horses using "clicker training".
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