On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Atticus and I practiced hand grazing. Each day is getting better than the previous day. He is not pulling me around nearly as much and I can get him redirected without having to use the lead line as much. I’d like to be able to get a response with as little pressure as possible, but sometimes I need to make sure that he’s not going to get himself into trouble by going where it’s not that safe or near a piece of equipment that he should get that friendly with. But I do like his willingness to investigate new things in a calm way.
One day, I tried putting out small piles of hay with treats on them hoping those things would entice him and help make the yard and parking area more appetitive. He completely ignored them. So much for that idea.
I found that he was quite willing, however, to just stand and eat treats. This seemed to be more important to him than grazing, although he did some of that, too. The slower he walks, the more he grazes, and the more he wants my treats, the happier I am.
Each day that we’ve practiced hand grazing, we’ve also practiced loading onto the trailer. I now close up the back of the trailer immediately after he loads. This will be the way we do it in a strange place, after all. Yesterday, I also moved him on the trailer to the parking area – a move of about 100 feet. He still acted as though he was in some alien place, but not too bad – a little bit snorty. He offloaded very well, calmly if off cue, that that’s okay. I don’t plan to ever break up the offloading in a strange place the same way I do at home. But it helps to break it up at home so that it’s a very calm and deliberate affair elsewhere.
Today, I decided to just take him on a trailer trip around the block. Around the block here means a minimum of three miles.
He was a little sticky to load for some reason. Maybe there was something I did that was different enough that it telegraphed to him that this time the loading was “for real”. I don’t know but he did load and off we went around the block. Again, I closed up the back immediately after he loaded. Then he got a Stud Muffin for that and again when I closed the side door.
When we came home, he was again a little snorty when I opened the side door. I wish I knew why they think their home barn is some strange alien place when they’ve left and come back five minutes later. Does it smell different now?
He had dropped manure on this trip, so he had to wait while I found a fork to move it off the trailer. He got extra treats for waiting. Waiting on the trailer is another good skill to have.
Again, he offloaded a bit early and off cue, but calmly. We walked around and around several times and then we just stood at the back of trailer while I just fed him for being there. No clicking for anything at all. Just free feeding.
Then I asked with a slight direction of the lead line, the lightest pressure I could manage, to see how he would respond – go forward and load or back up and refuse? He went forward and loaded one foot (I CT’d) and then he backed off. Then he offered two feet and stayed there – I CT’d this. Then he went all the way on. Before I could get to the front and CT the full load, he backed off again. Again, slowly and calmly. And I don’t mind this. I’m not going to ask him to get off and right back on again in a strange place. And when I load him in a strange place, I’ll close up the back right away.
I’m having to speed up my training plan a bit because he needs to see a particular chiropractor in less than two weeks and I need to haul him there; she won’t come to me.
Tomorrow I’ll see what he volunteers about loading in general and loading in the parking lot, rather than by the barn.