I had started working with Diamond with a towel in preparation for a saddle pad and then worked with the saddle pad a couple of times. She never seemed bothered much by the pad or the towel any of those times unless it flapped too vigorously. I dropped the towel a few times on either side of her.
And I let her explore the saddle pad such that she nosed it and it fell to the ground. She seemed to be more relaxed about the pad after it fell down. She also pawed it a bit after it landed on the ground, but I think I saw some subtle change in her when it fell.
Today, I brought out the saddle pad and the saddle. It’s Atty’s saddle and I had to clean it first! Oh well, I’d put that off for far too long anyway!
First I let her nose target the pad several times. Then I touched her shoulder with the pad a few times and gradually moved the pad farther back and up toward her withers and back. Then I put it on her and just fed. I was not clicking, just feeding. As I fed her, I tugged on the pad a bit so that it would eventually slid off. A little tug here and a little tug there and her little movements contributed to the pad falling off.
I planned for it to fall off on the same side I was on in case she decided to jump away from it. That way she’d also be jumping away from me! She made a slight startle, but no real jumping.
I went to the other side and repeated the training there. Hardly a whisker moved.
Then, from the second side, I pushed on the pad a little bit a time so that it would gradually fall off on the far side from me. I also repositioned myself so that if she did jump sideways from it, I wouldn’t be in the way. I also figured that she was used to the pad falling off that side a bit more. She just startled a bit the first time.
Then I returned to her first (right) side and repeated the maneuver so that it fell off the left side. Again, a small startle the first time.
The second time around for both sides and she didn’t move. As you can see in the videos, I just kept feeding.
After the success with the pad, I introduced the saddle the same way as I had with the pad. I let her sniff it and target it with her nose, clicking and treating. Then I touched her with the edge of the stirrup flap a few times and moved back and up. I experimented with lifting it and holding it higher, but my arms got tired.
I went to her left side figuring that she was more used to being saddled from that side than from her right side. But when I lifted the saddle up high to put it near her back, she left town! That told me that the either the history of being saddled from that side was not good or that the saddle was too high or both.
The great result here is that she walked away with the pad on her back and that didn’t seem to bother her at all. And it stayed on!
I then went to her right side and figured out a different way to ease the saddle onto her back. This seemed to be no problem for her and the saddle slid easily onto her back. I just fed her for awhile before taking both the pad and saddle off.
Then we played with the halter some more and I changed my approach. I’m not that handy with rope halters, so some of this training has been for me to get more comfortable with it. I also found that if I hold up the crown piece and train her to put her head under my arm, everything is a piece of cake.
Thank you, Peggy Hogan, for the help with the breakthrough. More on that later. I wanted to get these videos out for you to see along with the update.