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 I think all your advice is WORKING !!!
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1433 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2006 :  6:24:58 PM  Show Profile Send OnTheWay a Private Message
Well, an appreciative update. I see a couple of threads, started by me, where Cloud was being bratty, pushy and very, very aloof. I haven't done any ground work (weather and ground is awful), however I've put into practice a lot of the tips, hints and advice you were all nice enough to share with me, and quite patiently I might add.

I now see that I was nervous about getting in her pen with her. All that pacing and intimidation was having its effect on me. I also think there was no fast way around it. I think it's been well over a month now, maybe two, just employing little bits and pieces of wisdom I picked up from people on this board, but here are the results...

First, I stopped feeding her her food bin of hay from my side of the tape. That was reinforcing "her space." Instead I started bringing it in, and keeping my body between her and the food, making her back up or back off until I set it down and said she could go for it. That worked. It didn't take long or too many times of "back up" before she clicked right into the routine -- "I don't get this until it's set down and I'm invited." Her level of politeness increased steadily. Just a little bit more each day. I didn't rush it, I just stayed consistent and waited for her to get the idea.

Next, when I was mucking near her as she was eating, she'd get annoyed that I was too close in her space. The ears would go back and she'd swing her face around at me as a "message." Well, quite simply, when she did that, I smacked her. Not at all hard, not at all aggressively, in fact it was kind of a joke. But it was immediate. Ears back, head swing... flat handed slap on the neck. Like clockwork. Predictable clockwork. All that did was let her know I saw her gesture, and there must be some weird reaction humans have where if you put your ears back and swing your head, darned if that arm doesn't just for some reason shoot out really fast and make a quick statement. But then life goes on as though it never happened.

In the few times she got snitty (the pacing which was intimidating and I'm sure it was meant to be... or the little "pop" of a jump where the front feet came off the ground just an inch or two, and ears back), I reacted fast with voice and chased her entirely out of the barn. (That only had to happen twice.) Key word: "Reacted."

Those are only the overt things, but along with getting the gist of that (if not downright doing it by rote in some cases at first) came the "psyche" of co-horting with this horse. Over time it became a "parallel play" kind of thing where it was just as natural for me to be in her pen with her, mucking alongside her eating, as not. She went from being distracted by my working (while she was eating) to gradually just not even paying attention. I became a stall mate.

As part of this whole thing, even if I didn't have to move her butt over to give myself room, I made a point of doing it. I'd push her this way, muck around with my fork, fine tune that part where she'd been standing, then I'd push her in the other direction and do the other side. (Whether it needed it or not.) The important thing was that she was moving her feet because I wanted her to. No big deal made of it, just very matter-of-fact, moved her this way and that.

Any sign of attitude? Darned if that arm wouldn't fly out from nowhere, and tap her. Short, quick and to the point. Then it was over. Forgotten. Back to business as usual.

Well, something has happened, and I am SO pleased with it, I just had to share it back to you. This horse has been warming up to me. Not a little bit, but a lot. I used to enter her pen, she'd turn her butt toward me. I now come into the barn and walk toward her pen, she comes over to the tape and greets me. I step onto the other side of the pen and go to scratch her face under her halter. She used to pull her face away. Now she lowers her face and stands there, enjoying the contact. She used to get that mouth a little too close to my hand, I'd be nervous. Maybe afraid she'd bite or something. I now leave it there. She will quiver the top lip and "lip" my hand, more as though to explore than anything. I let her. In fact, it makes me laugh. She hears my laugh and she seems to relax with it. (It occurs to me that a human laugh has certain characteristics of rhythm to it similar to the rhythm of sounds that horses make.)

She sees me coming with a lead rope (to cross tie her and groom her). Instead of heading outside to avoid, she stands there facing me. Just sort of waiting. It used to be I'd scratch her on the withers and she'd lay her ears back and swing her head my way as though she was annoyed. So I punched her softly, just a gentle nudge not to do that. Again quick, again over quick. She doesn't do that anymore.

In fact, for the first time, I'm feeling a bonding taking place with this animal. And it seems to be both ways. It's like she's discovering me, and like I'm discovering her in a new way. I don't know which came first. I only know I've been doing little baby steps. Lot of little things, that have come out on this board, just working them in and letting them set the pace. Just establishing... whatever I've been establishing. Consistently, never changing, always the same. The mindset? "You're my horse and I'm your human." Nothing more complicated than that.

It's been a little over 4 months since I've had Cloud. She's my first. I think it's just taken that long for me to learn something about... "horse." And from so many answers from all of you. I'm starting to really, really love this animal. Just the little moments, sometimes seconds, where we seem to be sharing something, or maybe a nothing much. And whatever it is, it's totally unspoken. Nothing about it is manufactured or pretended, or "Act as though..."

About a week ago, I groomed her. She was dirty from rolling. The snow had melted. Her paddock is muddier than elsewhere. There was grass outside of it. I had the flu, felt awful, but it was a beautiful day. Instead of putting her back after grooming, I led her outside the other side of the barn, to the grass. I didn't feel up to standing, but wanted her to have a few minutes of good old fashioned grazing. So I sat down on the ground and laid back on one elbow, head propped in my hand, down coat on, and just watched her. My lead rope was only 8 feet long. She could have stepped on me. Had she spooked she could have trampled. She's never seen me that vulnerable before. I was trusting her.

The other day I got it back. I don't think I'd have seen this a month or two ago. Certainly not from three feet away. My camera has no zoom.

Trail Boss (Moderator)

2546 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2006 :  6:38:19 PM  Show Profile  Visit Saddletramp's Homepage Send Saddletramp a Private Message
Huge congrats, OTW and Cloud! She really "needed" for you to step up and be the alpha mare...she fell right into step with you, and quickly, so to speak!

Again, congrats! You are probably floating above the ground right now because of the progress that you two are making!


"She never moved the stars from their courses,
but she loved a good man and she rode good horses"
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Trail Boss (Moderator)

5303 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2006 :  6:41:57 PM  Show Profile Send PaintGal a Private Message

Sounds like you have established yourself as boss hoss with Cloud!! I'm so happy you've "turned the corner" with her and the two of you have come to an understanding.

Karen ~ Trails & Joe Paint Gelding Paoli, IN
"My treasures do not sparkle or glitter, they shine in the sun and neigh in the night." ~~~~~~
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Red Hawk

5092 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2006 :  6:55:43 PM  Show Profile Send Red Hawk a Private Message
Give yourself a big pat on the back, OTW. You are on your way to understanding your horse so much better and she's beginning to understand you. The bonding process has definitely begun. I'm so happy for you.

I'd still be leary of laying on the ground near a grazing horse. Mainly because even if she wouldn't do it intentionally, if something spooked her and you were in the way, she would run right over top of you to flee whatever startled her. If you were on the ground, there would be no way you could get out of her way in time.

On the flip side, horses will not lay down unless they are totally at ease and do not feel threatened in any way. A horse's main defense is to run, and they cannot do that when they are laying down. So, a horse has to feel very secure and safe, indeed, to lay down... and even more so to stay laying down and let a human come up to them without jumping up and on their feet. When a horse stays down, they are putting total trust in their human.

You and Cloud have started a wonderful relationship, and may it continue to grow for years to come.

"God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses"
--Robert Browning

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
-- Author Unknown
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985 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2006 :  7:39:53 PM  Show Profile  Visit beccajane's Homepage Send beccajane a Private Message
Way to go! Sounds like you yourself have come a long way also! Keep up the good work. The picute is awesome! It is hard to come that close, let alsone take a picture while they are lying down! She is beautiful too! I'm sure there have to be horses in heaven!
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1630 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2006 :  8:28:57 PM  Show Profile  Visit Stormie's Homepage Send Stormie a Private Message
Doesn't it just feel great when things start to click!
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1433 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2006 :  10:57:01 PM  Show Profile Send OnTheWay a Private Message
Yes, yes, yes!!! Very interesting, she is being as sweet and open and curious as can be... not just with me though, also with my daughter. It's like night and day. I don't know what did it, if any "one thing" did; or if maybe it could be something so simple (or what I mean is complex) as just having been here long ENOUGH so that suddenly she's decided this is her home? I'd love to say she only snubbed me and now only shows a difference with me, but she also snubbed Jenny's advances, and we just stopped in the barn on our way in from dinner, and she was right over at the tape, socializing with both of us. Very curious, very friendly, sniffing things, lipping our hands, checking out a doggie bag of Indian cuisine, deciding curry isn't for her.

What I found really cute is that yesterday we "exchanged breath." I'm sure you all may know more about that than I do, but I've picked up a lot of misc. trivia about horses in reading, and so I'll tell it as though you don't know, just cause it's easier to tell it that way. One of the ways horses get acquainted, and then show acceptance is to exhale onto/into the nostrils of another. She did that to me last night, so I did it back to her. (She wins though, I don't have enough breath to make a "total" showing.) ROFL.

Becca, thanks for the nice words. The angle I shot it at is unfortunate but I was afraid to be too picky. Her legs in the photo look like they're about 9 inches long compared to a huge head. Just the angle, but if you look at it right, nine inches, max. LOL.

Now if she'd only pick a cleaner place to roll. She'll really soup it up and get downright "earth brown" which is really fun to try to brush out (yeah sure). Hey, I guess what's life all about if you can't roll in some mud, right?

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Trail Boss (Moderator)

6117 Posts

Posted - 01/23/2006 :  05:26:55 AM  Show Profile  Visit Hook's Homepage Send Hook a Private Message
It takes time and consistency to really know a horse and for a horse to trust you. You are over the hump and beginning the journey that keeps true horse people hooked. ( have to report you to HAA)

As your confidence builds in Cloud it will be reciprocated. May the bumps in the future be small.


Hook(ed)......on Horses

"The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. " Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
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559 Posts

Posted - 01/24/2006 :  08:26:50 AM  Show Profile Send Parrothead a Private Message
congrats OTW. Ain't horse ownership great. I agree that the folks here and the advice is priceless. If I followed 1/3 of the knowledge I have accumulated here my horses would be so well trained....
It's nice to see that someone besides me has a "tricolor" paint in the muddy season.... heehee

Life is too short to ride bad horses.
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1433 Posts

Posted - 01/24/2006 :  09:05:11 AM  Show Profile Send OnTheWay a Private Message
LOL, PH. Tri-color she is. This animal can get downright "brownish grey." Amazingly, she was at one point wet (outer hair soaked, inner/under fur still dry) with icicles hanging off her and filthy to boot. Within two days all that dirt was gone and it was in the time period when I was sick and she hadn't been brushed. Yesterday she was dirt-covered. This morning she's white as snow again. (And not from the snow, lol.)

She actually IS tri-colored in the summertime. Really amazing, but out the outside of all her brown spots there's about an inch wide border that looks blue. It surrounds all her spots. It must be grey, but it has a distinctly blue look to it. Her coloring patches may not be the solid larger patches that some Paints have which I find very attractive (e.g., see PaintGal's photo), but dang, they are absolutely beautiful when her winter coat isn't on. Kind of like a desertscape painting.

Today if I'm up to it after this morning's "heavy duty increased" barn chores, and the wind stays down, I'm going to spend some time with curry and brush and the Miracle Groom my daughter got me for Christmas. I told her NOT to spend much money (she doesn't have any to spend) so she went down to Stateline Tack, ensnared what's the best salesperson for this kind of question, and said she wanted to be shown all the inexpensive little gadgets that someone new to horse ownership wouldn't have yet. What a neat Christmas THAT was! I had soooo much fun. But among things she got was a semi "dry cleaner," this Miracle Groom stuff. Tried it once so far, it actually worked.

And re your first sentence, YES IT IS!!!!! If I had started all this at a younger age, I'm telling you, I'd either be into cross country or dressage, maybe both. And probably have a couple horses for each, lol. Can't believe how many years I spent on a tennis court fretting over women's tennis league when I could have been putting my time and money into horses!!!!!!!!

Oh well. Better late than never. ;-)
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