Friday, August 27, 2010

First day, step one

Sage greeted me with a dragon snort this morning when I came around the corner of the barn, clearly letting me know that she was unhappy that I disappeared for 12 hours and reappeared wearing different clothes. Luna was in the small pasture next to her corral all night, and was kind of miffed that she couldn't walk around to the gate in the big pasture with the other horses, where they normally wait in the mornings to go into their stalls for a few minutes to eat their grain.

Sage watched me as I fed Luna (who was actually pretty thrilled to have her grain/medicines delivered to her outside), curious that another horse would willingly trot up to me. I noticed that she had eaten most of the hay I set out for her, but had touched very little of her water. Since yesterday I've seen her put her nose into the trough several times, but she mostly just wets her lips. Granted, she's from the desert and not used to drinking constantly, but I'd like to see her take a long drink. I know she's familiar with the trough system from the corrals, and I know it was pretty cool last night (mid 50's), so I won't worry about it for a little while yet.

I put Gabby and Brandy in their stalls to eat and came back out to do a short round pen session with Sage. It was the first time I'd been in the corral with her. She was nervous but quickly figured out the game. I asked her to trot around me by pushing her from the hip (not physically, but with body language). Then, we worked on turning (again with body language). She picked this up quickly. A few turns in a row and I was able to get her to stop. If she stopped and looked at me, I would turn away to the side and tell her she was good. The moment she became distracted, I asked her to move again.

She probably would have paid attention for longer if the neighbor hadn't been messing around outside, or Cougar the cat wasn't leaping through the grass, but all of these distractions are important in her learning. I was heartened to see that she didn't seem as afraid of me sometimes as she was of the neighbor's truck.

Most of the time I worked with her, we were a good 6 ft away from each other--her against the fence and me in the middle of the corral. But she quickly picked up the concept of the inside turn (turn towards me rather than away), and when she would stop to look at me, her nose was just a couple of feet away from me. On occasion, I could have reached out to touch her, but I didn't because that wasn't the point of the lesson. This morning I just wanted to show her that she could pay attention, listen, and do what I asked her without it being traumatic.

I ended when we had a particularly good turn and face, where she licked and chewed while watching me.

I let the other horses back into the pasture, and went up to the tree in the garden to get apples for them. Luna especially likes apples. Sage was very curious as she watched the others eat apples from my hands (something she witnessed last night also). She stuck her head over the corral fence trying to get closer. Last night a left an apple in the corral for her and noticed it gone this morning, so I sat by the corral fence and reached in with the apple on my palm. Luna of course was practically standing on top of me trying to convince me that she needed it instead.

Sage was clearly interested, and paced back and forth several times snorting at my hand. After a few minutes, he walked up so close that her whiskers brushed my hand as she took a good look at the apple. She decided she didn't want to risk it and walked away again, looking around curiously. I gave Luna half the apple, hoping she might like it better if she could see and smell the sweet insides. After all, apples are not familiar to her seeing as there aren't any apple trees out in the desert. She came back by one more time, and after about another 20 minutes, I decided to leave the apple on the ground and take care of the other girls. She came to sniff it a few minutes after I was standing up, but she decided her hay was tastier and went to eat that instead, still on the lookout for anything else interesting.

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