While I was talking with my sister on the weekend one of the things she said was, “So you’re still teaching …” It made me chuckle as I realized – YEP – just a different species!
Each afternoon I work with the jennies on clicker training. We’re focusing on the same things … touching a target, putting on a halter, and being cooperative for hoof work.
It is one of the favourite spectator activities of the day around here … 😉 Ede has rigged up a ‘stall gate’ that turns the Bully Barn into an enclosed area so I can work with one jenny at a time.
Darby is so keen to do what you ask … I think she must think a mile a minute! It takes a few tries for her to relax and not just go through a whole series of behaviours hoping one of them will get her a carrot cookie. She is a quick study. Within two days she has come to haltering calmly. Darby is considerably bigger than she was last summer. She has always been in a hurry to get her halter on – she LOVES to go for walks and help to trim the front lawn. Ha! So slowing down that process has been good. Plus occasionally she can be too aggressive in wanting to get her treats – so we’ve worked up a sign where I cross my arms and she knows that means to move slightly away and line her head up AWAY from my body. It teaches her to be polite when she is receiving rewards. When I need to I use that signal – it calms her down and reminds her what is expected.
After her run in with sore hooves last spring she was a bit more hesitant to offer her feet. I was glad that today we got to where she was well balanced and trusting me to just gently hold her hoof while she raised it.
Rosie takes in any lesson that she is not part of. She wants to know what she should do the minute she gets me to herself. And boy – does she! Some days she’ll scoot in and stand there holding a hoof up because she saw that was what Darby was doing right before her. She wants those carrot slices pronto!
The tough thing for Rosie is that she usually ends up being the last session. That means she has a bit of a furrowed brow by then … and needs some good positive rewards without having to worry that her BIG sister, Darby, is going to storm in and scoop up all her treats. And that IS a valid concern!
A few days ago we put a chain across the door of the Condo Barn. In the mornings Darby was gulping down her bowl of carrot slices and then often, even before she finished, she’d raid both Rosie’s and Bella’s bowls. The first day I put her bowl in the Condo barn – BAM! – Darby didn’t even see the chain and stormed right through it. Scared the daylights out of the rest of us! Then we put orange reflective tape in the chain so it stood out and secured it on the inside of the door so it wouldn’t give to 500 pounds of donkey … Darby noticed it – tried to push it with her nose – tried to push it with her chest – and then very elegantly dipped her head, lifted the chain, and scooted under it. She still had plenty of carrots in her bowl – but she HAD to have a taste of the others’ as well! We’ll be on to Plan C tomorrow. (Don’t know exactly what that will be yet … maybe a gate similar to the Bully Barn.) I don’t think Darby is ‘mean’ or a ‘bully’ in the herd. She is simply young and hungry and bigger than anyone else – and still learning her manners.
While the girls have their lessons Paco keeps a close eye on the proceedings! He is a bit of a window lurker. 😉 He is still sure that all this fuss about halters and hooves means the farrier and/or the vet are just around the corner (which … admittedly … they are!).
Two friends came by this afternoon to pick up a key and when they stopped at the gate to say hello Paco looked them over and decided – one – they were male – and two – they were unfamiliar. So he herded Bella back out of the way with him and placed her on the other side of the paddock. It never ceases to amaze and enchant me when I see this protective instinct of his come up. I know it has its complications – such as the day either the farrier or the vet really do show up – but it is also a real blessing knowing that he is the glue that keeps the group together AND looks out for them.
Having fun over here at the Meadow. Hope the sun managed to slip through your windows today! The weather is forecasting a warming trend … soon … sooner even than Day 7 ! 😉