Thursday, May 5, 2011

An Update on Cassie and welcome to Mika

I apologize for not posting on the Case Study Blog in so long.  Life and rescue work got busy - and the horses needed me to spend less time on line and at least a little time with me.

Cassie (aka Cassandra) was with me until the Bluebonnet Horse Expo in October.  While she was here, her ground manners greatly improved and her riding skills advanced.  When she went to the Expo, I was riding her both sidesaddle and in a dressage saddle at the walk and trot.  She had gone through a brief time of crow-hopping when pushed under saddle, but a body work session donated by Charlotte Morris of Phoenix Bodyworks helped her move past that.  Over time, she became better balanced under saddle and moved out more willingly.  She was adopted at the 2010 Bluebonnet Horse Expo - before the Expo even began!  A family came to look at another horse who ended up not being a good fit.  They were interested in Cassandra and decided to adopt her, get her training and turn her into a hunter/jumper for their teenage daughter.  I'm so proud of Cassandra!

I had several horses through here from October until the end of March, but none of them had serious behavioral problems.  Then I got Mika.  Mika was part of a five horse seizure conducted in Arkansas a few years ago.  When the horses were seized, none of them were halter broke.   Mika drifted through a few foster homes who didn't do much with her.  One home did have a trainer work with her and get her somewhat halter broke, but then she moved on to someone who didn't do much with her.  When Mika got here, she had a halter on but was nearly impossible to catch, even in a 10 x 10 stall/pen.  When caught, she jumped if you moved your hands or tried to touch her.

So we spent most of April just working in her stall.  I hate to leave a halter on a horse, so I took the halter off of Mika.  That might have been a mistake because I couldn't catch her for the first week.  If you tried to catch her, she spun around with her head in a corner.  I would swing the lead rope and cluck at her until she faced me and then back off (giving her a little space to relax).  After the first week or two, she knew that if I growled the "no" sound at her, she should turn around and face me again. 

Once I started getting my hands on her, I started haltering her in her stall.  With her in a halter and lead, I started rubbing on her neck.  When she tensed or moved away, I kept rubbing until she relaxed and stood still.  After another week, I started taking her on brief trips out of her stall and leading her around the barnyard.  She learned to lead remarkably quickly, probably remembering some of her leading lessons for nearly a year ago.

After she was getting easier to catch and halter in her stall, I put a break-away halter on and put her out in pasture, hoping I could catch her again.  The first night, I couldn't catch her and she missed dinner.  Everyone else got to eat, and she loves her food.  The next morning, she was much easier to catch.  So her routine has become that she gets caught in her stall in the morning after breakfast, has a 5-10 minute training session, and then heads out to the pasture.  In the evening, she gets caught and put in her stall for dinner.

The first training sessions were just getting her acclimated to being handled and touched.  Like in her stall, if she moves around or gets nervous I keep rubbing her until she relaxes and stands still.  She's a smart girl and is getting much better.  I've also taught her to lower her head when I press on her poll.

Right now, I'm rubbing all over her with a long whip.  My goal is to get her comfortable with something touching her legs so eventually I can teach her to pick up her feet.

I'll start trying to keep this blog more up to date so you can read about the steps we take in her training and handling.

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