Saturday was a very wet day. I decided to stay inside where it was warm and give everyone the day off. Sunday turned out to be dry, but still grey and overcast.
I started out the training session with him back in his 6' x 12' stall, only this time, with the gate open. I leaned against the open gate and fed Tai his favorite cookies. It wasn't long before he was sniffing at me asking for one. I gave him a few and scratched his chin. I slowly moved my hand around his face and petted until he walked away calmly.
I rounded up my old soft cotton rope with no clip. I have an exact duplicate with a snap that I also had with me. I spent about 45 minutes tossing and swinging and bumping him with the rope. I covered both sides of his body and his face. I then used it to gently pull his nose towards me and asked him to give to pressure. When he turned to look at me, it fell away, giving instant release. After several rounds of this, I was able to get him to face me with pressure. It was time to move forward. I snapped the duplicate rope to his halter and began his halter training. Give and release, give and release. When he mastered this, I threw the rope up and over his head and around his backside, asking for a release on the opposite side. He was concerned about the opposite pressure, but tried really hard.
Needing a longer rope to dial in this exercise, I gave him a break and got my 25' rope. Man, that longer rope was scary! He paced a bit when I first introduced it to the pen, but he quickly settled. I snapped the long rope to his halter and began desensitizing him with it, doing all the same swinging, tossing and bumping. He got to the point where I could swing it over his head and around his backside and he would give before I even had the rope in place! I knew it was then time for some beginning leading lessons.
I brought him back into his pen and we practised following the pressure as I walked around the pen. When he was comfortable with that, I began "sending" him in a circle around me and then asked him to "hide his hinney", an exercise that Steve Rother taught me. It is when you ask him to turn and face you on the end of the line, essentially, hiding his backside from view, because his face is in the way, or in other words, disengage his hindquarters. It's a good first step to liberty work and a great way to stay safe from his hind feet!
We worked until he would send in both directions, hide his backside/ disengage his hindquarters, lead, and back with indirect pressure.
The sending exercise really connected with him. He caught on to the game fast and was more than happy to face me and approach. He was even comfortable enough to allow me to pet his head and neck down to his withers. Although, he did try to "taste" me, well ok, bite me, which met with a sharp reprimand! A little test of my true leadership position! He wasn't quite sure before he tried that! Now, he's sure!
I worked on getting the halter back over his one ear, but realized that his forelock is wrapped around the halter and also pasted to his head at the wound site. Every time I moved the halter, it pulled on the wound, which is still very sore and swollen. Pain is no way to make friends with a wild one, so I am going to abandon halter work for now and go on to liberty training instead until it either heals enough or he trusts me enough to pull on the forelock. I do not want to risk the halter coming off during a pressure exercise and to teach him that he can leave. I would have been able to do it, if not for the wound. Guess I just get to deal with one more level of difficulty.
I am pretty happy with the progress today. I am still struggling with determining a name. I thought of a few more. Majestic, Streak, Lil' Bit, Jazz, Park, or Patriot (Pate, for short). What do you think?