Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Red Chair

I haven't been to the farm in almost two weeks.  I've been super busy with craft shows, a 30-day painting challenge, and life.  I'm trying to paint or make art everyday.

So I took my sketchbook (sketch photos to come) to the farm and set up a red lawn chair in the middle of the field and sketched the horses in the distance and this gorgeous place they are privileged to live in and where I am privileged to spend time with them.

Storm noticed me first.  She took a few looks and went back to grazing - not the lead mare.  Of course, when Abbey noticed, it was pretty important to check out what the heck this foreign shape and bright red thing in the middle of her field were.  She came... at a gallop, which is really interesting, considering she doesn't EVER run unless she thinks it's pretty important (which you can kind of tell by the fact that she looks like she's pregnant in this photo... she's not).

She went wide around me to scope it out, while I was talking to her and telling her it was me, but didn't get up.  Note the more relaxed expression as compared to the above photo.

And here my little herd displays the four "horsenalities" (Parelli) to a "T."

Abbey (the butt in this photo) came over and assured herself that I and the chair were not dangerous, then went back to grazing but keeping a careful eye on me.  She is lead mare and takes it very seriously.  She is also a Left Brained Introvert (read:  too smart for her own good).  She was probably also calculating how to disassemble the chair.

Jewel (the paint, not mine) was DEFINITELY calculating how to disassemble the chair, but her style of doing so was totally different.  As a Left Brained Extrovert (read:  into everything, a troublemaker), she marched up, honk-snorted a few times, saw that nothing was eating her, then came over and proceeded to chew on it and me.  I then pushed her out of my space but you can see the look on her face:  "Can I come back?  Can I mouth it?  Can I play with it?  Wanna help?"

Storm, my grey Arab, is a Right Brained Introvert (read:  shy).  SHe is not sure about this situation and is letting the left-brainers scope it out while she adopts her classic pose that means "I'm in my happy place, I'll check back in when I'm a little more confident."  I'm SO glad I've learned to recognize this... it's the key to working with an RBI.

V (the black, not mine) you can barely see behind Jewel's big head.  She is a Right Brained Extrovert (read:  if I'm unconfident, which is most of the time, my feet are moving... and if you try to stop me there'll be trouble).  She is all but untouchable and I'd have been shocked if she wanted to do more than look at the chair from this distance.  She doesn't trust human stuff.  Or humans, for that matter.

Jewel then decided to behave herself and graze nearby.  You can see Storm behind her cautiously checking things out from a distance and with a horse between her and the scary thing.  V uses this tactic as well, but makes a general practice of it.  She will often herd Jewel over to me so she can see what's going on, but from the safety of the other side of another horse.

Pretty soon Storm assured herself that neither I nor the chair were monsters, so she wandered over, nose the chair a bit (for which she was rewarded with carrots and scritches).  However, I noticed that her jaw was still really tight... another sign that she's still not all that sure about things.

Isn't she gorgeous, by the way?  I love mornings and I love my horses, and the two together are pure magic.

The more she nosed and investigated the more I rewarded, which turned into a scraching session, which relaxed her a good deal  She then moved around me a little, checked out the chair from the back, and finally seemed pretty comfortable.  Enough to pose with me :)

When Storm wandered away to graze, Abbey came and licked me a bunch.  I knew what she and Jewel wanted, and I also knew Jewel would go first.  They wanted to investigate.   I'm going to have to get Jewel some indestructible things we can play with... but after she attempted to remove parts of the chair I had to distract her.

Which was when Abbey moved in.  She sniffed it, nosed it, then collapsed it.  Stuck her nose into parts of it, nibbled, picked it up by the fabric, then wanted to know what would happen if she pawed it with a hoof.

At that point I picked up my chair and we headed to the barn for their grain.  I didn't get pics of the clicker stuff we did, cause it was just me today.  I am teaching Abbey to bow.  I'm not sure who's teaching whom, though.  My initial idea was to tap her foreleg gently with a whip until she was irritated enough to pick it up, then click/treat.

No, she said.  Carrots, not sticks.  She already knows that when I snap my fingers she's supposed to touch my hand, wherever it might be.  So I'm holding my hand down between her forelegs and snapping.  SHe touches, gets click/treat.  Then I lifted her leg and targeted her between her knees, which she did with no problem.  Today she is leaning her weight way back over her hindquarters to target, which is progress.  

I also decided that I want to use a neck-rope on them, and I started teaching both of them to walk their heads into it while I hold it, and made some progress on that front (although Ab thought I wanted her to touch the hand holding the top of the rope).  

I want the neck-rope to be a signal that we are going to do some things together, and I want them to have the opportunity to turn away and say, "No thanks, I think I'll graze today, or maybe we can just hang out."  

I suspect I'll be able to teach Abbey to pick it up off the ground and put it on herself, eventually, if I use stiff enough rope.  She's that smart, and that motivated to do things, if there are treats involved.