Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesdays with Tex: Another Breakthrough

A year ago, when I started working with Tex in earnest, he was afraid of the halter and afraid to be touched.  He would reluctantly allow me touch him, but he would flinch and, sometimes, step away. 


Gradually, he has come to view the halter as a welcome thing -- it usually means he is going to hand graze or go to the barn, out of stormy weather.  And, he's gotten better with me touching his shoulder.  He no longer flinches, or even tenses, when I rest my hand there and give him a friendly scratch. 


In fact, at times, he seems to welcome and look for that part of the greeting.  We have been working some more at liberty and he is fine with me resting my hand on his neck as we walk along.  I do it to maintain my space, so I don't get stepped on, but he seems to view it as a friendly thing.  When I go into the pasture, he leaves Flash and comes to me.  We walk all over the pasture, side by side, with him following me in circles and bendy loops -- the way you do with a dog at heel.  Except he is completely at liberty.  No halter, no lead rope, he can leave whenever he's done.  Recently, we've added backing up to our repertoire.  Again, standing at his shoulder, I take an exaggerated step backwards.  He matches.  I usually am "done" with our playtime before he is.  I don't think he has ever left.  Brett says he follows me like a dog. 


The horses are in the barn at the moment, as we have a series of rain systems moving through our area this entire week.  Yesterday evening, I mucked out all the stalls and run-outs when I got home from work.  Brett was gone, meeting a semi on the main road, to get his new log splitter.  The horses all ignore me, to some degree, while I pick up the manure.  Lucy demands attention, but the others are uninterested.  Tex usually stands at the far end of his run-out, watching me from a distance. 


Not last night.  He was at the back gate to his run-out when I went in with the muck cart.  Instead of moving to the stall end of his area, when I finished and was walking back to the gate with the cart, he stood, at an angle, facing me and blocking the gate.  I was sure he would move as I got closer.  He didn't.  I stepped closer to him and touched his shoulder.  He turned and looked at me.  I scratched the spot just behind his withers where you so often see horses grooming each other.  His lower lip twitched in enjoyment.  When I stopped, he licked and chewed; a nice release.  And he didn't move.  I rubbed his back. Then I rubbed his butt, thinking he would move for sure.  Nope.  There was more chin twitching, with him leaning into me.  Then another release. 


I still had Flash's area to clean and it was getting late.  I walked to the right side of Tex.  He hates having people on his right side.  He tensed a tad but he didn't move.  Seriously?  A massage on this side too?  Yes, that was exactly what he wanted. 


I was finally able to move him out of the way, after a thorough massage on the right side.  I guess he's figured out that I'm a positive thing to have in his life.  I don't bring pressure and pain; I bring positive reinforcement, gratitude and kindness.  And, after a year of offering him that consistent intent, he has decided to fully trust me. 


What a gift. 

13 comments:

  1. I think Tex is in love! It must be such a good feeling to have him look for you and want to be with you. You've certainly gained his trust and all your patience has paid off. What a lovely horse. It's so nice to see a horse turn his thinking and attitude around and be able to trust again.

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    1. Thanks! That voice that told me there was more to Tex than the afraid and reactive horse we had, certainly turned out to be true. I'm glad I listened and tried. He's teaching me so much and I'm learning how important time is in the equation. You just can't rush this stuff.

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  2. That tingly thing that happens in your nose when you get weepy? Yeah. That just happened. Good boy, Tex. Congratulations, ma'am.

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    1. Funny thing, Karen, the exact same thing happened to me.

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  3. An American in TokyoMarch 22, 2017 at 7:37 PM

    Awww, that is so, so sweet!!!
    I am glad to hear that he is trusting you so much now!!!
    YAY, TEX!!! YAY!!! =D

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  4. I tame wild donkeys through a BLM program. I will say that I get a lot farther with their training when I work at liberty than I do when I try to start with a halter. I think, for smarter animals (like donks and, very likely, Tex), liberty work allows them to choose when to stay and when to leave. This ability to choose helps them to feel like they have have more control over the situation which, consequently, makes them feel braver. That bravery eventually leads to trust, which is where you're finally getting. There is nothing better than having a formally wild animal run up to you and beg for attention. :-)

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    1. Your theory makes a whole lot of sense. Tex has done his share of leaving (even if its just a step or two away) and returning over the past year. I think Tex having control over his involvement does make him braver.

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  5. This post just warms my heart, as do most of the recent posts about Tex!! I love it!!

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  6. That gave me goosebumps. It's been interesting- Carmen has become more 'demanding' of her scratches and greetings too.

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    1. I think that when they are shedding, the scratches feel particularly good.

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  7. I'm so happy for you and Tex! I remember when you started this journey and know how far you've come. It took a lot of trust in yourself and your intuition, which appears to have been rewarded. I think all of our horses do better when we follow that path, but some will have it no other way. In my experience, they're the ones that we bond the hardest to.

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.