Thursday, September 17, 2009

Walking Through Grass

I just had to comment on the issue of walking through grass and using c/t for absolutely everything I do with my mini.

Because Cali is a working horse and needs to be guiding, I don't generally let her have grass while we work, though I do occasionally give her grass as a reward or when I stop to chat with someone. Cali is pretty good about keeping her head up while we work and won't stop for grass except when she knows my mind is elsewhere.

I've worked quite a bit on getting her to understand when she can and cannot have grass. For instance, in the mornings, when I've got a few minutes before the bus comes to pick us up for work, I deliberately walk her over to the grass and say "go ahead" so she gets the idea. And when the bus comes, I tell her it's time to go. Her ears go up, her head comes up, too, and we're off.

Also, there are times when I ask her to pick up her head and move along with me. I then reward her for coming with a bit of grass. That way, she knows the grass supply won't run out. I want Cali to love to work and to know she'll get rewarded for doing what I need from her.
Now, when we're walking, Cali almost never stops for grass. She just trots along with her head up, passing all the grass on both sides of us. There's always grass to the right and left of us because we walk on city sidewalks. And there are also the tempting flowers. But Cali rarely goes for the grass. Now, I usually take Cali for a walk after I've fed her because I figure if she's hungry, she'll be wanting food, in this case, grass, and it isn't fair to take her out and work her if she's hungry.

Now, I just have to address the issue of the suggestion that to much c/t could make a horse an automaton. Cali is living proof that c/t doesn't do that. She has a mind of her own, and I actually think the clicker makes her more confident in her abilities as a guide. She always insists she's right when we stop for something, whether it's a curb, a terrain change I didn't notice, or some obstacle. I've gotten a few good bruises from not stopping and listening to my little girl! She really is always right!

Cali also potties on cue. I can ask her to potty, and usually, she'll pee first. Then she gets her c/t, and I ask again. Usually, within two minutes or so, Cali poops, and another c/t. We go to work, and she won't need to potty for a good four hours! Talk about an awesome horse!
Okay. I'll go away now and let everyone ponder all that. Really, Cali is even more amazing that I've explained, and the more I work with her, the more in awe of her I am. It's only been three months since we really became a team. I can't imagine how it will be in three years or, God willing, thirty years.
I'm off to clean up horse poop and feed my girl, and maybe we'll play with her ball. That, too, is accompanied by lots of c/t!

Mona's Updates

Well, it was bound to happen. This is something else, I'll tell you. Every
day is a new adventure. I'd write it all down, but just living it takes all
my energy.

Dr. Woodward came to see Cali last week, and Cali is losing a baby tooth and
got her teeth floated. She sure needed it, which was why I called in the
first place. The vet says Cali is great and not to worry too much. Uh-huh.
I'm good at worrying.

Cali and I are learning so much together, and now that I'm learning to relax
a bit (only a bit, unfortunately), we have more fun together. Cali and I
even make a game out of cleanup in the morning. And now, she calls to me
every time I come outside or to the window where she can see me. She even
calls to my family.

Only one thing mars this for me, and it has nothing to do with Cali at all.
I had to give Baylea to Adria because the owner of the office building said
she had to go, and I didn't trust leaving Baylea at home, not with my family
and their predilection for getting rid of bunnies. So Adria took her. The
office is more spacious now, and all of Baylea's things are gone, replaced
now with a myriad of horse things. I knew that this might happen, but it's
still hard. My only solace is that despite Adria's vows that she isn't
interested in animals, she loves Baylea and is taking excellent care of her.

I still want my bunny back and have thought about what I could do to keep
her. It wouldn't be fair, though, for her to be alone all day and most of
the evening, as Cali and I take walks. And she wouldn't be able to run
around like she can at Adria's. So I let her go.

Other than that, things are pretty much okay. Even though I try not to, for
many reasons, I fall in love with Cali more and more each day, for the
little things, like when she puts her head on me to sleep or the way she
breathes out just before she gets a treat, or the way she runs for her ball
as soon as we get home, or the way she wipes her wet face on me after she
gets a drink if I'm not quick enough at grabbing a paper towel. I can't help
it, even though I've told myself that loving her so soon might not be wise.
But life is about risks, about taking chances, and I'm taking mine. I stand
right next to Cali now, and she knows it. I really try, but I can't love her

So, things are fine right now. I just got my GPS last night and am playing
with it. There are places around here that I never knew about! Imagine that!
And within walking distance! The one store I can get to is definitely NOT
wheelchair accessible. It's a store with mostly Arabic stuff, but when you
need something...

Well, I'll go away for now and get some sleep. Tomorrow, there's more of
that fabulous calculus book to read, though I can't complain, because Rob is
actually rotating it so I don't have to read the entire thing. He realizes,
I'm sure, that I wouldn't!

By the way, I taught Cali Adria's name just once, and now she takes me
straight to her, even when Adria doesn't want to be found, I think! And yes,
Adria really likes Cali, not enough to let her in the car when her feet are
wet, but enough to take her otherwise.

Guide Dog User Visits Mona

Claudia visited with Cali and Mona. Claudia is blind and uses a Guide dog.
She also has horses. Since she also lives in Michigan. She asked about a mini
as a guide for some time in the future.

This is her report of visiting with Cali and Mona.

We had a fabulous time! Cali is unbelievably beautiful and smart, as good a
worker as any of my dogs! Mona spent about three hours with me and my
husband and shared a wealth of information. I learned so much about guide
horses over the weekend. I visited two farms on Friday and am forwarding
pictures for your opinion. After careful consideration, I believe the wisest
path for me is to look for the foal of my choice and raise it myself to be
trained when mature. I still have a good 3-4 or more years with Freedom and
I see real benefit to not having two guides at the same time. I also need to
research funding or grant feasibility to finance the training. As you know,
all my guide dogs have been provided to me with no charge. Training a guide
horse is unaffordable at this time . Michigan State University has an Human
Animal Bond Initiative which is a place for me to start. I'm hoping to write
a grant proposal to fund an experimental guide horse training project. Are
you interested in participating? I need expertise from the horse trainer's
perspective, as well as recommendations for potential grant resources. I
also invite you to start searching for the right foal. I am checking out
Michigan mini breeders as well. You probably have more resources on the east
Coast. I want an Arab, similar to Cali. Cali actually could pass for my Arab
mare's offspring, same color and disposition. Mona expressed interest in
visiting me and my mare and I plan to take pictures of Cali with Exie