Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June 1-6
Time flies when you're having fun—and working hard!
Penny and I have been working on "touch." She now understands the concept that click equals treat. When she hears that sound, her head turns and she is completely focused. Now she knows that if she even brushes my hand with her nose, that gets a click and treat. Taking treats is a little harder because she still wants to take them roughly, though that's getting better and better. She isn't intentionally hurt me, so I just draw my hand back a bit and give her the treat carefully. I just have to remember to do this when Cali isn't around and preferably when she's distracted because otherwise, she stands and waits for her treat. I tried clicking and treating both of them, one after the other, but I think j's too confusing, or at least, it's too confusing for the handler!
The two horses are getting along well now except when I go in to interact with them. Cali chases Penny off, and Penny chews submissively before she leaves. When they're alone together, they're perfectly fine, even eating side by side. I have to separate them when I give grain or hay, though, because Cali needs to lose some weight, and given her way, she would eat her grain, then go to Penny's and eat the rest of that as well. Penny will eat her grain but will save some for later, and when later comes, Cali has eaten it all! My greedy, precious little girl!
Yesterday, the farrier came to trim the horses' feet. Of course, he's in love with Cali—who wouldn't be?—and thinks she's amazing, which, let's face it, she is. He also says her feet are in great shape, which is no thanks to me. I clean them all the time, but I'm also lucky that Cali has good feet. Honestly, though, I haven't found a farrier who did as good a job as Dolores did. I've gone through farrier and farrier and have been disappointed each time. So Dolores, if you'd come to do some trimming...
The farrier had something to say about Penny, though, and I am very upset about the whole situation. Apparently, Penny's front feet and legs are pretty bad, meaning that both are crooked. Her left front hoof has been trimmed so that it's almost straight now. One more trimming and that leg will be perfectly fine. Penny's right front leg, though, has been twisted, and her hoof has been turned. Apparently, her leg is not looking too great. I couldn't tell when I bought her because she, like many young horses, wouldn't let me touch her legs. Anyway, the farrier believes her feet have never been trimmed because of how bad they are. He also thinks that it's possible to fix the right front leg, but only time will tell. I don't know how much little Penny has, though, and am sad about the situation. If her leg can't be straightened, there's no sense in training her as a guide because guide work will require that she learn to jump in and out of vehicles as well as living quite a long life without being lame, which Penny probably won't do if that leg isn't straightened out. Bruce, Claudia's husband, says that Penny's legs already look much better, but I'm still worried. The vet is coming out on Wednesday, and after her prognosis, I'll make a decision. At this point, I'm torn about what to do. I can't and won't sell Penny for what I paid for her, partly because it's not fair to sell her without making it clear that she's got an issue with her legs. I was impetuous in buying her, and I guess that'll learn me. Hopefully, though, I won't have to pay too high a price for my stupidity. If I have to give up Penny, I might find a mini rescue that'll take her. Otherwise, I can't in good conscience just sell her to someone. Maybe it won't come to that. Maybe she'll be fine in a few months. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. Please let the vet give me and Penny some hope.
I've been working with Penny on letting me touch her legs because I knew that the farrier would come, but frankly, I hadn't gotten very far because I only had a few days to prepare. At this point, I am a novice trainer, so I didn't think I could get too much accomplished.
Before the farrier came, I told him that I wasn't going to manhandle Penny, and he agreed that I could do whatever I wanted to calm her. He isn't at all averse to clicker training, though I don't think he does it with his own horses. At any rate, when the farrier touched Penny's legs, I clicked and treated like crazy. When he picked up each foot, I clicked and treated. Everything he did to her earned lots and lots of clicks and treats, which I think contributed a lot to Penny's association between clicking and treating. So the farrier got his job done with Penny no worse for wear.
And now, on to Cali. She is still the best of the best, the cutest of the cute. Now that Penny is here, Cali has become even more obedient, even more biddable, probably because she's extremely jealous. When I call her while she's on grass, my girl now comes right over, takes her treat, and lets me pet her, which doesn't sound like a feat but really is, considering that a few weeks ago, she would take the treat, turn and run off to eat more grass, and simply walk away when I got close to her. Now she takes her treat and will find the deck steps for me. Then I'll treat her, and she'll turn around and grab a mouthful of grass. This is because I taught her that finding the deck steps deserves the reward of a few bites of grass. A few weeks ago, Cali would walk around those steps to get to the gate so that we could leave. Now she realizes that finding steps means grass, and she loves the game. She also loves to run up the deck steps and find things such as chairs, tables, her bucket, hoof picks, the door, and the hose. Smart girl! The only problem is getting her off the deck. Believe it or not, She loves being on the deck more than she loves grass. To coax her off the deck, I've got to go down the steps myself and wait at the bottom until she's convinced that the game is over. Then she'll reluctantly come down.
Today I was at a doctor's appointment while both horses were on grass. I asked Bruce to take them off the grass and put them in their respective pens, and when I got home, he had an interesting Cali story to tell me.
Apparently, Penny was reluctant to come off the grass. With me, she doesn't hesitate to let me touch her and take her off grass, though she won't actually come to me, so finding her is an interesting challenge. Anyhow, Bruce left the gate open while he was taking Penny into the shed and was letting her out into her area when he happened to feel a soft nose on his hand and looked over to find that Cali was in the shed beside him! My jealous girl, who never ever goes into the shed off of grass on her own was so jealous that she came willingly into the shed and didn't even try to leave when Bruce was leaving. Again, the best of the best, the cutest of the cute!
I didn't do too much with Cali today because I had a horrible migraine and was convinced that I needed a vacation from myself. Still am, but I'm not sure how to go about doing that just yet! I had fruitless doctor's appointments for most of the afternoon, so when I got home, it was past seven. The girls weren't getting hay tonight because they'd feasted on grass all day, so I decided that I'd play with them. I worked again with Penny, clicked and treating for "touch" and then working carefully to touch her legs. I only worked on the front legs today because I really wasn't in the mood to be kicked. Little as she is, I still don't relish the prospect. Penny didn't approve of being touched, but lots of clicking and treating allowed me to rub her front legs, where before, she would pin her ears and try to bite me each time my hand touched those tiny legs. She's still not happy about the prospect, but she's getting to where she understands that I'm not going to hurt her. This is an amazing accomplishment considering that two weeks ago, this horse had never been handled, or at least, not gently, as far as I can tell.
Tonight Bruce was putting up a fan between both stalls, and Miss Cali decided that she would stand right underneath the saw while Bruce worked. She didn't even flinch at the loud noise the saw made or the electric screwdriver or when he pulled some of the boards out to put in the fan. She was covered in sawdust and didn't care at all. Silly girl! And when the fan was in and on, Cali stood beneath it.
Penny, on the other hand, was a different story. I had to constantly click and treat her each time we heard a loud noise. Bruce let me know before he did anything, so I was prepared and didn't flinch myself at the loud noises. At the end of the ordeal, Pennystock didn't try to run away but stood with ears forward, ready for the next treat. Just a few days ago, Penny would take treats, but her ears were always pinned. Maybe it's a sign of anxiety? I'm not sure, but it doesn't matter now because she's happy to take treats when new things happen.
But Penny was still afraid of the loud fan and didn't want anything to do with the shed for about ten minutes. When she saw that I was walking in and she would be alone outside, though, she changed her mind and came in, at which point, there was more clicking and treating going on. So much for trying to be on a strict diet regime with the girls!
Both of these horses are so amazing that I can't believe how blessed I am to have them. Many days, they're the only reason I get up. Many days, I feel completely alone, and Penny and Cali are my solace. How lucky I am!

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