Monday, January 4, 2010

Summary of New Year's Week Progress

Today I leave Bashful in the care of my father once again. We have made some fantastic progress in the last few days. I can now rub him his head and ears and down onto his neck. He will push his head through the coils of a lariat digging for a treat inside it and slowly lift his head to free himself from the coils. Perhaps the greatest change is how seldom he actually leaves me. He will still retreat when some movement or touch is too much, but he just jumps aside, pauses and returns. He wants to trust. He wants to be with me, he just needs more love and patience.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Backstory

For those who are not familiar with Bashful's story, I will be adding more back story details soon: A little about the Theodore Roosevelt National Park Horses, the story of the sale, links to articles, etc.

Every step, no matter how small, is progress

Bashful has been living with Fury, a QH gelding, since he was brought home from the sale in late October. In his first week "home," I was able to get within about 6 feet of him as he ate and drank. I spent a couple brisk nights sleeping next to his hay in the round corral. And then I had to leave for Seattle. Bashful stayed at my parents in Bismarck, ND. I had nowhere to keep a wild horse in Seattle and I wanted to do right by him and not do too much too quickly. He had just been through a very traumatic event involving people and ropes. He didn't need me getting direct line and destroying his confidence further. Besides, he was too sore from the incident to have made the trip anyway. So Bashful stayed in his home state to settle in, heal and learn to accept humans under my dad's care and leadership.

This week I returned to spend some time with Bashful, Willow (my QH mare) and my parents. My dad has done a great job slowing building Bashful's confidence around humans. He really wants to trust... you can feel it, but his instinct and spirit still tell him to flee.

I have had a few nice breakthroughs this week. Most are so small they don't sound like much to describe them here, but remember every step, no matter how small, is progress. Every experience with humans, especially a positive experience, is a first time experience for him. There are moments where it strikes me - this horse has never allowed anyone to touch him. When he nibbles and licks my hand, when he sniffs my shoulder, when he allows me to approach, it is all new. I cannot take any of it for granted.

So here are a few of our recent breakthroughs as well as a few of the things that we are playing with:

1)Today we touched noses for the first time.

2)He has really "turned loose" to me a few times, meaning that at a close distance in which he would generally be quite tense and apt to bolt away, he stood squarely and relaxed, licking and chewing, with his head right by my shoulder.

3)He had been quite skeptical of people on horseback, probably because he had been chased by people on horseback in the park. But in the last few days he has taken to following me as I ride Fury. He will take a treat from my hand, sniff my foot and leg and has even rooted around with his nose in my coat pocket (he really likes cookies).

4)Up until today we hadn't touched him anywhere but his nose. He wouldn't allow anything more. He would either back up or bolt away. Today, however, through patience and a lot of approach and retreat, I was able to run a lariat up his face to his eyes and stroke his cheeks. He put his head through the coils of the lariat to take a treat from my hand and I touched his neck with my carrot stick. Each of these took a lot of patience and waiting for him to find the confidence in himself, but the wait was so worth it.

In the coming days I will see if he will allow me to move up beside him (Zone 2-3) to touch his neck, shoulders and sides with increasing confidence and relaxation.