Thursday, September 11, 2008

Busy First Week

Bo has now been with me for a little over a week and we've been very busy. Every morning I turn him out for a few hours in the paddock at the top of the hill. At mid-day I bring him down to his stall and yard. We got the yard enclosed with an electric tape fence, which he's learned to respect. He seems to like the option of having his stall as a run-in area, and I as often find him in his stall as outside.

Bo is now looking forward to my frequent visits to the barn. He now follows me along the electric fence when I walk by, whereas only days ago he would ignore me. He comes right into the stall to see what I have for him to do.

Bo and I take one to two walks a day up the road. These walks are for his (and my) fitness, but they're also an opportunity for teaching Bo exactly what I expect of him. In this case, I expect him to walk beside me on whichever side I'm holding his lead, with his head even with my hip. I like to be able to see him peripherally. He's not to cross either behind or in front of me, and he's to maintain the speed I pick, no rushing forward or lagging behind. And finally, I want him walking on a loose lead, no pressure either from me or him. To that end, I click and reward him when he is in the desired position. This has kept him engaged with me while walking, and I only have to make minor adjustments now.

A few days ago, Bo finally got to see the neighbor's horses and they saw him. Bo was excited to see any horse (he's the only equine on my farm at the moment), and the neighbor horses were typically excited by a stranger who also happens to be the size of a golden retriever. This excitement offered a great training opportunity for Bo. He was allowed to stand and get a good look at the neighbors, and he could even call out to them, but I expected him to stand at my side and keep his feet still. I clicked/rewarded him for being in the proper position, and corrected him and put him back in position when his emotions took over. I was very pleased with his responses.

Last night Bo had the opportunity to perform one of his responsibilities on the farm: he's equine ambassador for non-horsepeople visitors. We had my husband's boss over for dinner, and Bo charmed him just by being cute. His small stature makes him perfect for non-horsepeople to feel comfortable.

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