I’m working on that Cookie.
She doesn’t like things on her back. Back related tack scares the bejeezus out of her. She goes sideways, snorts, and shakes.
So, I’m starting small. I put my gloves on her back…no problem. I put a body brush on her back…just fine. Yesterday, y’all saw the crown on her back. Didn’t even lift her head from eating.
Yesterday afternoon, I pushed her boundaries even more…I push until she’s uncomfortable, then hold there until she relaxes…here, I’ll show you pictures of what I mean, using my sweater.
I took off my hoodie, and put it on her back.
You can see, she’s not super bothered by it, but the ears and tension in her front half tell me she’s unsure about this plan. So, I talk softly, tell her she’s awesome, that she can do this, and rub her neck, her back, her bum. In reality, it doesn’t matter the words I use, it’s all in the tone and the hands.
Here she’s relaxing…my tone and hands tell her that thing on her back isn’t scary, and can’t hurt her.
It also helps that the sweater has my scent all over it…well, mine and hers. Everything I wear smells like her. 😉
And there…from scary thing to “oh I might as well have some water” in less than 5 minutes.
The key is reading her body language, and figuring out how far I can push her boundaries. When that pretty head goes way up in the air, and there’s tension on the lead rope, I know, I have to move slowly, talk quietly and reassure her. As the head comes down, the tension eases, and she relaxes under what ever is happening to her. Also, when she is unsure, I don’t take away the thing that’s causing the pressure. I want her to relax and know that if I say “Hey, this is fine” with the scary thing in place, then she knows that scary thing just isn’t. Once she relaxes, even if only enough to sniff the thing, then I take away the “scary thing”.
~~~~~~~~~~~ Small tangent~~~~~~~~~~~
I use the same methods when asking for her feet. And I’ve made progress there too. From not wanting to give me her feet at all, to giving it her best try. I can lift fronts up and clean them out, and we’re working on balance. It’s been a while for her, so she’s re-learning basics, like how to balance with a foot in the air, without falling on your human.
When it comes to backs, there have been huge strides (haha!) there too…I handle her back half just as easily as her front now, only she hasn’t given me a hoof yet. It’ll come, sooner, rather than later, I know, because she’s shifting, and going on toe, but not quite a lift yet. Again, it’s reassuring her that giving me her foot isn’t scary, that if she needs it back, she’ll get it (after all, it’s her foot!), and I’m not doing anything weird back there.
One thing I love…and so many horse people take this tiny move for granted…is I can now walk all the way around her without the worry of being booted. I use the universal technique of keeping one hand on her bum while going around her rear, and she’s 98% relaxed. Couldn’t do that with her before. She’d go sideways, or swing her bum away and watch me. Now, she stands, and lets me go around her. 🙂
Once she’s comfortable, then I let it go. Take the sweater off her, put it back on, and she sniffs me all over. But, before I take it off her, I take pictures, and I get this look at the end…
“Really? Must you take pictures of all the humiliating things you do to me?”
Oh yes. Yes, I must. 😛
While this is going on, Ruby is doing this…
“Oh lawdy, that child done wore me out!”
Kid made her work and think too…it’s good for her.