Updated: Feb 25
This will the last post about this little venture Gracie and I have been on. I'm sharing this because I have had a break through in myself, which I suppose one could say, is actually what this is all about anyway. Ultimately it may be my own break through that helps her have one.
Each person would deal with Gracie's reactions differently based on what they know, what they feel and their own horsemanship journey. And none of those ways (aside from being angry and aggressive with her, throwing her on the ground, flagging her, hitting her, etc) would be 'wrong'. Just different. If you have followed me very long you know that I don't think my way is the only way. Not at all. I just share what works (and what doesn't work!!!) for me and if it helps you - great! If it doesn't help you - great! You can read my Disclaimer HERE.
Yesterday was day 3. Gracie trotted from the hay pile across the pen, then swung around to give me two eyes as soon as I stepped into the pen she shares with Goldie. This caused Goldie to throw her head up and try to run off. That surprised me a little because she has pretty much ignored everything Gracie has been doing, aside from when Gracie would run to her and smash into her. Maybe she was worried that was going to happen, so was moving. I'm not sure and it doesn't matter. I just asked Goldie to go back to her hay and she happily did, burying her head in the hay and ignoring us from them on. I did shut the gate between the two because I didn't want Gracie to go bother Goldie.
To interact with Gracie I just walked calmly up to her - she stood her ground and didn't bolt - then I sent her back to the mat and hay pile. Once there, I "clicked" with my tongue and treated her. (Earlier when I was in the pen with the girls, feeding the hay, I loaded the 'click' by clicking, then treating her, clicking, then treating her. She very quickly paired the two.) Once I had her on 'Place' then I went to the wagon and got the rake. Gracie moved to leave the mat, I put the rake down, went to her and re-set her spot on the mat, clicked and treated. Then went back to the rake. This time she just stood there while I raked up all the manure around her. I did not move the wagon, but instead just walked around and scooped all the manure around her and half way down the pen. Only then did I move the wagon. She did not move so I clicked and treated her. I raked and scooped manure at the other end of the pen and was happy to see her lower her head quite a few times and go into 'grazing' mode (but she did NOT eat). Before I left the pen I clicked and gave her some more treats.
I pulled the wagon out of her area. When she did not move, I clicked and treated, then shut the gate. Later I went and opened the gate between her and Goldie's pen. Gracie of course walked away from the hay mat and arranged herself to face me at the opposite end of the pen. So I just calmly walked to her and sent her back to the mat and clicked and treated.
Today was day 4 and when I went in to clean Goldie's side of the pen Gracie was watching but didn't immediately move! I scooped the poo in Goldie's side then pulled the wagon through the gate between the two girls and closed it. As I pulled the wagon through the gate Gracie WALKED to the other end of the pen, away from the mat and the hay and turned to face me. This time, I walked to her and then led her by the chin back to the mat and hay pile. I had her turn and face where I would be working, then clicked and treated her. When I got the rake she simply stood and watched me.
I moved the wagon to all the manure piles near her and she only moved once. And then it was 3 steps away from the mat, where she stopped to see what I would do. I went and led her by the chin back to the mat and after that she STAYED THERE THE ENTIRE TIME! Whoot!! Amazing. This is one of the smartest, most sensitive and reactive minis I have ever worked with. When I was cleaning the other side of the track, she actually ate some hay. Yesterday she simply stood and watched me clean the entire time. Then she stood and watched me haul water. She did NOT eat until I went in the house - see photo above.
This leads me to the break through for me... I am quite empathic which really does effect how I handle extremely sensitive animals and people. I have to spend a certain amount of time grounding myself when I am dealing with anxious and reactive, sensitive animals as it effects me at a gut level. When I get near Gracie's pen I feel it in my stomach. I get butterflies and feel very uncomfortable. I have to stop, breathe and ground myself and then move on.
If Oliver comes over to me I immediately feel calmer, same for if Zorro comes over to me. I feel WORSE if Sky comes over to me, but she rarely would when I am experiencing these feelings because they effect her too much. I do believe this is why we struggle with each. We are exactly alike. She IS my mirror.
I am a very anxious person all by myself but when I am around a horse or pony that tends to lean that way those feelings get way out of hand for me. I have to really pay attention to that! That is my break through. I don't have to sit with those feelings. I can stop, breathe, quiet my mind and SLOW down (my word of the year!) so I can approach the pony without adding to their anxiety. It does hurt my heart to see a pony who is having such a difficult time living with those feelings. I'm sure it is exhausting for her. But we are seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel. Having a 'Place' is helping because, I do think she was racing around thinking that was what she was supposed to do. She is sure catching onto this new thing fast and seems quite content with this 'new' expectation.