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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

JJ: Basic Training

Dani and I started at square one, with a halter and a lead rope and a lot of repetitions of basic procedures. I have no idea how many times I cycled that red halter on and off of her head before it got to be an unflinching routine for both of us and we went on to the next step. The "next step" was a little more interesting. It involved tying her to a (hopefully) immobile object and letting her learn the Borg "Resistance is futile" theme from the old Star Trek episodes. I had to learn to tie a quick-release knot that held under extreme pressure and she had to learn that once she was tied to something, she was stuck there till she was released. This was a lesson she did not like and it took quite a while for her to settle down, even when I was with her, talking to her and calming her, but she eventually gave in and relaxed. The next step was getting her used to being handled and involved currying her, rubbing her down with assorted items like sacks and saddle blankets, and generally gently hassling her till she learned to accept the handling and trust the handler. We had one memorable moment during these lessons. I was putting a saddle pad on her back, moving it, lifting it off, and talking to her, leading up to actually saddling her. Something in her psyche clicked in and screamed "That thing is a predator and you're prey!" She exploded. I got out of the way, the heavy post she was tied to held steady, the knot I'd put in the lead rope held, and the halter held. The weak spot was the snap that attached the lead rope to the halter and when she threw herself up and backward for the third or fourth time it broke. She did a backward somersault and landed on her side, and I landed right on top of her. I wanted to impress her that she had goofed, big time, and I screamed at her and flailed away at her with the saddle pad while she was scrambling to get up. This was the first time I'd blown up at her and she got the message. When we both calmed down again, I caught her, tied the rope to her halter, retied her to the post, then gave her some treats and a gentle rub down. She'd skinned the top of her head when she threw her tantrum so she didn't fight the halter all. Actually, that was the turning point for her, from then on she was considerably easier to handle. TBC