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Dawn and I were able to get in another scary object session. We've been working with a white plastic garbage bags - white plastic bags are one of her scariest things, outranked only by balloons - I'm sure she thinks plastic bags exist only to jump out of the bushes at her, rustle appallingly and wrap themselves around her legs as a prelude to killing her. Only recently, the sight of a white plastic bag could cause her to bolt to the far side of the arena.
Our work session involved Dawn, wearing a halter but no lead, a small grass paddock, some treats, and a white plastic bag attached to a lead line - I use a tongue click to signal her that she's done what I asked. We'd already progressed in a prior session to her tentatively touching the bag as I held it in my hand (click and treat). I put Dawn in the paddock, unconstrained - she started grazing. I took the plastic bag, snapped the lead through the string (handily, it had one of those string tighteners), and started dragging it around the paddock on the ground. Man, it scared me! It was bumping along through the grass, making dreadful rustling sounds. But Dawn didn't bolt - in the past I think she would have. She moved off to a safe distance and watched me. I dropped the lead, leaving the bag on the ground, and went over to her. I gently took her halter in my hand and asked her, using almost no pressure, to take a step or two towards the bag - for each step she took, click and treat. After a couple of steps (she was still a long ways from the bag), I went back to dragging the bag. We did this for about 10 minutes, with a very slow progression at each try closer to the bag. After a while, she would stop grazing and cautiously watch and follow at a good distance behind the bag. Finally, I was able to ask her to step right up to the bag. I let her go and waited - she stretched her nose towards the bag, snorting - click and treat. She then retreated, and we did it again - nose got closer. Finally she carefully stretched - it's amazing how long a horse's neck can get! - and just touched the bag. Click and jackpot of treats. That was all for that time - I like to keep these sessions really short so she can slowly build her trust. I was particularly pleased that she was willing to trust me enough to take steps towards the bag when I gently asked her.
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And for some more interesting stuff - Pinzgauer at Drafts With Dots has started a really excellent series of posts on equine color genetics - a complex topic that is very interesting to me. The first four posts are:
I've added a sidebar box linking to these color genetics posts, and will add more over there as she puts them up.
One of the things I'm enjoying most about the horse blog world is the opportunity to learn many things from all the knowledgeable bloggers out there!
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Also, if you have a moment, please visit SolitaireMare at A Good Horse and give her your support - she and her horse are struggling with his very serious health problems.