Poor old Murray has been locked inside since the FrankenFace incident, as we didn’t want to give him the opportunity to open up his injury again or irritate it by rubbing it on any fencelines (protected though it was by a fly mask). After seven days of this he was becoming… unpleasant to tack up. After ten days he was downright miserable, and one day when I was working with him on the lunge just exploded in a fit of “MUST RUN MUST PLAY”. And I was like “oh… duh… you would probably appreciate a chance to run around.” So I turned him out in the outdoor arena and let him buck and kick to his heart’s content, and that’s what I’ve been doing for ten minutes or so before every ride since. It has vastly improved our tacking up, and Murray’s overall mood.
Today I decided to go and play around with Murray while he was turned out, because I wanted to charge the clicker up a bit and get him in a learning mood. Specifically, I wanted him to learn to weight his right hind more. He’s a bit weak on that right hind, and the endless repetitions of leg yields and shoulder in is starting to get to me. Plus, I don’t know that Murray really understands what it is I’m asking for when I ask him to yield to the left, so he can shittily just drag that right hind and not really cross it under, and defeat the exercise (because I’m not a major DQ, yo). So to combat that, I thought I’d star him with some of the basics in-hand work to access that hind leg, and simply click and treat him for the movement/cross over of the inside hind.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we played around in the arena. When Murray realised I was out there with carrots and the clicker he happily played along, and when I clucked and ran forward he actually trotted after me! I was absolutely delighted. It was like, all my free-work dreams, yo.
Yeah it was basically totally exactly like this.
And, because of course I’ve seen Piper the motherfucking wonder horse I was like “Oh maybe I can trick Murray into jumping!” Murray has never really been interested in jumps at liberty, except as something to nibble upon or perhaps shit upon. So after walking back and forth across a pile of poles a few times, I trotted towards them and lo and behold, Murray trotted with me! Then I put up one side and BOOM. Jumps. Unfortunately, at this point Murray realised that our little game was turning into something that looked suspiciously like work and decided he would no longer trot after me when I asked. But we got somewhere!! And I figure, it can’t hurt to improve Murray’s relationship with jumping, can it?
Murray was extremely pleasant for tacking up, which was a lovely change from his recent behavior. However, I kept clicking and treating through tacking up for him standing still. I tried to go as long as I could without clicking, but Murray’s internal “moar treatz please” dispenser isn’t very long. This did, however, reveal to me that Murray understands what I want from him during tack up (stand still), but that he also is willing to do whatever it takes to get treats from me during that time. And he firmly, firmly believes that if I don’t treat him for standing still, I must want him to move around. So that’s the next behavior he offers. Unfortunately, he kinda wins either way — if he stands still, he gets treats, but if he wiggles, he doesn’t get the girth done up. I will need to work out a way to extinguish the wiggling while still reinforcing the standing still. Winter puzzles.
I did some of my actual goal of in-hand work — some nice turns on the forehand with Murray really stepping under. Next will be to isolate the movement to his hind legs a little more (he still does small circles, but if I don’t have a little forward movement he will drag his inside hind around instead of stepping it under) and ask for a little more cross over. Then perhaps we can work on some lateral movement in hand, though I have literally no idea of how to do that.
I got on and our actual ride was borderline terrible. Murray decided he was done and since all I wanted to do was some basic walk/trot/bend/give me your shoulders, I let him be done after he pitched a fit. Which is a post for another time.
(No is his favourite word.)
More at liberty work is to come with the monster. I’m actually crazy jealous of Piper and her person — she has another video of a young horse, Murray gives fewer fucks about me than this foal does about her human!