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Rolegur (aka Roker)

Rolegur has just arrived! He is one of my re-hab horses. I am told that he is "reactive" and may have been handled a little roughly as a youngster. He was at a training facility for about a year and a half, and I guess he basically "flunked". He is 5 years old, has not been ridden. He was not easily "catchable" and extremely afraid of his halter/lead rope.

He had another name, but I gave him the name of Rolegur which connotates: calm, undisturbed, tranquil. Figured that might start him off on the right foot here!

The following photos were taken within the hour of him arriving at our place. I took him from the transport driver and immediately started clicker training (operant conditioning), altho without the clicker as the previous trainer indicated the noise might scare him.

He was taken to the back (CT'ing all the way), put in the round pen which is adjacent to the pasture and the other horses.

I put my lawn chair in the round pen, and sat, armed with book to read, Orange soda, treats (for him), and camera. The goal was to CT him whenever he chose to target (focus) on me.

This is my general immediate plan for him:

He is deathly afraid of his halter and the same with the lead rope. Without these things, he is able to come up to people and stand for a while and he's ok. Holding the halter and he's SKITZO!! Never mind skitzo, he's gone! Even the noise of the buckle of the halter freaks him out.

[1] always take the halter into the pasture with me. Treat him when he comes.

[2] have him target the halter.

[3] put the halter and lead rope in his feed bucket so he gets used to seeing it and the noise it makes.

[4] use the noise of the buckle as his "click".

So far, so good. He's allowing me to approach him at any time and also comes to me when he sees me.

Here he is meeting the other horses thru the fence:




Deciding to come over to me:


Taking a drink of Orange soda:


The next day, running with the horses and playing:






Having a conversation with Lori. You can see he's a little nervous, stiff neck; but his ears are up and he's willing to stand:



Roker has been here for almost 16 days now. If you remember, he is the one scared to death of his halter. He would run away if he even SAW it.

My plan was to take the halter into the pasture with me whenever I went, even though I didn't use it so that he would get used to seeing it, seeing the other horses approach with no notice of the halter, and knowing that it didn't necessarily mean it was going to be used on him.

Usually once a day I put the horses in their own corrals to eat their supplements separately. All the other horses know to go into their own corral at this time. Either they walk in ahead of time, or I point my finger and they go in. All I have to do is walk down the line and lock the gates. That would leave one open corral and Roker standing alone. Of course, this early, I wouldn't expect that he'd know what to do. He would, however, follow me into the corral and get a treat.

For several days, I left the halter in there with him just laying around or on the gate. This enabled him to approach the halter by his own choice and totally investigate it.

He learned in one session to target the halter. He DID have to stretch his neck as far as it would go, then he stretched his top lip as far as IT would go to touch the part of the halter closest to him (not taking any chances!). He was still poised for instant retreat in case anything went wrong.

After a few short (5 minute) sessions, he went to touching the halter with either side of his mouth, but couldn't handle putting his nose into the noseband until two days ago. Sometimes horses are ok with things on their right side, and ok with things on their left side, but NOT ok with something on both sides at the same time! Confinement issues.

Very slowly, millimeter by millimeter, he learned to put his nose into the noseband and at one point I withheld the treat and he "hunkered" down into the halter. One little push to make sure he was all the way in and that I would notice. He got a nice jackpot for that, so he tries to do it every time now.

We have not yet progressed to putting the strap over the poll. Maybe in another day or so. He has gotten used to the jingling of the buckle and the wiggle of the lead rope as he's doing all of this. He is still ready to flee if anything doesn't feel right and he does take a step back if I lean towards him with the halter. He's ok with making the approach to the halter on his own, however.

I just came in from carrying a 50 lb sack out to the hay shed and after I dropped it off, Roker came up to me, sniffed a little, then put his head under my arm. He dropped his head, letting me pet him AND confine him for a couple of seconds, staying calm and relaxed. Wow! We're doing things so slowly, but that was a BIG step for him. Sorta proves the fastest way to the end is by going slow.

Never in a million years, could I have "forced" this horse to give himself to me as he just did.

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