Monday, April 11, 2016

Oak Vs. the Ball Round One

my pants are bulging with alfalfa pellets ;)
see the unhappy face
Oak is a skeptical fellow. The person I got him from said he was prone to kick out and she did not feel that he was safe for children or pets. She told me that he had been passed around quite a bit before ending up on his way to slaughter. When Oak is nervous he tends to give these quick low kicks. He is especially nervous when things are near his back legs, but he will even kick out sometimes if something is in front of him. I really wish I knew his history. We have been working with his back legs using many common items including my hands, ropes, and hoof polish (yep scary).

I was doing my second session of desensitizing him to the horse ball when it accidentally rolled into a back leg. Cue explosion of kicking. We then changed our focus to letting the ball touch his back legs. His left side was much more reactive than his right. We stopped when I could rest the ball next to each leg without him kicking, picking up the leg, or moving away. Given his continued guarded expression we have some more work to do before I claim any victories.

He let me put the ball on his back without any big reactions which gives me hope for the future (riding). He was very nervous about it, so we will work with his confidence there too. Oak loves to push the ball around the pen and earn treats. I am using both negative reinforcement (approach/retreat and pressure/release ) and positive reinforcement in Oak's training. He seems to respond well to both, always remembering what we worked on, and always a little bit better each day.

rewarding him for putting up with all that

 Oak Training Log April 10 and 11 2016

Location: Round pen

Duration: 20 minutes on April 10 and 11

Activities: Confidence building with the ball: bouncing, touching him all over, and rewarding him for interacting with the ball. Ended with target training (his favorite).

Observations: He let the ball rest on his back, but was not relaxed about it. He had a pretty extreme reaction to the ball touching his back legs so we spent a lot of time with that and ended on a good note. He enjoys pushing the ball with his nose to earn treats. His left side was more sensitive than his right side. He is starting to cave in towards me when targeting, so I need to be careful what I reward. Also I need to be more aware of my treat delivery.


  1. He's adorable.

  2. He has a sweet face and it's good he could be so brave

    1. Considering how nervous he is about everything I think he may be the bravest horse I have ever met :) He tries really hard.

  3. He's a hunk of a horse! I love him! I think you will do wondrous things with him and for him! Lucky guy!