Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ttouch Triumph

If someone would have told me sixteen weeks ago that the key to working with Ashke would be found in a book by Linda Tellington-Jones, I would have laughed at them. I had never even heard of the Tellington method, or Ttouch. A shout out to Heather for suggesting there might be a way to get Ashke to stop biting. I didn't realize that the Ttouch method could be used for so much more.

Last night before I groomed Ashke, I used the Ttouch for his ears, face and mouth. We spent about ten minutes on his mouth. He loves it, although he tried to suck my fingers in between his teeth. By the time we were done he was slobbery mouthed and happy. He made the relaxed and happy noise when I was finished. I curried him with the soft rubber curry, then with the stiff brush. I then did the lift and slide touch on his legs. Front legs, no problemo. The back legs were another story. He took exception at the hock on both hind legs. This is a sign of soreness or tenderness, so I slowed down and did some circles over his tendons. I will have to wait and see how they are tomorrow. I can tell you that since I started doing the lift and slide down his leg, he is not nearly as gimpy when he is working in the round pen.

J went to brush Ashke's tail and he clamped it into his butt. I went back and began doing some of tail ttouches recommended in the Tellington book. Within five minutes, Ashke had relaxed his tail and back, and I could move his tail up and down and side to side without fuss. At one point Ashke looked back over his shoulder at me (just like Linda said he would) but other than that, he was fine.

I took him out to the round pen and worked him in both directions at the trot and canter. He got a bit energetic at the canter, bucking and tossing his head, but it was short lived. He took his commands from my voice and moved with his head down and chin tucked, fully engaging his back and haunches. He stopped when asked and backed up with voice command only. We only worked for about ten minutes and then decided to change it up.

I left him in the round pen and went to get the tarp and poles. Ashke got all snorty when we dragged the poles over, but settled as soon as he got a good sniff of them. I left him loose while J and I stretched out the tarp and tagged the four edges with the poles. And then I put the lead rope on him and walked him toward the tarp. This is what happened:

Pretty anticlimatic, eh? He pawed and bit at the tarp but otherwise couldn't have cared less. I worked him forward and backward over it, but he had no hesitation. The next time out, I am making a hollow in the middle and putting water on it. That should be interesting.

Once again I released him and we folded up the tarp. I took the four poles and put one end on the bottom rail of the round pen to elevate it and left the other end on the ground. This creates an obstacle for him to step over that can be at differing heights. We worked back and forth over them several times in both directions. Ashke had some issues with the third pole, kept hitting it with his front feet and causing it to roll along the fence and then tangling his hind feet in it. He would spook and not want to go through it. I high stepped over the poles to show him how to raise his feet. He finally went over the four of them without bumping or spooking. I praised him and gave him peppermints as a reward.

After we had successfully completed the poles, J and I put them away and then I bathed Ashke. It had been several days since he was washed and he was pretty messy. While I was bathing him, he kept nibbling with just his lips on my back, the pockets of my shorts, my hair line, my ears, and anything else he could touch. He's no longer flaring back like he used to, and he seems very happy that he can "mouth" me without me getting angry or upset. He's not using his teeth, he's just touching with his nose.

Tonight (Weds) I groomed Ashke and did the mouth touches. I tried to do the leg touches but he threatened to kick me. I'm not sure why, but he really doesn't like them. Instead of doing the lift and release, I squeezed my hands around his leg and did long strokes down them to get him used to being touched all over his legs with my hands. I also did some of the tail touches. Then we went outside to play.

We started with the large blue tarp and then covered it with water. Ashke snorted but walked right onto it. He nosed the water and wandered around on it like it was no big deal. Nice. Then I left J to clean up the tarp and went to the round pen. Ashke worked a few circles in both directions at the trot and canter. Then I pulled poles out and set them up on the bottom rail of the round pen. Six this time.

Ashke and I worked through them at a walk, with me exaggerating my steps to show him how to raise his feet. He went through in both directions without any problems. The last time we went through side by side and I jumped the poles and then so did he. That made me laugh. After we worked through the poles with me leading him, I took the lead rope off and asked him to lunge.

Talk about starting World War III. He knew exactly what I wanted him to do and he so did not want to do it. He bucked and squealed and kicked out at me. He galloped in a small circle, going as fast as he could in the area of the pen where the poles were. When he tired of galloping he would trot as fast as he could around the rest of the pen and then gallop past the poles. We did this in both directions while I stood in the middle of the pen and was vastly amused. T kept saying that Ashke wasn't going to go over the poles. I told him that I thought Ashke would if I gave him enough time to work it out himself.

Ashke galloped and trotted and galloped some more. He finally slowed when I asked him to and walked toward the pole. He sniffed it over pretty good but when asked to move forward and attempt the pole he whirled and took off again. I intervened and penned him against the rail and the poles, not letting him work the entire arena any more. He spun and fretted and then suddenly capitulated. He turned and in a nice trot he went over the first four poles before he broke to the outside and skipped the final two. It was enough. He was praised and stroked and fed peppermints. Then he was left while we put the stuff away. He was rinsed off, walked and then put away. It was a great session and he definitely is thinking about stuff.

Tomorrow his feet get done.

1 comment:

  1. sounds like some really good stuff going on. His reaction to the tarp is a real plus in terms of future trail riding. His reaction to the poles is very interesting. Maybe "oh no don't make me think!" The stumbling and gimpyness was what I was actually thinking about when I recommended TTouch--I'm so glad it has helped with the nipping too.