By Susan Chandler, CHR Trainer
It would be a colossal understatement to say that Huckleberry has made progress in her training since her last training update. Whatever fear that had been causing her blockage from connecting with people seems to have almost entirely dissolved. Gone are the days that she would try to literally hurdle over fences in order to get away from people, and gone are the times that she would head straight into a bolting panic while under the tiniest amount of pressure. What we are left with today is an emotionally playful and trusting young mare, willing to give people a chance instead of shutting us entirely out of her world.
To all the doors that Huckleberry emotionally locked herself behind, positive reinforcement was their key. While at first her progress to accepting people in her world was slow going, now it is as if the floodgates have burst open. She is presenting a thirst for the human connection. The new joy it seems to bring drives her into taking first steps outside of her comfort zones. For the first time, we are starting to see her mind slow down and take time to think about what is being asked of her rather than instinctively bounding aimlessly away.
Huckleberry brings happiness into each of her training sessions. Eager to please and to play, she now finds groundwork to be a fun game. Her favorite task is to “target” the halter by coming up to it when we raise it and booping it with her nose. She willingly follows it around intently, knowing that when she hears the word, “good,” she will receive a reward. Likewise, moving away from pressure is no longer an ordeal for Huckleberry. Instead, she is quietly leaving and is delighted to walk, trot, and canter around us as asked. We have been able to develop a communication method that works while she is completely loose! Even on the lead line, she no longer tests her restraints. She willingly follows forward pressure without a second thought and is mindful of crowding. At the same time, she loves having us enter her own space to give a reward or to pet and touch all over her.
Huckleberry’s confidence has improved immensely. She has learned to trust us as her handlers and to look to us for aid when she feels worried. We have progressed to introducing her to foreign objects, like a rope or a flag. While a little worried at first, she has stayed calm and has learned that no harm will come to her during these exercises. We have even gone so far as to show her a saddle and work her while wearing it!
With most of her fears subsided, Huckleberry is rounding the next corner of life full of positivity. While she is still shy towards unfamiliar people, she has become much quicker to trust and to accept differences in those that she meets. In each and every training session, we see her maturing into the calm and fearless pony she was meant to become. We can’t wait to see her continue to make strides out of her comfort zone and into someone’s loving home!