Case Study: Samwise the Mini Mule
(VIDEO AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG) Samwise, Frodo, and mini donkey Bilbo Baggins mysteriously showed up at my client-turned-friend Lynda's house one morning a few weeks back.
No owners came forward, and while they are being fostered by Lynda, they are in the legal custody of Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS). Samwise has been the more fearful of the trio. To complicate training matters a little, Samwise is blind in his right eye. Lynda has begun to work with Samwise to help him become comfortable in the presence of people when his friend Frodo isn't around.
'Teach a woman to fish' approach I want all of my clients to learn both the theory and the hands-on practical skills of how to change unwanted behaviours and teach new behaviours using low-stress, effective methods. This empowers my clients to tackle future training challenges in equine-friendly ways, and better help the equines they work with and handle. Lynda has been a keen student over the years, and has made such great progress in her understanding of both equine behaviour and the science of how equines learn. Not only a horse owner, Lynda works professionally as a farrier. She uses what she has learned with our work together to help her clients during appointments. In the beginning of this video, we see a 'before' video, showing Samwise's baseline behaviour of approaching Lynda. It is clear that he isn't yet totally comfortable with approaching Lynda: he stays as far away from her as he can, stretching forward to take the tidbit of food being offered. At the edit point, we see a session Lynda did last night (her second short session since we last met). Lynda's first step in her homework was to sit quietly in the corner of Samwise's stall, and feed him treats when he approached. Lynda also worked on making small movements with her hands and arms as Samwise was close, to help him become comfortable with people moving around him. Lynda's second step in her homework was to begin treating Samwise for following her at liberty. The plan was to start on Samwise's left side, where he has sight. However, as you can see they started on the right side, where he is blind, and things went very well. I really like so many things that Lynda is doing in this video. I appreciate her honesty that she forgot to just ignore any mugging, and reinforce what she wanted to see instead. It's also clear to me that she is really thinking about what aspects of this taming process need to be considered: humans sitting quietly, humans moving quietly while sitting, humans standing, humans walking away, and so on. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Lynda over the years. She asks great questions, (almost) always does her homework, and when she is surprised by the progress she makes she humours me when my answer is always the same: 'It's almost like this sh!t works, Lynda!'