Monday, April 14, 2014

Dante’s Next Challenge

Dante’s Next Challenge

It seems that the one lesson on traffic desensitization worked a miracle with Dante. My next goal to prepare him for Ellen was to conquer the hill, and after that will be the river. Of course, he had been on the hill many times last year, but that is never a guarantee that things will go smoothly after a long winter away from the trail.

One weekend morning when Ellen was working, I put Dante’s halter on and headed for the hill. I stopped him at the end of the driveway to watch a few cars go by before venturing onto the street. Of course, he got clicks and treats for behaving. A car did pass us while we were walking on the street, and he was perfect.

We headed down the hill, and in the beginning, he was very good. I clicked and treated him for good behavior. He was even good on the way back. I wasn’t going to stop with one trip, though. I turned him around and asked him to go back down. That is when he threw his little temper tantrum. He raised his head up, stomped the ground with his front legs and tried to pull away. I held steady, and we continued down the trail. He threw several temper tantrums on the way down, walked quietly up and there were more temper tantrums on the third trip down. In no way were any of his misbehaviors dangerous or hard to handle, but I was still disappointed.

On the way home, we stopped at the trailhead before crossing the street. He stood for a few seconds, and then he flew backwards for no apparent reason! I just held still like a post. When he got to the end of the rope, he came back and we walked home. That really made me disappointed.

I’m not one to give up easily. My next opportunity came on an evening later in the week. I didn’t have enough daylight to do more than one trip. Once again, he was perfect on the street. We didn’t get too far down the trail when he started crying. He doesn’t have a pretty voice in the least. Think of a loud, hoarse goose honk.

I just talked to him and kept leading him. After a few cries, he changed his tactics. He would cry, throw his head up in the air and throw a temper tantrum. He kept doing this, so eventually; I pulled down at the halter and yelled at him to stop. He didn’t, so I repeated. No clicks for Dante. Once we got down to the bottom of the hill, he settled down, and I clicked and gave him a bunch of carrots. On the way back home, he didn’t cry, but he jogged—which is not acceptable. I made him stop and stand each time he tried to trot.

At the trail head, I made him stand like the last time, and when he did, he got jackpotted with a handful of carrots. He tried rushing home on the street.

I wasn’t able to call Ellen before she went to bed, so I left her a message about what a terrible time we had. Cole wasn’t very good on his ride—bolting at the bottom of the hill and refusing to stop when he saw a deer. (Like we don’t see deer on every single ride!)

Ellen heard my message and didn’t understand why I sounded so sad. She saw that he was good on the street with the cars. She wasn’t as disheartened as I was, at all, and did her best to cheer me up.

Two days later, I had another chance to try the hill. Once again, I didn’t have enough time for more than one trip. It didn’t matter. Except for crying a little bit, he was perfect—100% perfect. He did it again. He thought about what he learned and applied it to the following lesson. This has been a Dante trend from the beginning.

The next day, Ellen was there. She and my niece rode Dante in the arena, and then we untacked him and led him down the hill. Kevin was up ahead on the hill with Starry, and even though Dante could see him, he behaved. He didn’t mind when Starry passed him going up when we were going down, either. He caught up with us, and we joined him on the way back up the hill. Dante was perfect except he didn’t want to go home—he wanted to stay with Starry, but Kevin was doing multiple trips and we weren’t. Dante cried, but he did walk quietly home. Ellen got to see him on another perfect day!

She had to work the following day and I didn’t, so I was back on the hill with Dante. My plan was to do 3 trips. He was perfect on the way down except for crying. He saw a person walking a dog on the other side of the river, and it fascinated him. I walked him to the river bank and on a hunch, we walked down it. The river was pretty high, and we wouldn’t think of crossing him at that height for the first time of the year.

I led him to the edge of the water—click/treat. I asked him to step in—1 toe—click/treat. I asked for the other toe—click/treat. Then, I asked him for another step—but I didn’t intend on getting my feet wet. He had to do it without me—and he did! Click/jackpot treat!

I let him stand in the water. I knew that if I wanted to get wet, he would have walked right across. We left, went up the hill and came back down, walked down to the river and repeated everything. We walked up the bank, walked a little, turned around and went back to the water. In all, we did 3 trips on the hill and 6 trips into the water. He was heavenly.

Was this really the same horse?

As soon as the river is low enough to cross on a day that Ellen and I are both there—we are crossing—and I don’t expect we will have any problems at all. I hope she lets me ride him. Soon, very soon, I will have nothing to write about.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

Hehe sometimes having nothing to write is a good thing!! I'm glad he's so smart and thinks about things between lessons. Dante is a good boy. It won't take him long to have the whole routine figured out. Keep up the great work!