Well I now have a plan for Mojo. He needs more confidence to explore on his own, he is quite happy to follow and be told what to do, but he now needs to learn he has a choice. I need to make him a toy box to spark his curiosity, also some novel objects to use in desensitising him to being randomly touched all over. This will all take time – he is totally unconfident on his own, he will follow on a lead rope and if I use targets at this stage he may well follow but still not be completely unafraid.
I need to spend time desensitising to touch before completing the fly spray desensitising.
Also his feather mite problem needs addressing before doing the foot handling training.
I will take him for walks around the wood to get him confident – it took a long time to get him to the field without resorting to escalating negative reinforcement. A little negative reinforcement – in the form of pressure on the lead rope and immediate release when he walked forward was needed, as he wasn’t confident to walk through the woods without the support of another horse.
Catherine Bell gave me some good advice – I now need to remember it all and write a proper shaping plan.
Catherine put some objects in the school to let him look at and approach if he wanted, he did walk over the tarp when I had him online. He was not confident to approach the bunting, but he didn’t spook or run away.
At liberty he investigated the bag with the objects in, then wandered off to eat the grass at the edge of the school.
The school sessions will be at liberty so he can investigate on his own, also the desensitising sessions will be with out the counter conditioning – we don’t want him to feel he has to put up with being touched, fly sprayed etc because he wants the treats. We can cause horses to approach fearful things with clicker and target training but it may not help them overcome their fear, this is a form of approach-avoidance conflict.
I get the feeling he would do things if I insisted but he would not be completely comfortable and it is so easy for these types of horses to be pushed to and over threshold. There were no big signs of fear or anxiety just very subtle facial expressions – a little triangulation above his eye, a little flaring of the nostrils and some forced exhalation but not exactly snorting.