Thoughts with Octavia - Desensitization Training: Octavia and Louie stand alert, looking outside their pasture.

SO today I was working in Bonnie and Apple’s paddock in a session, and I noticed a Happy Birthday balloon in the paddock blowing around. I grabbed it and hung on to it for the session (hello- scary plastic thing blowing around?) I thought it would be a good thing to help with desensitization training and to build trust with Octavia later…

The Balloon Incident

As soon I was done with the session I hopped the fence to go see her. She must have known my intention because she walked right over with Louie from the other end of the paddock to check it out. She was blowing a bit but she smelt it and tried to bite it. After one spook when she first heard the noise of me crinkling the foil-y balloon, she settled into the space. 

I was impressed with her desensitization training overall though. Eventually, she trusted me enough to groom her while holding it. Another breakthrough is this grooming tool I found, an Oster curry with sharper teeth. Turns out Octavia loves it and grooming has become so much easier. 

I think I need to stop finding new things for this reason. I don’t know if she trusts me and enjoys my company more, or just likes the new grooming tool! Either way, when I combed her with it, she started grooming Louie bigtime. When he walked away, she even tried to groom me on the shoulder. 

After playing with the balloon a bit (I got some videos but nothing great), I walked her to the round pen and worked on attachment. Ever since that day we discovered if she was lefthanded or right-handed, I haven’t noticed her be more protective of that side as much, just occasionally- I wonder if my intentions have changed or just me noting that side is more protected makes her feel safer. 

Final Thoughts

So today I tested out the bridle. After doing some attachment work that I’d rate at a 7 or 8, she let me put the bridle on without a problem, but then entirely dissociated. Hmmm. So when that’s on she’s no longer connected. I asked for connection and put so much pressure on her hind end, and she actually kept resisting as I kept it the same, and she trotted a little – a first in a while. 

Then she finally came in but it took quite a while and a lot of pressure. But, Like most things, this got better as well and she eventually followed me around with the bridle on. When I took it off, she took a deep sigh and breath and put her head on my chest for a while. It’s truly amazing how many of these behaviors have been so overlooked in all my years with horses. 

I wish I had a chance to go back to all the horses I’ve had and apologize for not listening.