Things kind of settled down as more horses kept streaming in. The contract pays by how many we get to where you can catch, halter, and lead, so I’ve tried to just stay focused on that and let the USFS clean their own pens.
Feeding is a different story. The hay feeder persons are agitated that I am feeding them since they have contracts specifically to feed. I don’t care. Collect for your contract, help me for five minutes and call it a day, just don’t feed when I am trying to train, don’t use the moldy bale of hay, don’t throw the hay into the far corners of the pen so the mustangs don’t have to eat near where I sit with them. The hay feeders bug me. I wish they would just go away. They severely interfere with the training process. They leave dirty water in the troughs and throw the horses moldy hay. It’s a depressing situation.
I am working on conditioned relaxation with the studs. They spend about 4 hours in the chute where I use negative reinforcement to teach them to look sleepy. You can teach a mustang to look sleepy in about an hour, but it’s getting them to look sleepy while I bathe them with a wet rag that takes another 3 hours. Tomorrow we are going to video training Waylon to do conditioned relaxation… that is the “bad” stud who is eating out of my hand otherwise. It might take 5 hours for him, but I suspect that after the first hours he will have totally accepted his need to just relax and enjoy life.
Rip Van Winkle is a 15 year old battle-scarred stud with a ugly parrot mouth. We tried doing some more traditional training, Kitty Lawman style, but he kept trying to attack me and I had to wack him a few times. It was agreed by all that he wasn’t worth risking my life for. But when there is a challenging problem, I get interested in finding a novel solution. Now my buddy, Rip, will put on his own halter if I hold it out for him. The secret to our success is that Rip has a fondness for grain, so I clicker trained him. He will come put his head in a rope loop as well as put his nose through the halter. Today I was working with him and he nuzzled me like I was his only friend in the world (probably I am.) I will take him home if no one adopts him. He would make a good Trail of Tears sort of horse. War paint and feathers in his mane.
Rip withstanding, there are sure some fine horses here and this is a premium time to stop by and pick out the cream of the crop. I will take Rip perhaps but there are maybe six that I know I would be a fool not to adopt as they will be exceptional horses. We have a nice band of gaited horses with stocks and blaze faces.
Well, back to the Rip story. Guys stop by looking for some work training these horses and Bob probably would put them to work, except that he and I have an agreement to work as partners 50/50. He brought a young Navajo man to meet me. The boy told me how he trains them in this confrontational style, so I took him on a tour of what I had going at the moment. I figured he could realize how his methods would mesh with ours by seeing what was going on. We stopped by the chute where Magellan was just hanging out. I explained to the young man that I was training the stud horse to relax. He said he never want them to relax, he wants them to move their feet. He thought getting a horse to relax was weird. So then I took him to Rips pen and showed how I was training the dangerous wild animal. Rip is quite affectionate when he was training that that is when he reached out and rubbed my face with his nose. The young man just turned and walked away. There weren’t any horses to play bully with here in facility, sorry guy.
Stephan got here from Largo School today. He is staying in my tent on the other side of the facility. He neglected to bring any camping gear. It would be better for his development to let him sleep on the ground with no gear, but instead I let him use my stuff. I talked to him about thinking his momma was going to be around to take care of him. He knows he has a unique opportunity here and that after 4 weeks he will know a lot about training horses.
I am living now in a vintage airstream trailer that John pulled down to here from Navajo City. It’s a major improvement from the horse trailer. I even have power to plug this computer in.