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The Story of America

America is a pinto mare 10+ years that was donated for tiger food about 1 1/2 yrs ago. The man that gave her to the tigers said she was crazy and wanted her killed. She was rescued by the Lori Wade family. She was roped and snubbed to remove a halter that had made sores in her head. She was roped and snubbed again one time to doctor her head. Lori's son attempted to brush her and she kicked him hard with both hind feet. She has learned to trust Lori's daughter Rochelle to the extent of allowing her to pet her head and neck occassionally. They have been unsuccessful at getting a rope or halter on her and are unable to do anything with her. Molly Ayres, local jumper trainer, backed her stock trailer up to America's pen and tied a gentle horse in the front of it. They managed to load America using several people carrying poles as a movable fence and brought her to me for training. She was unloaded directly into my round pen.

1. To get America to trust and like me.
2. To get America to come when called, stick her nose into the halter and stand quietly while I fasten it.
3. To get America to lead quietly on either side with her head opposite my shoulder about 18" from it.
4. To get America to stop and stand quietly when asked.
5. To get America to stand quietly and allow me to touch her all over her body and handle her feet.


Day 1
America would walk away when I got within 3 feet. She would not allow me to touch her. I put a flat pan in the middle of the round pen, stood beside it, clicked, dropped a handful of grain in it and walked away about 20 feet and waited for her to finish eating it. I repeated this for about 9 minutes, walking away less each time.

I repeated step 1 in a later session that day and she accepted me standing beside the pan while she ate. At the end of the session I had her eating the grain from my hand.

Day 2
Repeated first steps and then started putting my hand by her head and clicking, gradually moving it closer until I can touch her head. Started teaching her to come to me by backing away a step or two and clicking as she followed me. Added the word come as she is moving toward me. She hooked onto me well enough in two sessions I could walk and start shaping leading by my shoulder and stopping. Still a lot of ducking and dodging when I touch her head or neck.

Day 3
Repeated previous steps and started free shaping head down. Got her head going clear to the ground. Sill ducking and dodging my hand if I attempt to touch her. I can touch her better than yesterday however. I am keeping up a very high rate of reinforcement with her. Starting targeting with a target on a stick from outside the fence as she is hooked on enough to stay with me. She is very resistant to touching anything with her nose at first so I click for just looking at it. Finally get her touching better and quit.

Day 4
America is targeting much better and I am able to start moving the target around and she follows it. I get back in the corral with her and she is much better at allowing me to touch her. Eyes are much calmer. I work at getting head down with the target and start putting my hand on her poll as her head is going down. She gets good on head dropping and we start working on increasing the duration.

Desensitizing with the target stick.

Day 5
We start the sessions out by reviewing as usual. Sessions are getting longer and she is much happier to be with me. We work on targeting the target stick, head lowering with it, then start to touch her shoulder with the stick. She is pretty frightened at first and I have to start about a foot away and click and gradually move closer. She finally starts accepting it and we work an inch at a time until she accepts the stick touching her entire body. She is still a little touchy between the hind legs but is getting better about it. I keep up the high rate of reinforcement. The stick touching her all over has a very calming effect on her. She decides she likes it and then decides it is okay if my hand touches her also. Ducking and dodging behavior is gone.

Day 6
We start with the target stick and she is very calm about it so we introduce the plastic bag taped to a 4 ft whip. She targets on it but is pretty touchy about the body. The wind is getting stronger so we switch to a rope halter. We start targeting on it and shape her putting her nose in it 1/4 inch at a time. Soon she is following me wanting to stick her nose in the hole. I flop the halter around her neck and head, hang it off her ears, and let it fall on the ground. She is very calm and we start playing around with giving to pressure on the sides of her nose. She bends well right but not left. We play around with leading and whoa loose-not using the halter. She is a different mare wanting attention, petting and scratching. I have less than 4 hours training in her so far. Even Justin is amazed. He has videotaped all the sessions.

America continued


© 2002 Karen Parker