Aesop has definitely turned into a “clicker-horse” this last week and sees people more as an opportunity for reinforcement than as scary, foreign beings. He follows along the fence-line now when he sees us walking by and eagerly plays his target game inside of his round pen.
I have moved on to face touches with him so we can move toward haltering, grooming and leading in the near future. I used the targeting to get him close. Once he was calm and really comfortable standing within reach of me, I just reached up to his nose. If he backed away, I walked off a few feet and let him approach me to begin again. When he didn’t back away, I clicked and treated. Here, in our second session, you see that he is starting to understand what to expect and begins to “offer” me his nose with a slight bend toward me. At :54 you will see him be unable to stay through the touch and pull his nose off to the right. I just let him go and immediately he offers his head to try again and is successful. What a good boy! Again, no coercion. If he wants to walk off and not work on being a tame horse today, he can. If he is particularly relaxed and loose during a face touch, I reward him with a chance to target.
The face offering is a wonderful example of two way communication with a horse. I chose the lesson and the rough framework for it, but Aesop added in a bit of bend when he felt relaxed and ready. He could do this because I was predictable and the rules of the game were consistent. If I am aware and present in my work with my horses, I will begin to notice body language and micro-expressions that will inform the work I do. As I notice these small offerings and honor them, Aesop will become even more relaxed with me and be able to trust even more.