I'm not really sure what got into Sunny this weekend, but she was certainly a challenge. It was if we were right back to where we were three months ago, with a wild eyed, snorting red head...and I don't mean me!
Trying to catch this girl has become a problem. She's recognized that corners, of which we have six, can be used to her advantage. And use them she does. She's also realized that I step away from her when her butt is turned towards me, and uses this to her advantage as well.
On top of the snorting and butt turning, while sitting in the 'grain chair' with her pan of gain in my lap, she actually pinned her ears back at me! This was something totally new, and completely unacceptable; she was attempting to take the dominant position from me. I was beginning to feel as though I was losing ground. So, while sitting had helped her build confidence, it was obvious that on this day I'd need to stand to show her I was still the dominant one in the relationship.
Aside from standing, I began bringing a long rope into the paddock with me. Instead of trying to get her to work off pressure to face me, I just kept her moving in circles. Normally, when I'd step out in front of her to get her to turn, she'd swing her butt to me. This time I made sure she knew first if that butt came my way, it'd get a slap with the rope. Now, when I stepped out in front to turn her, she'd swing her head towards me instead.
Me, 1; Sunny, 0.
After ten or so minutes of trotting and turning, Sunny was getting both tired and a bit more relaxed. Yesterday I had the lariat instead of the usual soft cotton rope. When Sunny finally decided to stop trotting, I worked my way to within five feet. She looked at me from the corner of her eye, ready to dash should I attempt to come closer. Instead of reaching for her, I used the stiffness of the lariat to my advantage and tossed it towards her hind end. Because I was standing towards the forequarters, she didn't feel comfortable jumping forward, and allowed the rope to bounce off from her without fleeing. I did this over and over, working from her withers to the dock of her tail, even letting it fall down behind her haunches and bounce off her back leg. She just stood there.
At that point, I was able to quietly move close enough to pick up the end of her lead rope. I switched it for the long cotton rope and led her out into the pasture. I didn't want to let her loose to run, but I did want to give her an opportunity to associate being led and handled with something good, and that goodness came in the form of green spring grass. She never tried to pull away, and she let me lead her back into the paddock after we'd been out there a while.
Once back in the paddock, I began brushing. As mentioned, Sunny has a love hate relationship with grooming. She's shedding and loves the feel, but she's not fond of the touch. But yesterday? Yesterday Sunny was in love! She let me work from her poll, down her neck and shoulder, the front of her chest, down her back to the dock of her tail, along her barrel and even a bit behind the elbow (that last part she wasn't sure about, though.) She even let me reach over her neck to the right side and brush under her mane! This is the first time she's allowed me to venture into so many areas without having a major fit, and to do it all in one day had me walking on air.
Of course, now that she's got me feeling so good, no doubt today we'll slide backwards again! That's okay, as long as we can work a few positives in to keep me encouraged now and then!