A Week With Kathy and Ricky – The Water Box
I decided to tackle the challenge of the water box. This has been an interesting obstacle at the farm in that, horses who are confident with water, creeks, swimming, etc often still find developing confidence in the water box challenging.
So far, Ricky has been confident with the ponds and creeks, in fact he really seems to enjoy them! Knowing this I figured the water box would be a good “next step”. Well, the week ended up consisting of “one step forward, two steps back”. By day 5 I was thinking I might need to call this one “A Month With Kathy and Ricky”! And, there is still a lot more to do to get Ricky completely confident with the water box, on the first try, every day, no matter if the water looks different or not. However, he made a lot of progress and I’ll share a summery of what that progress looked like over the week.
New skills introduced: The goal was to introduce the water box (and it’s bubble) and develop a little bit of confidence in the area and possibly curiosity.
Ricky was comfortable grazing around the water box after a few minutes and I ended the session when he put his nose on the mats surrounding the water box.
New skills introduced: I decided to learn from Ricky and Day 1, my theme was to break the obstacle into 2 parts.
Part 1: The mats
Part 2: the water.
With this in mind my goal was to end each day with a new progression of “nose, neck, maybe the feet” on the mat and then in the water.
Going with my new theme, my goal was to progress to getting his neck over the mat. He seemed confident to have nose and neck over the mat on all 4 edges today (approaching from all directions).
New skills introduced: In the planned progression, today is the day for FEET on the mat!
Ricky was able to put his one front foot on the mat, by the water but not able to keep it there, yet. We ended after about 6 approach and retreat repetitions with his front foot landing on the mat each time.
New skills introduced: Nose over the water (even better would be nose sniffing the water!).
Success!! Ricky started more confident with putting his feet on the mats and was able to keep both front feet on the mat on 2 sides. Then, he became curious about the water and stuck his nose in it. However, when it moved we took a few steps backwards in confidence and played the rest of the day with approach and retreat while I caused the water to move with my stick.
Unplanned new skill: Confidence with moving water
New skills introduced: Moving water with front feet on mat on all sides. Drinking out of the water box. One foot in for a split second.
Feeling the pressure of my self-imposed deadline and realizing that we still had NO feet IN the water. I decided to play with the water box 2x in each session. The beauty of this is that at the end of my session Ricky was thirsty and discovered he could drink out of the water box – YAHOO!!
Then, he got so bold he stepped out into the box, touched the water for less then a moment and shot like a rocket out of the box. We spent the rest of the session reestablishing confidence placing his feet on the mats.
New skills introduced: Jump the water box – Ricky came up with this variation on his own 😊
Ricky felt like he deciphered the puzzle and concluded that the goal was to get to the other side, so he developed confidence jumping the box from all 4 sides, from the stand still with no feet going in the water box. During our final session he was again thirsty and a little playful so he discovered he could blow bubbles when his nose was in the water.
At this stage I was certain we were NOT going to reach our goal and I was coming up with ideas for how long I thought this project would take.
New skills introduced: 2 feet in the box. 4 feet in the box.
Surprise!! After some jumping efforts over the box we reviewed backwards and then I was able to support Ricky with some steady pressure on the halter to interrupt the jump. To his surprise he landed in the water, lived, drank and then licked and chewed. After about 6 trips through he was able to pause with his hind legs in the box. This is by far the hardest for him and will take some more time to develop confidence.
Overall, I’m super happy with his progress and I feel like we have a great starting point to continue developing. After we spend some more time with 4 feet in (as a normal routine) my plan will be to ride him through.
This week has been a perfect example of “set it up and wait”. The idea that we can just help the horses get in the right frame of mind to solve the puzzle/build confidence and then when they are ready, all the pieces come together!