Today I decided to start clicker training Biclo in the hope that it would focus his mind. He did very well and learnt quickly, and it also stopped him from testing my pockets for treats! Waiting for the next click and having to think about what to do to get the click stopped him from being so distracted, and by the end of the session he had allowed me to pick up all four of his feet and touch them with the hoof pick. In the afternoon I carried out another session with him, but this time we worked in the field instead of the stable. He was much calmer working in the field with the sun on his back, and we repeated the morning’s session. He had a really good groom and even stood whilst I sprayed him with coat shine! Most animals run a mile at the sound of the spray, but Biclo didn’t appear to even notice! What a good boy!
Margherita only had a quick session this morning as her hay and chaff arrived whilst I was working with her and she was keen to go and have her breakfast. So this afternoon we tried again and she was very good. She had a groom and all four feet picked out. At the end of the day I went and caught both Margherita and Biclo again and did a 5 minute session with them both, just on lifting their feet in the field – both behaved impeccably.
After my morning training sessions with Biclo and Margherita, I then spent 3 hours walking in the field with Magda and Lidia. Spending this amount of time walking around a field with a herd of mules may seem like a waste of time, but by lunchtime they were all comfortable enough in my presence to stand around me grazing. Magda even dropped down and had a roll, and Lidia was actually approaching me.
I did try to put Irene in the stable or on the yard for another one-on-one session, but she was having none of it today!
It is easy to get disheartened when progress slows or you have difficulty with something, so I must keep reminding myself actually how far all the mules have come since day one.
After lunch Barbara Massa (the general manager) showed me some of the photos from Colleferro so that I had a better understanding of where the mules had come from. Some of the images were quite disturbing and showed me how well all of the animals had progressed in just 6-7 weeks. After suffering such neglect I would not blame them if they had wanted nothing to do with me, but all 5 of them are starting to trust and to let their guard down just a little bit for me and it is such a rewarding feeling to see them all more relaxed.
In the afternoon Magda, Irene and Lidia were all coming close to me to get bits of bread. Magda is still incredibly nervous, but the other two seem to be gaining in confidence. Given the boggy situation here, it is so difficult to achieve anything more than just baby steps, but even baby steps are steps in the right direction.
Positive energy and emotional moments - Day 4
Baby steps in the right direction - Day 3
Shaping behaviour - Day 2
A little victory and a small step of progress - Day 1
Colleferro donkeys safely home at last
Il Rifugio degli Asinelli