After learning the daily routine of the mules yesterday, I decided this morning to work with Biclo and Margherita before their breakfast arrived in the hope of having their full concentration. They did not disappoint! I worked on extending their comfort zones and the amount of time they will stand still without becoming fidgety, as they both seem to pretend they have forgotten certain things when asked.
I begin all sessions with mules like Margherita and Biclo with a nice groom to settle them into work and it is also a way for me to gauge what mood the mules are in and whether they are open to training today.
I continued with Biclo's clicker training to focus him on the task in hand and he soon settled very well. I worked down his legs and on picking up all four feet, grooming his body, belly and tail and also checked his teeth. He is still fairly playful and likes to turn right around to see what you are up to when grooming his tail and still becomes fidgety when he decides he has had enough! I will continue to work with him to extend his concentration and get used to standing even if there is not a lot going on.
I then went onto work with Margherita who really outshone herself. Margherita stood perfectly to be groomed all over so I went on to work with her feet. I went a couple of steps up her shaping plan just to see what she remembers. She seems to have remembered how to pick up three feet perfectly but has seemingly forgotten about her right hind! I worked with Margherita for a little longer shaping her behaviour so she gradually relaxed and lifted her right hind. I was so pleased that she hadn't forgotten completely and with a little perseverance was back to a full set.
Once their breakfast arrived, I spent some time working on approach and retreat techniques with Irene, Lidia and Magda in the field. As Biclo is top of the social structure he gets his shout at the food first whilst they quietly wait their turn. This gives an opportunity for me to work with the girls while Biclo's attention is occupied elsewhere! The mud in the paddock seems to be getting boggier and deeper as the days pass, so picking my route over to the girls is an interesting one with lots of new moves on display!
I worked with the mares for most of the morning and they are all continuing to accept my presence. When I went to get Biclo for one of his training sessions, Lidia, closely followed by Magda, started in my direction. I stopped and waited to see how close they would come. Lidia stopped just out of reach but even little steps like these are ones in the right direction.
This morning brought lots of beautiful sunshine which the mules enjoyed basking in and I had high hopes that if it stayed this way the 'pond' might start to resemble a paddock, however, my hopes were dashed when the afternoon arrived bringing more rain.
This afternoon I managed to coax little Irene into a stable and spent an hour working with her. She soon relaxed to my presence but was very quick to warn me with a swing of her bottom where her comfort zones lay. I stayed with Irene and worked on teaching her that I would only take the pressure off when she stood still and swinging her bottom does not work. About half way through our session she seemed to connect the two behaviours and relaxed to letting me stand next to her, but just far enough away so I couldn't touch her.
She is very inquisitive, but at the moment her natural fight or flight instinct still kicks in. I am hoping with continued work Irene will eventually learn to trust and let her guard down - maybe not whilst I'm in Italy this week, but I'm hoping to build a good foundation for the future.
Later on, I went back and had another few short sessions with both Biclo and Margherita to reiterate what we had gone over this morning. I also worked on their 'stand', 'back' and 'walk on' commands as I feel voice commands, once learnt, are extremely helpful in communicating what you would like them to do. I am hoping tomorrow I may even be able to learn the Italian for these.
But until then arrivederci & buonanotte!