When I first introduced the ball to ZZ (aka Little Girl) I could see problems coming to the surface immediately. She would block the ball from me and angle her hindquarters toward me, setting up for a defensive kick at me (one of her favorite hit and run tactics).
Today, when I brought the ball out to the pasture, she was very excited and immediately started targeting the ball. However, within 10 minutes, she tried to bite me TWICE!! and once angled her hindquarters to me, I dodged to the left and she hit air. Talk about competitive!
ZZ: “MY BALL!!! No one touches… No one looks! I’ll kill you if touch MY BALL!!”
With my philosophy that this game is going to teach her that playing together is cooperative, not competitive, I abandoned the ball and walked away to the second pasture. She followed because of course she still wanted to play. Once she got into the second pasture, I closed the adjoining gate, and walked back to where Pony was in the first pasture.
I immediately thought of how children are socialized by learning that hitting and biting doesn’t work with your playmates! They simply stop playing with you! Got out the ball and started playing with Pandora where ZZ could see EVERY MOMENT OF IT…
Oh boy was she Royally Pissed Off! She took off galloping, bucking and striking and then running up to the fence to STARE —- AT —- PONY WITH A LOOK THAT COULD HAVE KILLED ….
Meanwhile, Pandora and I ignored her. I rolled, tossed, and kicked the ball – once Pony even did a Rugby move and hit the ball mid-air with her nose. And we clicked and treated, and played ball all the way around that pasture probably for half an hour while Little Girl WATCHED and FUMED – I think if you had gotten close you could have seen steam coming out of her ears! As it was, hubby heard her angry snorts all the way across the field to where he was working on new fencing. LOL!
The more angry ZZ got about being left out of the game the more funny I thought it was… which I’m not sure what that says about me…. 🙂
This is what I think: the ball has become like the food. MINE. Like Carolyn Resnick asks: does the horse perceive they are TAKING the food from you, or that you are GIFTING the food to them? In Little Girl’s case she felt she was TAKING the ball from me and defending it as her rightful possession. I needed to turn that around where she saw that I was gifting it to her and that there are rules, MY RULES.
I went into the pasture and ignored Little Girl, messing with the ball. In a few moments she approached, her ears forward, interested. This was good as I wanted her to invite herself into the game.
I gave her the signal to stop away from me about 10 feet. Clicked – had her walk to me a few steps to receive her Treat. Invited her to the ball with an outstretched hand, walking backwards. When she targeted the ball, CT. I did this several times to build back her interest in the ball and the game.
I rolled the ball forward and we walked together to the ball. CT. As long as she stayed parallel to me, with ears forward, approaching the ball, I CT.
I started asking her to halt (upraised hand, tall body carriage) and wait for my invitation to approach the ball (outstretched hand, backward step). Sometimes I asked her to back away from the ball and then a CT.
Then I kicked the ball a bit further away and this is when she got in trouble. Getting in front of me she would angle her hindquarters to me so she could prepare for a strike if I took HER BALL… sorry, girlfriend, this is MY GAME, MY RULES, so I swished the lungewhip and took her off the ball and she received no CT.
We worked about 15 minutes and it was slower, not as much chasing but I wanted to keep it more deliberate. She quickly learned that if she followed me to the ball, kept the ball between us or if she walked parallel that was allowed. If she passed me and put herself in a position where she could strike me she got chased off the ball.
Now it will be interesting to see how well this session holds in her brain when the excitement builds up again. Hmmmm
Post-Thoughts: Z is an aggressive horse. Games that involved herding or ownership, like the Tiger game or working with the Ball brings out her aggression. Please be careful when working at liberty with a dominant horse and make sure there is plenty of room for the horse or you to safely leave the game.