Working with Stormy

From our Herd Health Manager and volunteer Melinda:

I’ve been working with Stormy regularly for a few weeks now. It’s been a learning curve for both of us, for sure! This is the first blind horse I’ve worked with. I’ve been teaching her aspects of the horsemanship techniques we use as the basis for SAFE’s training program and combining those with clicker training to teach verbal cues.

For the physical exercises we’ve been working on bending, backing with a soft feel off the halter rope, moving away with pressure from my hand, and de-spooking with the flag and rope. But many of the exercises we use with the other horses don’t apply with Stormy since she can’t read body language. She can feel my energy, but if I increase that energy it confuses her and she doesn’t know what to do about it. I figure that can be a tool I use later down the road, but I’ll wait until we have more finesse with our training.
 
For the verbal cues, she’s learning whoa, back, walk on, step up, left and right. I’ve also been trying to teach her to respond to her name. She caught on to what the clicker means very quickly. When she hears it, her lips start to quiver in anticipation of a treat, and her response time is quicker on my next “ask.”
 
I’ve learned that there are certain times of the day when working with a blind horse is not ideal. For example, when she hears the other horses being brought in from turnout at dinner time, I have difficulty keeping her focus. I also can’t multi-task during our sessions, which mostly includes carrying on conversations with anyone other than Stormy. If I get distracted then so does she. But if I give her 100%, then she gives me 110. I’m really enjoying my time with this sweet, intelligent mare. Her future adopter will be getting a diamond in the rough.

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