So, I called Robin. One of the cool things about my clinic with Robin is that I can still access her wisdom post-clinic. She is continues to be my trainer, although my lessons are now conducted via telephone. I asked her why Tex is blowing me off more -- because he doesn't seem scared and he isn't rude; he just chooses to step out of reach when I approach. I thought he was playing alpha games with me. But, its more complicated than that.
Robin reminded me that Tex's behavior of avoidance has served him well for many years. It has protected him from contact with people -- who have not historically been a good thing for him. He is learning that we are different; that I bring him good things and that I'm fair. But, the neurons in his brain need to be re-wired. Its happening, but its a slow process and there will be times when the old wiring will speak louder to him than the new. My job is to be consistent and to keep the parameters constant -- good things only come with engagement.
Last week, most of our interactions went like this: I walk past the pasture. I have cookies in my pocket (in case). He sees me and turns to face me. I go to the fence and call him. He walks over, but stops a couple feet away; out of reach. I invite him closer. He declines. I leave. No cookie.
Yesterday, we had some bizarre weather. In the middle of June, we had a day full of hail storms and drenching rain. The wood stove burned all day. We decided to bring the horses into the barn since the stormy weather was expected to last well into the night.
The girls were standing in their run-in shed; basically dry.
Tex and Flash were initially running around their pasture as the hail pelted them, but then they took refuge under an oak where they were shielded from the brunt of the fury. Jackson was in his round-pen.
Brett and I stood under the barn eaves, waiting for the hail to turn to rain. When that happened, we went to the boys pasture. I wasn't at all sure that I'd be able to catch Tex -- between the weather putting him on edge and the past week's un-interest, I figured he would be spending the night under the tree and not in his dry stall with a sheltered run-out.
Brett and Flash left the pasture, closing the gate behind them. Tex stood near me, watching them go. I approached him. He stepped back. I turned and walked toward the gate. I heard hoof beats splashing through the mud behind me. I stopped and turned. He touched his nose to my hand and I stepped toward him; he backed up. I walked away -- faster this time. I felt his nose at my shoulder, walking with me. Again I stopped and turned. He stood like a rock while I slipped on the halter and led him to the barn. Brett had filled the grain bin in his stall with alfalfa cubes so got a nice reward when I slipped off his halter in the stall.
And, I ran inside and called Robin to tell her the good news. Its a long journey with Tex, but we are making good, solid, lasting progress.