I am elated that Zum is warming up to me again. All summer in Santa Fe, Zum and I were very close. After Zum experienced trauma almost three weeks ago in the neighbor’s arena, I was heart-broken when Zum became hostile towards me. But slowly, Zum is starting to remember that we were once friends.
I am backing off to smaller scares now. I am paying more attention to Zum’s emotions to interpret his degree of panic or growing calmness. My goal is for him to face what is scaring him when he is frightened. I don’t want him to think that running around in the arena is the right reaction to his fear.
If Zum starts to back up or move away from me, I step to the center of the round pen and I ask him to move forward. I stand and wait, kissing to Zum as I ask him to move forward. My goal is to get Zum to look at me and move towards me. I want Zum to like me and want to be near me again. This is how I can start rebuilding Zum’s trust in me.
Zum got really terrified with the bad experience with the neighbor, making him even spookier than before I started training him. His fear can last a long time. I don’t want to proceed too quickly and overscare Zum. I need to backtrack with my colt. I need to turn the pressure down until Zum can stand and face scary objects again.
It has taken me many months to earn Zum’s trust in people. Unfortunately, there are people that believe horses should obey and if they don’t obey, they should be punished. Zum was very afraid when I made the mistake of taking him to a neighbor’s arena. He was afraid of the cows, the horses, the barrels and the machinery. There were too many new and frightening things for him to process all at once. He couldn’t handle his panic. He reared, bucked and ran off. My neighbor caught him. She wanted me to hit him. I didn’t. She yelled at me that Zum didn’t respect me. This was not a positive experience for Zum or myself. He and I have both lost confidence and trust in each other and in humans. I need to start from the beginning and try to win his trust in me back. We both need to feel safe around each other again.
I have recently learned how important it is to be able to tell Zum to relax. If Zum is throwing his head, looking around and prancing around me on the lead rope, he is not relaxed. I say ‘Calm down’ in a soft voice. I know he is relaxed if his neck muscles are not tense, his feet are stopped and his nose is turned towards me. When Zum’s neck softens, I can release my tight grip on the lead rope and let him stand quietly, reassuring him with praise. The body language of both Zum and I needs to be relaxed together.