Had an amazing session with Saf today. Saf is a resource guarder; bucket feed, hay etc. she struggles to tolerate anyone near her when she’s eating. Depending on her mood, she lets Moo share her hay, Raven and Rosie are tolerated but everyone knows not to try anything on with her. I know nothing of her past before I got her so can only assume that she had restricted forage early in her life. She feels that her life depends on protecting what hay she has (even though she has enough hay to keep her going day and night). Not a normal, wild horse behaviour at all. I tried clicker training her a year ago when I was less experienced, and really struggled because she would just hound me for the food the whole time, get overexcited and mega aggressive to any nearby horses.
Restarted training in the last month or so, having learned more about food obsessed horses. Started off using hay as the reward, this was as low value food I had. When she realised that the rate of reinforcement (RoR) was so high and she was getting a ‘boring’ reward, she relaxed. I moved her on to the hay cobs everyone else has for training. The first session she would chase away anyone who got too near. I rewarded the quiet moments. Gradually moved around her body, tiny steps at a time, until she accepted that although the treats are attached to me, I will always come back to her head to feed her so there is no need for her to follow me. This was like a lightbulb going off in her head. She knew the food was hers once she heard that click, so no need to panic.
Today was the most chilled I’ve seen her with the food. Her little face lit up when she saw I was wearing the treat bag. As soon as she heard the first click, she just chilled out and we had a lovely relaxed session despite having an audience. A few short weeks ago, having the neighbouring horses standing so close would have been unthinkable for Saf.