Catching Halfpenny

HA'PENNY  (Halfpenny) is a 25 year old Shetland pony, resuced after having a traumatic and abusive history. His new loving owner called me out to help as nobody could get near him. He had a head collar on that was rubbing him and had clearly been on for some time. with time and patience and a whole lot of understanding Hapenny is learning to trust humans again and to feel safe. 

How we got to this

I had to start by working over the fence as Ha'penny felt much more able to explore me safely with this barrier between us. I then found the places that he was happy to let me touch and found that he loved a good scratch which was my trump card.

I kept my time working with Ha'penny short and sweet and focussed largely on the other horses in the herd, especially the herd leader, so that he could see how they interacted with me. I was then able to dip in and out of approaching him and scratching his favourite spots whilst in the field working alongside the others.

In the photos below you will see how I used a woollen, stretchy piece of fabric firstly scrunched up in my hand to add to scratching his favourite spots and then gradually  I was able to open it out and make it into something that resembled a head collar, not tying it but holding it in place until he was comfortable and confident with this. 

The fact that it doesn't resemble a head collar or lead line at all meant he had no resisting thoughts or learnt behaviour towards it. He just learnt that it felt nice and he associated lovely scratches and only positive things connected to it. The other advantage was that the fabric was silent, no buckle noises, very lightweight and just stuck to him so didn't slip and slide around his face. 

From there I was then able to practice putting a second head collar over the existing one so as to go through the motions and set up a new behaviour pattern of being caught and then I was able to take off the one he had been wearing for a long time. 

I visit Ha'penny regularly to check he's doing ok and to continue to work on building his trust and its been so lovely and rewarding seeing this little one find a place where he can now mentally relax and feel safe in his older years.  Infact seeing his personality and character shine through has been most entertaining at times!