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This is the third short session that I have done with him today. I filmed the first session but didn’t film the last time I worked with him earlier today. You will notice a big difference with him from the beginning of this session. He is still very skeptical of me but he is wanting to engage with me a little more and is now starting to walk towards me. I am able to increase the level of intensity with the desensitization of my stick and string today. I point out when to stop and reward the subtle signs of when he relaxes a little in the process. The subtle signs are his head lowering a few inches, his ears moving, his eye and mouth softening. I build his trust in me by noticing these subtle changes in his body language and expressions. When I stop and reward these subtle changes he licks and chews and processes. He gives me feedback that I am playing right on the edge of his window of tolerance to make progress.

The bigger startles are him nearly going over the edge, also the tail swishing. He is the type of horse that doesn’t want to move his feet a lot, he has a high startle response but has more of a tendency to freeze (shut down). I believe he could then go into fight mode rather than flight mode. If I pushed him over his edge or not given him enough time to come back down and deactivate I feel he could develop a lot of defensive displaced behaviours such as ear pining, screwing up his muzzle, swishing his tail, snaking his neck and/or biting if I was to go too fast or put too much pressure on him. I am taking him up to activate his nervous system so he is in a higher state of arousal without taking him too far and then I allow him to come back down and deactivate it so he can find deeper levels of relaxation which allows me to go to the next step. I am also reading when he wants to go into freeze (shut down) or fight (show defensive behaviours) and try not to allow these two by playing between activating and deactivating his nervous system. I am wanting him to stay engaged with me and the learning process not go into shut down or show defensive behaviours.