Hawk is a master at the dance, an attentive, respectful gentleman, graceful yet powerful, wary yet trusting.
It's hard to explain just how much Hawk has worked his way into my heart. Seeing him slowly learning that he can look to me for security and leadership even though his instincts tell him to run from me, builds my respect and appreciation of him more and more every day. He will always have a special place in my heart and I look forward to the day that I can ride him back in the park where he once ran free. What a wonderful privilege that will be for all of us who have taken home one of these very special horses.
The weather and melting snow made it impossible to keep Hawk and Hail outside, so Henry built me a small round pen inside the barn that is accessible from the stalls. Since both horses had been loading in and out of the trailer for several weeks, it was no problem to get them loaded for the short trip to the barn. Now they have an outside pen, nice dry stalls in the barn, and the little round pen to play in. I was afraid Hawk would be more skittish inside the barn because of all the stuff, the sound of the tin roof, and the cats running everywhere, but he has actually been more relaxed. He will flinch if a cat jumps onto the plastic bedding bags we have strewn around outside the round pen, but he stands his ground.
In the five months I have been working with Hawk, I have been so amazed with his intelligence and his willingness to do whatever it is I ask of him, even though it is against his instincts. We are perfecting our games every day. He now lets me touch him with ropes, towels, blankets, plastic, nylon, etc. He is so attentive and sensitive that the slightest cue of touching just the hair of his side sends him away from the pressure in a pivot on the forehand. I only have to point in the direction I want him to go to get him to circle the pen or reverse directions and a wagging finger backs him up. He's not brave enough to step on the blanket on the floor yet, but he will approach, sniff, and chew it.
After all these months of working on trust, he will finally let me rub inside and out on all four legs. Though he immediately puts it down again, I can get him to lift any foot just by touching it and telling him, "Up." Earlier in his training, he was so extremely afraid of the thicker ropes. I think he really thought they were snakes, because he would let me touch him all over with the lariat or the lash of the training stick, but he would cringe when I touched him with the lead rope. Now he lets me touch him all over with it and a long soft cotton rope that I use to work with his feet. Once I was able to touch him with the cotton rope, I could reach around a leg to make a loop around it. By twisting the long ends together, I could keep the loop around the pastern and ask him to lift the leg. That way he learned to lift the foot without my having to get too close to it. I also use this method to get him used to having a leg restrained. I wrap the rope around a pastern and then ask him to move around the pen. When I say, "Whoa," I put pressure on the rope and I don't release him until he stops dead still. I thought that would really panic him, but he didn't panic and learned quickly to stop and stand.
He has learned to give to the pressure of the halter when I wrap the rope around his hind quarters and ask with the rope for him to make a complete 360. In preparation for vaccinations, he is learning to relax his neck when I pinch on his neck and poke him with a blunt substitute needle. I hope it works! We are about 10 days from "G day" so we are having friends come and pretend to be the vet. We have decided to have the vet come here so that we don't have to put Hawk though the trauma of the vet clinic until he has had more experience outside his little world of our barnyard.
Hawk has a long way to go to be trusting of all his two-legged friends, but he now comes to me and drops his head letting me know he wants to be near me and get the scratches he's learned to love. I couldn't ask for a more engaging dance partner. Who needs Dancing with the Stars when I can dance with a Hawk!