Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The ABC's of being a horse


I went out to see the new boy again yesterday afternoon, just to see how he was without being all wound up. Boy, when I said he knew nothing... it literally meant nothing. Yesterday morning I had jotted down a list of goals that I would like to reach by the end of February with him. Things like lunging w/t/c, simple free jumping, hand walking along trails.... I'm gonna leave those on, but I will be adding a few much more basic skills on top of it.

A) When a treat is offered, one can nibble it from the hand offering it and munch it contently
I took a bucket of horse cookies out, I offered one in my hand and he sniffed it suspiciously, then looked at me like "ok, now what". So I let him eat a few out of the bucket, once he decided he liked them I was able to transition them to my hand. He had it figured out in about 15 minutes. I was told afterwards that supposedly he really likes carrots, so we shall try that next.

B) Halters & ropes are not horse eating monsters, and it is OK to stand quietly in a large paddock and let your owner catch and halter you, because you will get one of the above mentioned treats
He would let me come and pet him, curry him, stand next to him, without a fuss or care. But as soon as I even reached for the halter he was outta there! Especially a halter with clinking brass hardware. Even with it over my arm and close to my body he wouldn't come near me. I swapped for a rope halter and he found that much less suspicious, and I was able to move it around slowly in front of him, letting him see it without him taking off. But unfortunately, in order to actually catch and halter him we had to herd him into a stall sized enclosure and I had to corner him to get it on. Poor guy was shaking and had his head up in the air to avoid the halter. But, the good thing was he never got aggressive, never pinned his ears, or threatened to harm me, he just wanted to get away. Once it was on him he was cool, but having the halter/rope rubbed over him was a bit of a freak-out thing. At the end I was able to rub the loud clinky halter on his neck/shoulder/side, he tried to pull away at first, but when he figured it out it wasn't going to hurt him, he settled down. I left a halter on him, so he will live in that for some time while we practice haltering/catching. I'm happy to say that by the end, when I unclipped the leadrope to let him free in his paddock, he stood there with ears forward and nudged me for a treat :)

C) When being led by your owner, it is important to pay attention to them, not to the other horse over there, or the birds in the trees, or the cars going by, or...
I took him into the round pen to just go over some basic leading, halting, backing skills. He knows how to do it all, but was NOT paying attention to me, he was paying attention to everything but with his head sky hi. So I just kept it fast paced, whenever his attention wavered I asked him to do something different: walk, halt, back up, walk, turn, halt, walk, turn, back up, and so on. Within about 10 minutes he had figured out that it was much easier to pay attention. He was walking quietly with his head level with his withers, and when I asked him to back up he yielded at his poll and stepped back without resistance. Good boy!!

So, I definitely have my work cut out for me. I feel like I'm in one of those mustang challenges lol, get a completely unbroke and untouched horse and train it. I'm in hog heaven though, it's definitely a challenge and I'm all game for it!!

For the fun of it, here is the list of goals I jotted down yesterday morning, it will be interesting to see how many I can check off by the end of February.
- Manners: Respect of personal space. No biting, shoving, pushing, pulling, etc. Being caught and turned out without fuss
- Stand tied quietly without pawing or wiggling
- Lunge walk/trot, starting on using side reins
- Explore roads/trail via hand walking
- Free jumping over a small single jump


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