Day 3 – Phil’s Courage’s Journal

This morning’s breakfast routine was repeated. Phil was a little less pushy. This is a huge step for him. I asked for the head down cue and let him go to his food dish. He did dance around a bit, but I did not let up on my head down request.

We worked on walking through the gate again. I insist Phil stands slightly behind me while I open the gate. I will walk through with Phil following. Well, at least that was the plan. Phil feels so much pressure from the gate he rushes. This is very common, it is a natural survival instinct not to be in a position where there is no escape from a predator. In Phil’s mind there is a definite possibility he could be trapped. He also could have had a bad experience in the starting gate. I can’t put too much human emotion into Phil’s reaction.

He thought about planting his feet on the way back through. I saw his head go up and felt a little bit of tension on my rope lead. Timing is everything as he half halted I used the word “NO” and backed him. My tone of voice was the warning and the backing was the consequence.

It takes a lot of effort for a horse to back. You will also never see the Alpha mare back. It is a submissive move. When I refer to “back” I do not mean a leisurely step backward. I mean back up with a purpose. It only took a few steps backward compared to our first day backing all through the front yard. The next time it may only take my “No.” You have to catch them before thinking portion of the brain switches to the instinct part.

Phil was introduced to my son’s go-cart. Phil was a little alarmed at first. We have a huge circular drive that my son uses as a race track. After an afternoon with that go-cart whizzing by Phil didn’t even lift his head as it zoomed past.

Feeding dinner:

I was running a little behind on the evening feeding schedule. Phil was anxious to eat. He stood at the gate and pawed. Pawing is a rude behavior. I bypassed his pen and fed the broodmares. If I feed him while he is pawing then I just told him this was an OK behavior.

Give your horse a task if he won’t stop pawing. Once his brain switches to the task and he is polite, go ahead and feed. I sent him away from the gate when I returned. He stood and faced me. I waited for acknowledgement and fed. I asked him to move away from his food several times. Each time required less and less pressure. I can wave my arm and he’ll move. The goal is to get him so tuned in to my body language he’ll move with a wave of my finger; yes, this can be done!

The secret is the Alpha mare language. I walked straight towards the food dish with a purpose and literally claimed it in my mind before I even reached the dish. Phil felt my energy and moved away from it. The wave of my arm projects energy and gives Phil a visual. In the next few lessons I will ask Phil to move away from his food and then I will ask him to stay when I approach. You don’t want your horse to move away from you every time you come close.I noticed Phil’s manure was a little dry. I mixed him up a very soupy bran mash.

I was expecting Phil to turn up his nose, but instead he loved it!

-Kara

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