Morning feeding: I continue to mix his feed with my bare hands to put my scent on his food (soaked beet pulp, pellets). Phil met me at the gate. I asked him to back with an authoritative BACK voice request. This was my pre-cue (ask). Then I told him with a wave of my arm (tell). If he had ignored me I would have lunged, squealed, and kicked dirt at him (promise). Always ask, tell, promise (credit to Pat Parelli). Phil backed and moved out of my way. Remember the Alpha mare never alters her path; the herd will move out of her way. I see a lot of handlers walk around their horses so they don’t disturb them. What they have unknowingly done is they have shown their horse that they are not the leader. When I walk into my pastures all of my horses pick up their heads to acknowledge me and willingly clear a path.
Phil politely waited for his breakfast to be served. I groomed him while he ate. I discovered another “hole” in Phil’s education. He is very wary about the area under his tail. He squeezes his tail as tight as he can between his butt cheeks. This is very common because this is a vulnerable spot. I will work on desensitizing this area because in the future I will need Phil’s cooperation if I have to take his temp, wrap, or braid his tail.
I am also very concerned about Phil’s front shoes. His toes are a little long. The shoes are loose and I see a quarter crack extending beyond the nail hole on his left hoof. He seems to have a pretty decent hoof wall. The hoof is very brittle. My farrier is due out in 2 weeks, but I hate to see the shoe come off and take a big portion of the hoof wall, so I’ll call my awesome farrier to see if he could come out. I am pleased that Phil has super nice farrier manners. As a side note, I treat my farrier better than royalty. I will not ask him to work on a rank horse. I always tip him. My horses (all 13) are always prepared with halters on and lead ropes handy. I am always outside waiting for him to arrive. In return, he has always made emergency trips to my farm without extra cost. He has come out to check questionable lameness and has never charged me. He always does a very professional job.
I have started Phil on biotin and Omega Horseshine (Omega fatty acids).
We went back to the round pen this morning. Now, that Phil had some idea of what is expected from him in the round pen I stepped up my requests. First, on the lead, forward, backward, up, down, right, left, turn on haunches, turn on forehand. Then I let him loose in the pen. He was more responsive today and had his inside ear on me most of the time. I only carry a rope halter/lead in my driving hand, no lunge whip. Phil still doesn’t completely believe I’m the Alpha (this will take a lot more time). He didn’t feel like he had to travel around with his neck craned over the panels today which is an improvement. He still looked to the herd most of the time. Phil has not become a spoiled horse (HURRAY), so it is much easier to reward him with rest. I only had to drive him around a few minutes before I got a “change” from him. This was the appropriate time to stop the lesson. When I refer to “change”, I mean a mental and physical change. This is the area I have the most difficult time explaining. I can FEEL a change in a horse. To me, the horse feels soft; the energy becomes low and flowing: I feel relaxed. Physically, you will see a softening of the eye, loose ears, head/neck/shoulder softening. Your horse will travel with his nose slightly tipped towards you. His tail will be relaxed. This “change” may take 3 hours or 30 seconds. Whenever “change” does occur STOP your lesson, reward with a rest. If you miss this window, you’ll have to keep going until the “change” occurs again. Many people feel they have to school their horse for a certain period of time. This is totally a human concept. Time doesn’t mean anything to horses. Even though I only worked with Phil a few minutes in the round pen (human concept), Phil told me “Ok, I get it.” The lesson was accomplished.
I had 25 minutes before I had to leave to pick up the kids. I had Phil employed mowing the grass in the arena. I sat down on a bucket in the corner of the arena. He was grazing at the other end. Phil raised his head and walked over to me. He offered me his head and I gave him a good rub. I then asked him to back away and it only took a wave of my hand to move him off. He continued to graze near me. This was a breakthrough. I was really able to see a sweet horse.
Evening meal was uneventful. Phil was polite.