Day 10 – Phil’s Courage’s Journal

Morning feeding: Phil was more alert this morning. His feet were feeling a little better. The digital pulse was normal.

Today’s lesson: Tying

This morning I tacked Phil up with a heavy roping saddle. Phil was unconcerned about the saddle, so I did not have to desensitize him to the saddle. I did not “tip toe” around Phil, just because he has never had such a big, heavy saddle on his back. If I was concerned, then Phil would feel he needed to be concerned. I was respectful not to just plop the saddle on his back. I checked for fit and tightened the cinch only tight enough to hold the saddle in place. Phil was “girthy”. He sank to his knees as I gently tightened the girth. I did not panic I just kept cinching and told him “NO!”. He stood right up. I know this could be a frightening experience for a handler, but if you back off, pet your horse, or feel sorry for him because he just won the game and he will repeat….GUARANTEED. Now, with that said, it is your responsibility to be gentle and have tack that fits. Although, I respect the fact that cinching or girthing up is probably not on Phil’s top ten list of things he would like to do, it is part of his job.

With Phil tacked up, I asked him for w-t-c transitions on the lead. I was checking to see if Phil accepted the saddle; he did. He humped his back at first and tried shaking the sports boots off, but quickly became comfortable. I normally don’t use sport boots unless there is a need for protection such as a strenuous workout, rough terrain, a young horse that doesn’t have good control over his feet, or in this case learning to tie. This is one of my favorite lessons because I can pull up a chair and watch Phil teach himself how to disengage his hindquarters, side pass, and release pressure. Even though Phil’s feet were not moving per se, he was still working mentally. I use the saddle and its weight to put Phil in “work mode.” I use a tie blocker, so Phil will never hit tension in the rope. Phil did sit back on the rope twice. Both times I watched him find a release. I did not run up to him to comfort him, as long as he was safe I let him make his own discovery. He did a lot of blinking and licking lips. The tie blocker is mounted to a mature hickory tree. The tree provides nice shade and it is in an enclosed area. As a safety note, if you tie to a tree with a tie blocker you must supervise your horse at all times. If he wraps himself around the tree and pulls back the lead would not release through the tie blocker, it would tighten around the tree and your horse would panic. I left Phil tied for 30 minutes and untied when he cocked a back leg and was unconcerned about his environment. Do not think for one minute he is trained to tie. This lesson will have to be repeated in many environments, under many different circumstances.