Day 16 – Phil’s Courage’s Journal

Morning feeding: Dan reported no problems with Phil.

After the kids finished their homework we decided to go out on the trails. The kids decided they were going to ride their bikes while walking the dogs. I saw a perfect teaching opportunity and brought Phil along. Phil has a tendency to kick at the dogs or anything moving behind him. I respect Phil’s instinctual behavior however, this is something we will have to work through if he is ever going to foxhunt or be around children and pets. You can just imagine the commotion going on with the kids, bikes, and dogs out on the trail. As soon as Phil locked an ear on a bike or kid I gently tugged on the lead rope to prevent his brain from switching from thinking to instinct (timing is everything).

The rope halter has pressure knots that convey a clear signal and will quickly get a horse’s attention if used with proper timing and quickness. Phil understands my message based on the energy I send down the rope.  He knows how fast he has to move his feet according to my energy and posture. There isn’t a need to call Department of Social Services, my kids have been raised around horses, so they know how to be safe and stay far away.  We went to the sand pile behind the back pastures. This is a huge (think sand dune) pile of sand we use to fill in holes, level pastures, put in stalls etc. I walked up the sand pile and Phil followed right behind. This can be a very scary experience for a horse, but Phil took my lead and we went up and over the pile. This was just another experience to prove to Phil I can keep him safe; mission accomplished. Tackling new obstacles is a fun way to learn with your horse, however always use good judgment to keep you and your horse safe.

When we returned home my daughter helped with an exercise that needs 2 people. My daughter held Phil while I roped his back leg. I secured the rope around his left hind pastern and lifted his leg while standing a good distance out of kicking range. Phil resisted, shook his leg, danced around while I kept the tension on the rope. As soon as Phil relaxed I released. Expect to hold the tension on the first several tries for quite a while and let your horse find his release. Practice this exercise in a safe enclosure like an arena or round pen.  If you drop the rope you have now taught your horse that if he struggles he will be released. The purpose of the exercise is to teach your horse that if he gets a leg caught he is to stand still and he will be released. I am sure everyone knows of at least one story where a horse got caught in wire, fence, underbrush, etc. and severely damaged muscle, tendons, or ligaments because he fought to free himself. Again, I repeated lifting his leg and released as soon as he relaxed. This was repeated on all legs.

Please be very careful when attempting this exercise because you can easily cause a rope burn on you and your horse. I will repeat this every chance I get with Phil. THIS IS FOUNDATIONAL SKILL ALL HORSES SHOULD BE TAUGHT.  For example, even if you are by yourself you can pick your horse’s leg up with the lead rope and hold the tension until he relaxes; look for lowering of head, blinking eyes, or floppy ears. This can even be done as a modified chiropractic stretch.

On the way back to Phil’s pen I passed the trailer. I couldn’t let this obstacle pass us up. In the trailer we walked, turned around, and walked out. Ta-Da!