Day 18 – Phil’s Courage’s Journal

Morning feeding: Dan reported feeding went well.

Ground Tying: I think this is really a neat concept. Ground tying gives your horse a say so in the situation. Think about it, if your horse is truly your partner then he will accept bridling, saddling, mounting, etc. by standing still. If your horse moves away from you during any of these activities he is telling you “hey, I’m not ready yet” or “I don’t respect you .” Ground tying is an easy lesson to teach, but it takes time and lots and lots of patience.

Before asking Phil to ground tie I set him up for success. I asked him for a little ground work to warm up his muscles and to get his brain focused on me. It took less than 5 minutes to warm Phil up physically and mentally.

I have been working on ground tying from day one with Phil. Today, I haltered standing on his right side today to mix things up with rope halter/lead and led him (right side) to the round pen. I squared him up in the middle of the round pen. Note: I square Phil up in front and place his hind legs in a hunter stance. This way I can teach showmanship in hand and ground tying in one lesson. I asked for head down and then backed away from Phil. Phil turned and faced me with two eyes. This is exactly what I have been teaching him, but now I must dramatically change my posture to a low energy, submissive one to tell him “it’s ok to stand and rest”.

I continued to approach and retreat 360 degrees around him. At first, he wanted to turn on his forehand to face me (two eyes). I did reward this effort. Each time he moved I submissively approached and squared him up and asked for head down. I do want to make a note that when you approach your horse you should never approach in a straight line. This is predator behavior.

Prey animals approach in serpentines. Next time your horse walks up to you in the pasture observe how he doesn’t walk in a straight line to you. He may look like a drunk. Several times Phil felt pressure and moved off. I believe he was trying to either anticipate a request to move off or I was using too much pressure via my body language. He stepped on his own lead and stopped himself in his tracks. It didn’t take many repeats of this sudden jerk on his halter caused by his own feet to stop him from moving off.

As Phil was standing I groomed him (associate me with rest, warm fuzzy feelings, security). When I switch sides I do not walk around him instead I slide my hand under his chin and guide his head to the side so my feet never move when I switch sides. This is a psychological move going back to the theory “he who moves his feet is the follower or subservient one.”  I ask for Phil to ground tie again only this time I try some distraction like messing with the gate, digging in the sand, splashing water in the trough etc. Each time Phil moves out of position I set him up again. Phil is pretty content to stand. When get further along in our relationship I’ll try ground tying in the arena, pasture, and eventually on the trail.

I passed the trailer again. Phil and I took a detour up the ramp, into the trailer, and back down again before returning to his pen. No hesitation from Phil.

Evening feeding: I am still mixing feed with my hands. I just looked at the feed dish and he moved away. I rewarded him with a rub and left him to eat. Wow, that was communication.