Morning feeding: We had a record setting low last night for this time of the year. I was expecting a lot of “freshness” from my group. As I entered Phil’s pen he started hopping up and down with all four legs off the ground at once. He was very animated. Since he was being polite and hopping in his own space I left him alone. He circled in and I gave him the ritual rub. I brought in his hay and asked him to leave his food dish to clear a path for me to reach his hay rack. He backed with only a wave of 2 fingers. Talking about communicating! Remember the Alpha never walks around the subordinates; they clear a path for her.
Treating. Ok, I’m a stickler for NOT stuffing my horse’s face full of treats. If you have not established respect in your relationship, treating will lead to a pushy, demanding, mouthy horse that may even bite or strike when a treat is not presented upon demand. I like to treat my horses. It makes me feel good. I feel Phil and I have come to an agreement that I am the Alpha. At this point I can introduce treats. If you absolutely must give treats I would recommend giving them in a bowl. I have a large plastic bowl I purchased from Dollar Tree. Your horse will know the treat is from you because your scent is on the treats. If your horse is demanding a treat then I would suggest skipping the treat or give him a task and then treat….on your terms, not his. I promise your horse will not hold a grudge against you if you do not treat him. The best treat a horse can get is to be left alone.
I used the treats (I like baby carrots and apple nibblets) to ask Phil to stretch. This way Phil stretched on his own without me interfering with what degree he was to stretch. This worked really well. I was able to get Phil to track the treat with his eyes. I started to teach him to bow. Incorporated into this “game” Phil was ground tied, he used head down cue, vertical/lateral flexion, backing, and disengaging the haunches. The best part was this is bonding time. We are learning how to communicate in a relaxed, non “classroom” setting, no pressures.
Evening feeding: I forgot to feed Phil his hay! As I rounded the barn after feeding and scrubbing troughs down the hill I saw Phil as polite as can be standing in front of his hay rack. He acknowledged me with “two eyes” and I saw the empty hay rack. Wow, this is a breakthrough. In the past, Phil would pace at the gate and paw if his hay rack was empty. Of course, I have been consistent in my requests and follow throughs that he needs to be a gentleman until I get to him. Phil is really starting to “get it.” Hooray for Phil!