Morning feeding: When I pour feed I keep Phil in my peripheral view so I can keep tabs on his position, his ears, and his eyes. This morning he tried to inch his way into my 16 foot feeding “bubble.” Every move he made forward I kicked a little bit of dirt at him to warn him to back away. He was testing me to see if I was still going to hold up to my end of the bargain. To the novice eye this behavior seems harmless and even “cute”, but at this stage of the learning process “if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile.” If I would have ignored Phil’s “test” I would have given him proof that I am not worthy to be a leader. I know all of this sounds so “nit-picky”, however these are the building blocks to a trusting partnership with your horse. You have to work as hard or harder than he does.
I could see he was a little tender on his front feet this morning (to be expected), so I gave him bute in his breakfast.
Even though Phil had ouchy feet I still worked with him this afternoon. I am emphatic and sympathetic (human thought processes) to Phil’s sore feet, but I am still going to uphold my end of the bargain. If Phil was rude in any way then yes, I will move his feet. If I were to say “oh, poor Phil, I am so sorry your feet hurt, don’t worry about moving out of my space or “I know your feet hurt today so, its ok to jerk the lead out of my hand…you don’t feel well” Ah, hogwash!!! These are human thoughts and emotions. In reality, the Alpha mare wouldn’t care if Phil were to have broken leg, an ear torn off, or one eye….he better move out of her way. I know this is a little dramatic, but I’m trying to make a point.
In order to set us up for a successful lesson together I chose to work on things that can be done standing still. I brought him up to the grooming bay. I started with stretching exercises. I then introduced Phil to lateral flexion. I put tension on the lead and immediately released (dropping the lead) as soon as Phil made an effort to tip his nose towards his shoulder. I ended the lesson when I could ask with just fingertip pressure on both sides. I introduced Phil to the lead tossed on his neck, back, hindquarters, and under his tail. He swished his tail at first because he was uncomfortable. I stopped as soon as he cocked a back leg indicating the rope no longer bothered him. Phil was also introduced to a lariat today. I rubbed him all over with the rope, smacked the ground all around him, swung it around, and let the rope bump into his legs. I will use the lariat later on with teaching him not to panic when he gets a foot caught and to hobble. These are 2 basic foundations that should be solid on EVERY horse.
Bringing Phil back to his pen I felt tension on the lead and immediately before he balked sent him scurrying backwards down my driveway. I know his feet were sore, but I could not let him balk; I had to switch his brain from instinct to thinking. This behavior will transfer to BIG problems under saddle, so I am not going to even attempt to ride until this balking is under control.
Evening meal: Phil is getting the hang of mealtime manners. I am still moving him out of his feed and mixing the feed with my hands. I was able to back Phil with just a wave of my hand.