Day 9 – Phil’s Courage’s Journal

Morning feeding: Dan fed this morning. He reported Phil stayed out of his space, but he tried to evade the head rub. Dan stood his ground and would not let Phil eat until he submitted to a head rub. Note that the SAME routine and SAME requests are followed at every meal. It would not be fair to Phil if we changed the rules.

I returned from work and brought Phil his lunch time hay. I checked his sore feet for heat and a digital pulse. He does have a strong pulse on both front legs, but it was not racing. The vet is scheduled to come out tomorrow to float teeth and draw Coggins. I’ll have her evaluate Phil and ask her if it is ok to paint Venice Turpentine on his soles. It would be a shame if Phil could not go barefoot on our soft, sandy soil. I haltered Phil using this opportunity to practice polite haltering and show Phil that the halter does not always equal work. I petted and rubbed Phil all over (especially ears and under tail) to put my scent on him and simulate his Dam rubbing on him. I took the halter off (used head down cue) and left him to eat his hay. Even though I did not take Phil out of his pen, we had a team building session.

I like to use Bruce Tuckman’s (1965) group dynamics model to explain team building with your horse. Many of you who have taken a college sociology or psychology class have studied this model, so it may look familiar. Even if you have not studied this model, I think it is easy to relate to your own relationship you have with your horse. What are your group dynamics?

The model: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.
Forming: The team meets for the very first time, members behave independently.
Storming: This is necessary for growth, can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful, many power struggles.
Norming: Members adjust their behavior, begin to trust
Performing: Members function as a unit, the job gets done smoothly without conflict

When Phil unloaded off the trailer we were in the forming stage. Last week we had many storming sessions. Today, I saw a glimpse of our team norming during feeding. Each interaction I have with Phil will fit into one of these categories.

Evening feeding: I groomed Phil while he was eating. He was polite.