Today, I had to teach from 7:45am to 12:45pm. I am adjunct college faculty. I left school to pick up my kids from school and returned home around 3:00pm. The kids had 2 hours of homework. We fed the horses at 5:00pm. We are a breeding farm and have 13-15 horses at any given time. I handle all the breeding and foaling. My family helps out tremendously.
My schedule did not allow me to ride or formally school any horse today. However, every interaction you have with your horse you are either teaching or un-teaching a behavior.
My husband fed this morning and reported Phil was dead set on eating. He sent Phil away until Phil acknowledged him and let him pet his forehead. I fed Phil and sent him to the far end of the round pen this evening. I let him approach to eat and used this time to groom him. Phil will begin to associate me with good feelings during eating and the physical stimulation of grooming like his Dam used to do. If you don’t have brushes with you, rub your body on your horse. This not only brings back memories of your horse’s Dam, but puts your scent on him.
While Phil was eating I asked him to move out of his feed dish and go to the end of the round pen. When Phil gave me a submissive posture, I let him follow me to the feed dish and let him resume eating. I repeated this several times. I am imitating the Alpha mare.
If you have ever observed a herd eating together you’ll notice the Alpha mare eating out of every food dish. The herd will move out of her way even if they are desperately hungry. The mare may not even be hungry, but this is a strategic move to maintain her status as leader in the group. I imitate the leader mare with Phil.Phil did swat his tail and cow kicked as I was brushing his hindquarters. This not only is rude, but it is dangerous. This is a game the young colts like to play. He was testing me to see if I would move away. It is kind of like tag, you’re it! I grabbed his tail and shouted a firm “NO”. Phil is very immature and this was not an aggressive move on his part. However, it could easily escalate into a power tactic to get the humans away from him if not corrected quickly. All corrections must be made within 3 seconds or you loose your teaching window. His own Dam would have bit him if he did that to her. I cannot bite him, but I do have my stern voice and the ability to move his feet around the round pen.
I dewormed Phil (routine for all new horses). This was a great teaching moment when I introduced the head down cue. I found Phil is very sensitive on his poll and ears. He could have been twitched. He can lift his head higher than I can maintain contact with the poll, so I had to use a different approach. Using a rope halter I initiated downward pressure on the end of the lead. Phil lowered his head only a tiny bit, but he was rewarded with total release. This was repeated over and over until Phil’s head was at the ground. I was able to de worm without having to stand on a mounting block. I ended our time together on that good note. Always finish your interaction with your horse on a good note even if it has been a rough day for you and your horse. Pick some task your horse is really good at such as backing or turn on haunches etc.