Thursday, March 5, 2009

No Blankets! and Lily Outside

Today, for the first time in what seems like forever, the horses are wearing no blankets, no rain sheets, no nothing.  It's supposed to be in the 50sF today!  Dawn, who almost always has to wear something due to her thin coat, was beside herself with delight - pawing, double pawing (both front feet at once), rolling, leaping up, bucking, head flinging as she ran and bucked - she does this amazing thing with her head where she repeatedly flings it from side to side.  One of our boarders, whose house overlooks the mares' dry lot, called me and said "there must be something wrong with Dawn - she's pawing, rolling and bucking" and I said that's just Dawn playing.

Lily did much better outside last night, although she did stand at the gate and look reproachfully at me as I left the barn.  This morning, after breakfast, when I took Maisie out of the barn on the way to pick up Lily, Lily did her bolt to the gate, screaming and head snaking (a mare frustration or anger gesture, often used to signal other horses to move away).  I spent a few minutes with her in the paddock, asking her to step away from me with a hand gesture, and once I haltered her I rubbed her face and neck and asked her to drop her head - and keep it there - and step back when asked.  She did all those things well, and wasn't aggressive (no bite threats), so we led out.  She was forward but well-behaved on the way to the pasture.

One thing I find useful with horses that are nervous or fidgety is to show them ways that they can self-calm.  This can be useful in all sorts of circumstances - I want my horses to be able to calm themselves down (I can't do it for them) when they spook on the trail, for example.  One way I do this is with ground tying.  If a horse can learn to ground tie, he or she can learn to self- calm.  The way I teach ground tying is by making it easy.  If the horse stays still, nothing happens - I keep grooming or whatever else I am doing, and the horse isn't asked to do anything.  If the horse moves, or does something else I don't want - like biting or pawing - I ask the horse to move in a circle around me until the horse offers to stop, then I drop the rope and continue doing whatever it was I was doing.  When I'm teaching this, I don't care if the horse ends up back where it was, I just want it to stop moving.  At a later stage, once the horse understands what I want, I might ask the horse to stay in one spot.  Most horses pick this up very quickly.

This afternoon, since the weather will be nice and I can groom outside, I'm going to work with Lily on this, to remind her that she can self-calm - she used to know how to ground tie but could use a refresher course.

2 comments:

  1. Well be sheets off on the weekend too. Forecast for over 60f. Tomorrow around 50, but some rain so they will have sheets on.

    You are "horse whispering" whether you know it or not. People spend fortunes to learn that kind of training. All you have to do is market your techniques correctly and you too can make a mint. It's all in the packaging.

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  2. Jean - thank you for your comments, but everything I know I learned from watching, listening to and riding with Mark Rashid, who basically taught me to listen to what the horse is saying and shape what the horse offers up. I highly recommend his books and DVDs. I'm planning to continue to audit his clinics whenever I can as well. If I can do it, anyone can.

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