Thursday, March 24, 2011

Drifter Acts Like a Baby

Drifter has many characteristics of a baby horse.  I rather suspected he would be this way, after observing his interactions with his owner when I visited with them last fall.  He's a horse who's friendly and cooperative - but he's cooperative when he feels like it and not so much when he doesn't want to be.  That is, he feels he should get to call the shots - not because he's a particularly dominant horse or bad, just because that's what "baby" horses do and it's the way he expects things to be because of how he's been handled and "trained".

Two examples from this morning.  I couldn't make it to the barn last night to pick feet and wanted to pick them this morning - our mud is dreadful and I'd like to keep thrush at bay.  Drifter's been pretty good about foot-picking in the stall in the evenings.  But this morning I wanted to pick his feet when he was interested in going out and watching the other horses, and he didn't feel like being as cooperative.  He took one front foot away from me and slammed it down - I just was persistent and picked it up again and we got the job done.  With one hind he tried to cow kick - he did get a swat for that as it's completely unacceptable but just swatting him when he does it wrong isn't enough to train him to do it correctly.  I went right back to asking, rewarding small increments of foot lifting and we got the job done without him trying to kick me again.

After I turned him out in his paddock, I worked more with him on foot lifting.  This didn't work when he was loose - his response was to walk off to avoid doing what I wanted.  So I tied him to a post in the paddock - this involved taking him away from his hay which as a "baby" horse he didn't appreciate.  We worked more on foot-lifting.  With the "bad" hind, he tried to cow kick again and I didn't need to swat him - he acted like I had since he already knew this wasn't what he was supposed to do.  I went back to rewarding foot lifts of that foot.  We're going to do a lot more of this this evening - I'm going to do some clicker work rewarding him lifting his feet and holding them for picking for longer and longer intervals - he's already got the idea of clicker from our backing one step for a hand gesture or a touch, and I think he'll find clicker highly motivating.  Initially, for safety's sake, I'll probably work with his hinds while he has a halter and lead on so I can tip his nose towards me, which will keep him from swinging his hindquarters towards me while I'm working back there.

And while he was tied, he did another baby horse thing.  When his (very short) patience for the work was exhausted, he started pawing.  I just stood there like a statue next to him, and waited, and waited, while he pawed and pawed.  The instant he stopped pawing I praised him and let him loose to go back to his hay.  He ties well in the sense that he doesn't pull back, but he's restless and tends to want to swing his body from side to side - we'll be working on those things too.

To also make the point to him that I can ask him to work even when he'd prefer to eat or do something else and even when he's loose, we then did a little bit of turn on the forehand work.  I put one hand on his nose, slightly tipped his head towards me and cued him to move his hindquarters by touching his side.  We did this a couple of times in each direction, and then I let him be.

17 comments:

  1. Sounds like my horse Rogo - he's mostly cooperative and kind, but still realizing he doesn't get to decide what we do when. Luckily he doesn't cow kick. I'm afraid that would intimidate me. You handled it extremely well so I must remember what you did in case I ever need to do the same.

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  2. Good job. Drifer doesn't sound bad, he just wounds uneducated. I guess his former owner just didn't bother with the basics. He has a good teacher now.

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  3. I know what you mean about being a "baby". Sounds like you're on the right track to help him grow up. ;)

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  4. I like how you handled the pawing. Alex once told me that she doesn't actively discourage pawing because there are times when you actually want the horse to paw- trailer loading for example.

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  5. Def sounds like he still has some "colty " habits, but I am sure you will set him to rights soon

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  6. Memory lane. I remember these days with Milo. Youre doing a good job, though, stick with it as I know you will.

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  7. Sounds like you have a good project pony to work on. I'm a Pie fan, but I'm sure Drifter will turn out well, too.

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  8. SprinklerBandit - Drifter's got a long way to go before he's Pie, but he may get there (or at least close - I'm not sure any other horse can be as good as Pie) in time - I got him because I thought the potential was there under the issues.

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  9. Patient, persistent, consistent - well done.

    Dan

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  10. Sounds like you are making a bit of progress. It sounds like a fun project. Can't wait to hear more

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  11. You're going to be good for Drifter. Velvet, at 2 yrs. old, has some of those habits. Patience , persistence, and perfect practice!

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  12. Reading this post about working with Drifter I could have been writing about what we're working on with Miracle. She is a baby, and obviously has far more than her share of baggage as well, but she wants to be trusting. In fact it is amazing how much she *wants* to trust given what she's been through.

    She is all baby though, bossy and impatient coupled with the fact that no one's taught her anything (except how to be ridden as a weanling)! She gets better every day. We're just taking it in tiny baby steps for now.

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  13. he's a beautiful horse. i love his backwards comma/apostrophe!

    is his mane on the wrong side? oh dear! *lol* when i see horses with manes on the left, i think i'm looking at them in a mirror.

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  14. I'm sure he'll get the basics in no time. It just takes a little patience and persistence, which we know you've got. He's cute though.

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  15. Persistance is the key and you are well on your way. He just needs time and consistancy and he will come right around. I had to laugh out loud at the comment about the mane being on the wrong side. Frank's is on the left and I prefer it because when I throw a rope it does not get in the way.

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  16. Pawing... something not near and dear to my heart! Sounds like you're on the right track, though. My mare won't paw unless I'm not looking or can't reach her. I'm sure you'll have Drifter where you want him in no time. :)

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  17. Oh, some of those "baby" traits sound so familiar! For the first couple of years I had him, Panama was bad about shifting a lot when tied. He's gotten a lot better in the last year, almost without my even noticing when exactly it happened. He paws sometimes too, usually when I have him in the cross ties but I'm not giving him my full attention -- i.e., talking to someone else -- he is very spoiled, can you tell? I do discourage it, but usually just saying, "Quit," does the trick.

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