Friday, March 25, 2011

"Let Me Help You With That"

Drifter and I did some reasonably successful foot training last night using clicker and treats.  With each foot, I would reward progress with a click and treat - first just taking weight on the leg, then holding it up for a moment, then longer, then longer still, then picking part of it and then picking the rest.  Lots of verbal praise too.  He got the idea pretty quickly and I was even able to successfully do both backs without any attempts at cow-kicking.  I was also able to do it while he was loose in the stall - good Drifter!

This morning the farrier was coming to do his trim and also put Dawn's shoe back on (the combination of mud and Dawn's acrobatics isn't good for keeping shoes on).  Before the farrier got there, Drifter and I did a bit of hand grazing on the field behind the barn.  I don't do a lot of hand-grazing with my horses since they're in all-day turnout with either round bales in the winter or grass in the summer, and because once a horse is used to hand-grazing it can be difficult to stop them from diving for grass when you're leading.  But hand-grazing is, in my experience, a good way to help a nervous horse calm down particularly in new surroundings.

While we were hand-grazing, Drifter got to look at and explore some new sights and sounds - lots of snorting and looking.  We got lots of good "don't run into me" practice as well - at one point he was spooked by some noise coming from the barn and attempted to bolt but I was able to keep his head towards me and hold on.  When he got nervous and dancing, I made sure to keep his head turned towards me - this helps prevent the inside shoulder from popping in and potentially into me.  And then I turned him out for a bit in the arena to help get some energy out - the surface is still pretty hard from our below-freezing temperatures but at least it wasn't soupy.  He did some exploring and also had the chance to stretch his legs - it's the first time I've seen him moving at liberty in a big space and he has an amazing trot - very big and with lots of elevation as well as extension in front.  He would make a fine dressage horse, I think. He seemed to prefer moving at trot to cantering.

Drifter wasn't perfect for the farrier by any means, but he wasn't terrible either.  There were a couple of attempts to take his feet away, but our farrier dealt with it pretty well.  His feet are in pretty good shape - just a touch of thrush in one front that I'll treat.  I didn't have him on crossties, and when the first foot was done he decided he wanted to leave and started backing down the barn aisle.  Instead of getting on the other end of a brace and fighting with him, I used a technique I call "let me help you with that".  As he backed away, I immediately went to his head and asked him to continue backing, using pressure on the halter, as fast as possible.  After the second foot, the same thing - this time I backed faster and probably further than he would have chosen to go - we went all the way across the parking lot.  After the third foot, nothing - he just stood there on a loose lead.  And no problem after the last foot either.  He got to choose - stand nicely, or back up - but back up my way with me directing things.  I'm always happy to help!


  1. Good stuff. I use that backing technique as well. Rather than fight I do what you do - give them what they want plus more. It works every time.


  2. I do the same thing, only I call it, "Oh what a GOOD idea!" I will even SAY, "I just LOVE to {pick the evasion}, so let's do some right now" and then I back or, if I'm in the saddle, we canter on (and on and on ;o) until the horse wants to stop ... only I don't let him. We go until I say it's time to change the subject.

    Amazing how quickly these guys figure out that doing it OUR way from the beginning is SO much less effort.

  3. "Let me help you with that" - I love it!

    Helps resolve the mental "bracing" we (I) can experience when things don't go according to plan. :)

  4. Are you going to train him for dressage? That would be exciting to see.

  5. Haha -- your backing technique reminds me of something I've started doing when he tries to rush past me when I'm leading him -- I MAKE him go fast, but around me in circles. I push him for one or two turns, and then let him offer to stop. Usually he stops immediately and doesn't offer any more problems when we go back to leading.

    It works more effectively than anything else I've done to try to get him to stop rushing me. And I think you inadvertently gave me the idea too, Kate, when you talked about circling a horse to teach it to stand still. So I guess I have you to thank. :o)

  6. Well done, again. An excellent approach to dealing with an evasion. "If you want to move...let's move!!"
    Very "horse whisperish...." *G* (At least Kenny Harlow/John Lyons.) You put your own "spin" on the principle and there you have it! Success.

  7. I'm sure your work over the past few days helped make the farrier visit not a complete nightmare. I'm all about the "let me help you that" type of leadership.

    Would love to see video of him moving at liberty =)

  8. Glad you got to help him out with his backing, apparently he wanted to go back he just didn't know how far or fast it should be.

  9. Makin' the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. I like the way you put it "let me help you with that" - might just use that myself!


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