Saturday, March 26, 2011

Using What He Knows and Giving Direction

Drifter was a bit calmer today, although it was beastly cold - high in the upper 20sF with wind chills in the teens or low 20s.  He was able to stand in the stall after haltering with the door wide open without trying to charge out.  We had a pleasant hand-grazing session behind the barn - the goat didn't make an appearance - and Drifter didn't spook once - when there were noises or things to look at his head just popped up but he went right back to grazing.

I've been trying to make use of the things he already knows how to do - his prior owner did some Parelli ground work with him, and he knows to back if you gently jiggle the lead and also knows how to lunge, including inside turns - I saw his owner do these things with him when I visited last fall.  So, when I lead him, if he starts to get too close, I lightly jiggle the lead and he understands I want him to back off - no fuss and no drama.  I don't have to get very big, and he gets the point.  As soon as the arena dries out, we'll work on some lungeing to help build his confidence.

And we did some leading work in the parking lot - some turns where he's supposed to stay an arms' length from me as we turn - and also some head down and backing work.  All of this went very well although we stayed in a small "safe" area right near the barn - I want him to have successful experiences at this point to build his confidence in me.  And even while we were just hand grazing, I made sure to be giving him direction in a quiet way.  As he was grazing, I made sure he never got to pull me where he wanted to go or get ahead of me - instead I directed him to turn towards me and stay in a circle around me and then actively led him to new areas to graze.  I also never let him "push" me, where I had to step out of his way - instead from time to time, I would ask him to stop grazing and back a few steps or do a turn on the forehand.  This is all to reinforce that he's to look to me for direction and not take matters into his own hands - this is his primary issue, I think, and everything I can do to build in different habits will make a difference.

Tonight I was able to successfully pick all four feet in his stall while he was loose - I didn't have to do a number of steps with clicker to do this, but was just able to proceed immediately to the last step of full hoof-picking, followed by a click and treat after each foot.  I was pretty pleased by this - it's only been one day of work and I think he's already getting what I want.

I've ordered a supplement called MMX from HorseTech - it's primarily magnesium oxide with some tryptophan and also some B vitamins - this should improve his calmness.  Dawn is on a custom magnesium/chromium/selenium supplement that has somewhat the same effect as well as helping her insulin resistance.

And with a little cooperation from the weather, I might get a Pie ride tomorrow . . .


  1. Kate , it seems to me what you are doing is essentially establishing leadership and boundaries. with all that good work and his developing trust I suspect the calm will also come .

  2. Good grief. Isn't it supposed to be Spring there? Good stuff and will pay off in the long run.


  3. You've already made a lot of progress. I really like the way you work with your horses -- calmly, firmly, teaching boundaries in a no-stress way.

  4. BRRRRRRR!!!! Are you having an insanely cold spring or is that what it's usually like end-of-March in your parts?! I will NOT be complaining about the weather tomorrow after reading your post.. ha ha. Good luck with your new boy... it sounds like he is slowly coming around. Was he on 24 hour turn-out in his old home? If so... that might explain some of the nervousness in his stall. We have a gelding who came off some HUGE acreage (read: range) in Montana... in all his 5 years he had never once been under a roof! Needless-to-say, he was a bit nervous about coming into the barn.


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