Thursday, March 20, 2014

Red Update, and Successful Wash Stall Training

Red's leg is looking pretty good, considering.  Because of the bandaging, the swelling is now pretty even from hock to fetlock, but there's no heat or sensitivity and the wound continues to look clean.  We hand-walked three times, did some cold-hosing and rebandaging twice and he had one gram of bute this morning (we'll do a last dose tomorrow morning) as well as Uniprim a.m. and p.m.  He and Pie were in a pen together for part of the day, but I pulled Pie out of the pen and turned him out with the herd when I saw Red harassing him - I guess for lack of anything better to do or anyone else to harass - Red always has world domination on his mind.  Red managed to cope just fine without Pie - there was some calling but nothing worse than that.  And I'm sure Pie appreciated being free from harassment.  Separating them isn't a bad idea in general - it might loosen Red's obsessive interest in Pie.

This afternoon, I had a nice short ride on Pie - whatever was bothering him the other day seems to be fine now and he was sound and delightful to ride.  Red and I spent a good bit of time on wash stall training.  Since I've had him, Red has always hated the wash stall.  Today we worked on solving the problem rather than just getting him in and getting the cold-hosing done.  That meant that I went in with the intent to work as long as it took - no deadlines.  If it took several hours, fine, if it took 15 minutes, fine.  It ended up taking 30-40 minutes. I try to never take on something like this unless I know that I've got as much time as it takes.  Being impatient, or getting frustrated, is the surest way I know to mess things like this up.

First, I had to have a clear objective - for him to walk in calmly, on a loose lead, and stand there as long as I wanted him to, without cross ties, until we completed whatever washing/hosing we needed to do.  I kept him in his regular web halter - no rope halter since I had no intention of upping the pressure and "forcing" him into the wash stall.

Red's typical mode is to pull back when he doesn't want to go somewhere - wash stall or trailer.  So the first thing I did was something I learned from Mark - just go with him as he moved backwards, keeping light pressure on the line to tell him that this wasn't the direction I wanted.  Keep my focus on the wash stall - where we wanted to go - not on him.  I've found turning and looking at the horse is generally pretty ineffective.  We did a lot of back and forth, with some big backing episodes that took him 15 feet or so down the aisle.  Again, my wish was to continue with a soft ask throughout - no pulling back against him.  We made a bit of progress, but then he got stuck - feet not moving.  My objective was not to pull against him - I wanted to use the amount of pressure I wanted to end with, not more, so I moved to Plan B - secondary cues, which is also something I learned from Mark.

What this involved was continuing the soft ask to move forward - with my back to him and my intention focussed on the wash stall, and continuing to move backwards with him if he upped the pressure that way, but keeping the soft ask going - no unintentional releases.  And I added a secondary cue - I would swing the end of the lead (I use a 10' cotton lead for just this reason - it gives me some length to work with) behind me gently against his side whenever he was moving backwards or stopped moving forwards, stopping the "bopping" the moment he moved forwards.  The purpose of this was not to force him to move forwards but to irritate him sufficiently that he would break free from having his feet stuck - if you have motion, you can shape it.

Within a few minutes, he was starting to go into the wash stall - on a loose lead, after some bops to get him moving when he got stuck.  By the end of our work session, he would lead perfectly, on a loose lead, no bops, into the wash stall, stand there on a loose lead, and allow me to use the water, including on his leg, without trying to exit.  We did this three times in a row and called it a day, with big walk around breaks in between - I'd call that a big win for us.  At the end of each successful attempt, there was lots of praise and he did quite a bit of licking and chewing, releasing tension.  He seemed pretty pleased with himself and I told him how delighted I was with him.

We'll have the occasion to do this again over the next several days.  I expect most, but probably not all, of our work to stick with him, but by the time his injury no longer needs hosing I'll bet our wash stall training will be solid and he'll have no more issues.  I also expect some of this will carry over to our trailer loading . . .


  1. Glad he's starting to feel better.

    It does take as long as it takes. Sounds like he's getting the message and starting to cooperate.

  2. Great way to handle his dislike of the wash stall. Sorry to hear Red was injured. Per your last post, our barn has the same issue...and it is disappointing to say the least.

  3. Excellent work in the wash stall. As you wisely noted, there is no point in starting any kind of training unless you have plenty of time to accomplish something. That goes for both riding and groundwork.

  4. I was thinking as I was reading this, that loading in the wash stall is really no different than loading in a trailer, or onto a platform, or any other place you want your horse to go. The ask is the same, the intent is focused in the desired result, and eventually,the hose complies. Persistence, patience, and perfect practice, as John Lyons says.

  5. Shirley - agree with everything you say - the only thing I would add is that in the past, although we always got the job done, it was never soft. Adding that element to my approach and my ask made a huge difference.


Thank you for commenting - we appreciate it. No spam or marketing comments will be published.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.