Friday, August 15, 2014

Temptation, Bribery and Eating Well

These three things aren't really related . . . but each is related to a specific horse . . .

Dawn is doing very well - eating up a storm.  She's still on Banamine and antibiotics and seems to be completely comfortable.  And seeing the teeth that were removed, I can sure see why she feels better now.  There will be photos of the teeth (not the tooth that was taken out a month ago - that one I threw away) - as soon as they're cleaned up enough to be ready for public consumption without grossing anyone out.  Right now they're soaking in hydrogen peroxide, being rinsed in water and put on paper towels to dry in the sun, then repeat, and repeat, and repeat . . .  Dawn is getting two weeks off from riding, but she's enjoying her almost daily thorough grooming.

Red has decided that he's just fine and that it's time to ride.  He's a determined guy, and finds our not-riding pretty frustrating.  His ankle is looking much better - only a little bit of wind puff swelling left, and after icing even that is almost gone.  I expect he'd be sound at the trot if I put him on the lunge.  But we're not going to do that - soft tissue injuries heal very slowly and there's a big risk of reinjury if the ligaments/tendons aren't completely healed.  We're waiting another two weeks, to allow more complete healing, before we try out the trot on the lunge and, if he's sound, start ridden work at the walk.  In the meantime, we're doing in-hand work and also "virtual riding" as described in my earlier post, as well as daily icing and application of Traumeel ointment.

Now, on to bribery.  I'd like to build a closer connection with Pie, who is normally very (extremely) standoffish.  When I go in his stall, he ignores me - continues eating or resting - he doesn't look at me and even will look annoyed when I approach - his basic attitude is "leave me alone" - he's quite the grump.  Ears up isn't really part of his repertoire.   He's willing and obedient under saddle, but because we don't have a strong connection, when he's worried he has trouble relying on me to help him and keep him safe.  We're not strongly connected, we're a bit mechanical in our relationship. I think this is part of his spookiness, but I'm also increasingly convinced that his eyesight is poor, perhaps due to the growing cyst in his left eye (I see more vet bills in my future . . .).  Even in the indoor, now, he'll spook at high contrast - light shining on the dark floor, or a lunge whip lying on the ground - particularly if it's to his left.  If it's true that his vision is impaired, it's no surprise he is worried and needs reassurance.  (I've started turning on all the arena lights when I ride, even during the daytime, to reduce the contrast and help him out.) And he'll be more comfortable accepting help from me, and being reassured by that help, if we have a stronger connection.  He doesn't have to be friendly or in my pocket, I'd just like a more pleasant interaction and for him to be more comfortable trusting my judgment.

I normally don't feed my horses treats.  Instead, I use them for specific purposes.  Bribery is one of those purposes - horses that are persistently withdrawn or standoffish often open up if they begin to associate you with tasty food.  And Pie is particularly food motivated . . . giving me an opportunity.  I've started treating him after our rides - using these low-sugar peppermint, apple or carrot treats from Buckeye, which he thinks are just fine.  And we're going to start some clicker training using these treats - to get a horse interested is one of the cases I use clicker training - more on that later . . .


  1. Brett's horse, Flash, has always been very aloof. I prefer a more friendly personality but Flash suited Brett just fine. And, after years of bonding over mounted patrol work, Flash has become very loyal to Brett. He tolerates me... especially if I have treats in my pocket.

  2. Figuring what works for each of your horse, good for you! The impaired vision thing is a challenge, that is for sure. I am glad you are seeking solution through building your relationship. You know how I feel about that! :-)

  3. I use treats when I don't want anything specific from them except to build a bond. I do keep some in my trailer for post-rides. I like to give them rewards for a job well done. I just read that Gun Diva is also starting clicker training. I'm curious to know how it goes for both of you. I've heard only good things.

    1. Linda - I've had very good success with clicker for some specific issues - Dawn had a terrible fear of anything plastic - garbage bags, say - and clicker allowed her to be rewarded for approaching and putting up with the scary things at her own pace and without constraint - it was her idea.

      Red, when I got him, would not permit his feet to be handled - clicker worked like a charm for that.


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