Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I've Got a Secret............... Stall Work

Lindsay and Dave also had to deal with this colt to do their jobs of feeding, watering and cleaning stalls. To start off both, too, had trouble entering the stall. The colt would fly to the back and climb the wall trying to escape.

Both know that talking in a soothing voice is help to a scared horse so that was their way to deal with this colt. It only took a couple of days for him to realize that neither of them had plans for him except to clean around him or feed. As long as they left him alone, he left them alone. Within a couple of weeks he was comfortable, at least, with the door opening as long as it wasn't me.

When I did try to put the halter on this colt, I had to be really careful not to touch him around the poll or on the top part of his face. Anything in that general area would cause him to lose it. The colt even banged his head into the wall sometimes in a desperate effort to get away from me if I even brushed those areas with the halter or my hand.

Once I'd get the halter on I worked at teaching him to drop his head. I knew the endorphins released by lowering his head would help to quiet the horse and help him relax. Getting him to loosen up around me would help him to trust me. Then I could build on that.

It wasn't easy. Most of my horses learn to drop their heads in one brief session. It is not unusual for me to get their head to their knees in just a few minutes. This colt was different. He braced against the pressure on the halter locked in to defeating me. I had to resort to pressure to the side to teach him to "give" to the pressure at all. I spent an entire hour working just on that.

From there it was back to trying to get him to lower his head. Another hour session he'd learned to drop his head about four inches from that extreme upright position. I could get him to drop it and leave it there but only if I didn't move. He was, however, letting me scratch him on the whither as a reward. We were making progress.

Once we'd finally accomplished the colt dropping his head to about the chest, I moved on to teaching him to lead. Those same issues of throwing his head to the outside while popping his shoulder in followed by swinging his butt around jumped at every turn. Any time the colt felt pressured, he pressured back in a big big way.

My plan of attack against this tactic was to teach him to bend towards me instead. He couldn't be shoving his shoulder at me if he was flexed to the inside. The problem would be getting this horse out of this reversed arch he assumed so easily.

I accomplished that by starting off in the stall with the colt pushed up to the wall so I could use it for a barrier. Since he'd already learned about giving his head towards me just a bit before learning to drop his head I could use that to teach him to bend his entire body.

The confines of the stall restricted some of his counter moves as well but not all. The colt was not against throwing his head right into the wall to get away from me if he felt he must. He took some pretty hard knocks over the course of this lesson.

Since by now he was learning to give to pressure on the halter, I put my hand on his shoulder pushing into it while pulling his head in towards me. More hour long sessions before I'd make any progress. I wasn't trying to teach him everything at once. All I was looking for was one part, one lick. one chew, a little less tension from this horse.

To be continued.........

Down Time

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  1. "He braced against the pressure"

    the name for this is oppositional reflex. The more you do X the more the subject does Y.

    Physicians use this in surgery to their advantage. The person handling the instrument tray "slaps" the object into the physicians hand to cause the arm to stiffen and the hand to wrap around the instrument so it adoesn't get dropped by accident.

    I see this a lot in my dog training too, dog pulls forward, handler pulls back, causing the dog to brace and pull against the lead.

  2. Wow MiKael you are really a glutton for punishment LOL but I am glad that he found you at least now he has a chance at a good life whereas most other people would have just given up on him.

    I am watching the foalcam and she is kicking her belly a bit but it is definitely close!!!!

  3. Isn't it amazing how smart horses like him tailor their defense to a lack of ability in their handlers to deal with the naughty behavior? This head away, shoulder in to unbalance the handler then ready for the "big guns" sounds pretty effective (that is till he met
    Our mare would take advantage of a barn assistant by throwing her shoulder into the handler's space to unbalance them and she was free to do her worst. And, this was a little mare, but smart. We tried to train the handler, in the end we had to stop all handling by this person cause they wouldn't change their ways and her naughtyness was escalating with this person only.
    I love smart horses!

  4. Small victories...but don't they feel great when they happen!