Sunday, August 9, 2009

Learning to be a Horse

Not so much sillies to share this week, as a chronicle of some of Jackson's "training" experiences.

Where he and Misty and RT are right now, there's not a great option for a creep pen, so morning and evening, I pull him out into the arena for undisturbed access to his grain. It's twice daily handling, if only for a few minutes at a time--just right for a baby.
He's getting about a pound a day now of the same mix as Misty--Omelene 300 (for lactating mares and fast-growing suckling foals), Enrich 32 (high protein vitamin mineral supplement) and just a little Equine Senior. He tends to be more complacent in the AM about being locked away from Mama, sometimes even lying down to snooze before I let him back out in the pasture. In the evening, he usually doesn't clean up the feed, and is more impatient to return to nurse.
I like being able to lead my horses with just an arm around their neck (and maybe a hand on their nose). Jackson's pretty compliant, though, as he gets bigger and stronger, any misbehavior will make it harder to hang on.
I want him to poke his little nose into the halter--sometimes he does....sometimes not! Then I sort of "scoop" it up.
Because of the leading with my arm, Jackson's actually better in the halter when I'm at his shoulder (rather than ahead of him), which is how it's supposed to be.
Feets is another "must have" behavior.
Jackson's first time standing "tied" at the post was earlier in the week. I just looped the lead around the corral post, which provides some friction, while I hold the other end. That first time, he wandered to the end of his rope several times, then yielded to the pressure and came right back forward. It was a perfect lesson.

What's the deal, lady?!?
Today, he did test a bit more, not really fighting, more just sitting back on the lead, twice. The first time I waited a few moments to see if he'd figure it out ('til his eyes started to half-close, like some horses' do). Then I cued him forward with a little goose on the rump. The second time, he figured it out himself after only a few seconds.

Finally, I looped the lead one more time around the post (still not tied solid, just more friction) and stepped away. He did step back once and pull himself about a foot more rope, but it wasn't a panic, and once he realized he wasn't trapped, he relaxed and just stood there waiting for me.

On the post behind him (just above his ears) notice the Blocker Tie Ring that I started using when Zoey was such a problem with pulling back. After never being touched previously, she had been "halter broke" by the old time cowboy that we bought her from as a very young weanling (not my choice). His method was basically this: rope 'em, wrestle a halter onto 'em, then tie 'em to the barn for a day or two--that'll teach 'em! He had tied Zoe with baling twine, and also had a young horse saddled and bitted up in the same area. That other horse proceeded to kick the #%$& out of four and a half month old Zoe, who finally broke the twine to get away. Thus a horse that pulls back was created!
I now use the Blockers whenever it's practical: my cross ties in the barn, my wash rack, in the trailer (and moved outside to the tie rings when the horses are going to be standing tied at the rig for any length of time). They give a little line to the horse, to prevent the panic that leads to broken hardware and possible injury to horse or nearby humans, and will feed all the way out, for a horse that's truly in trouble. I don't believe in the practice of having a breakable link (baling twine, velcro release), because I believe this just rewards the horse for pulling back.

Another new experience from last week:
With the heat, the flies have been miserable. So Jackson has started to wear a fly mask. It's a little different approach than a halter (more at his eyes than his nose) but he's gotten pretty good at getting it on. Off is another matter: he's just now, after a week or so, adjusting to the sound of velcro. It's neat to note that he is leading so well that I can just grab the fly mask to move him in and out of his feeding area.
He seems to be wondering if he can still get to Misty's milk bar with it on.
No problem!
Enough of this learning stuff!
Uncle RT...You wanna play?!?


  1. Looks like he is making great progress already. I'm a huge fan of the blocker, as you probably already know. It made such a difference for Raven that I will probably always use them now. Tonka is fine tied solid, but even he looks more relaxed in the blocker. One product that really lives up to its hype IMO.

  2. NIce post - fun to see all the things you're teaching him. He's certainly cute!

  3. That Jackson is adorable! Very good sessions and nice work. Nice to see you lovingly starting him!It is the only way to go!

  4. PS
    About the Expose blog....I created it for myself really and it seems that the powers that be have not wanted me to share - My Bold thoughts on bad people- with others...since I created it and have gotten honest and dirty therre...I can't even open it myself..I can only get in to is strange but true! be able to share it I would have to start it all over again..and I don't want to waste the time thinking about the past ill behaved people in my boarding life. Maybe someday..if I am brave enough, I will write about it...but..those ill behaved folks read my prob not!

  5. Lovely post, EvenSong. I especially liked the photo where you led Jackson with just an arm around his neck, although I can see that method may not be so practical as he grows taller:) Having never seen the first steps in training, I realize I took a lot for granted with my horse, Sam.

  6. What a lovely colt, and you are doing ALL the right stuff to make him into a lovely adult horse! Good on ya!

    bifemici: two mares keeping track of one naughty colt and keeping him in line every single minute!