The task was pretty simple- walk, whoa, stay out of my personal space. It started pretty well. He was responding. Whenever he became distracted I asked him to do something so that his attention was on me. The trouble started when we walked by the 'in gate' and I was between him and the exit. He started to crowd me. I told him to go over and he had wee tantrum and pushed harder into me. I moved him over more strongly. At which point he reared up and got front leg over the lead line. So picture this- I am in the arena (which is not fenced at this point) holding a 800 pound tantrumming baby with a rope between his front legs. I knew that I may have to let go but I didn't want to go there first because he would run back to the barn and my problem would be bigger. I don't choose to battle with horses but when I'm in that situation I know it's important to win. So I hung on the rope - moving with him to give enough slack so he wouldn't feel trapped but not so much that he could build up a head of steam. After 20 feet he stopped. I walked softly up to him- rescued him and then we went back to work (yes, my heart was pounding a bit but working with preschoolers teaches you to hide your feelings). I realized that I had ignored the subtle messages of him encroaching in my space which is why it escalated. So we spent the next 20 minutes walking back and forth by the ingate. As soon as he moved into me I made him move away- keeping his hind legs moving so he couldn't rear up. I could see him thinking on this and in the end he was walking softly beside me- being respectful. I then walked him out. Stopped and walked him back in. I could see him processing this but he decided to behave. A few times in and out and we headed back to the barn. On the way back we stopped a few times as well.
I then put him in the cross ties and gave him a good groom. which for him is the ultimate reward. Another issue that's been growing is that he doesn't want his face touched so I've been working on desensitizing him to this. This went well and I was praising him when he nipped me! Now horses bite for all sorts of reasons- fear/defense, frustration, dominance, pain, play. I believe that this was either play or dominance. But the reality is that it doesn't matter. Biting is a non-negotiable. I prefer the method in which you react immediately and quite strongly to let the horse know that he's made a big mistake. So immediately I got after him backing him out of my space quite strongly and speaking firmly. Then I stopped and acted normally. That's the hard part. It's so easy to take it personally - the 'my horse hates me' mentality. The truth is if he nips I don't care if he hates me. When my children were young I was okay when they 'hated' me for being 'mean'. So I went back to doing what I was doing. When he nipped at me again I repeated my actions. And then returned to normal. After that he was a model citizen. I even placed my arm near his mouth and he just ignored it. good boy.
Honestly, I'm not sure what I was thinking getting a baby but since I made the commitment I will keep at it.
|just in case you think I was being mean :)|
When I went in tonight to give him his night hay he nickered so I guess he doesn't hate me.