Last weekend we had the remnants of Hurricane Leslie. The rain was at times torrential which meant that the horses were not out for their full days of grazing. Saturday morning I let them out and when the rain really started coming down hard I went out to get them. It was no problem but they weren't happy to be left inside for most of the rest of the day.
Sunday dawned clear so I let them out again for a bit. I then heard some thunder and the dark clouds came back so I went out to get them. Irish spied me coming and headed to the back of the field with Steele following. I followed and almost had Steele's halter on when Irish bolted away with him following. They then proceeded to run like fools around the paddock. I was not impressed. First of all- it's not a good idea to have a horse lead you on a merry chase around a pasture. Second they could get seriously hurt sliding on the wet ground. And third, my field was getting cut to pieces- ruining the grass and leaving holes.
On monday I decided to begin to work on having the horses come to me. After work I grabbed their halters and one lead line and some apple pieces. I then headed out to the field but walked parrallel to where they were and ignored them. Steele raised his head and looked at me. He started towards me but then Irish headed the other way and he followed. I ignored him and wandered around the field filling in holes, throwing a ball for Belle and just being busy. Finally, after about 5 minutes, Steele couldn't stand it anymore and came over to me. I gave him a piece of apple and walked away. A few minutes later he came up and I repeated the action. He was intrigued and I could see him thinking this over. We did this about 3 times. Now I had Irish's attention. He was smart enough to know that this was a trap but jealous that Steele was getting all the treats. However, he wasn't as keen.
Within 10 minutes I had Steele following me to the barn. I brought him in and put him in the cross ties to groom. The idea was to groom him and bring him back out again. It was all going according to plan until he spied Irish through the barn doors out in the field.
Then it hit him: he was in the barn while Irish was out grazing.
He began to test the cross ties. Up until now he hadn't done that, but today he did not want to be in them. He would walk forward, come against them, push harder, and then back up. I really like my cross ties- they have a bit of stretch in them so there's nothing to lean against- they give a bit and they have the quick release as well. I talked to him a bit and continued to groom him but he was getting more agitated. I figured that the best thing would be for him to figure it out with me being calm and matter of fact about it. Once, before I could prevent it, he twisted himself around 180 degrees so that he was facing the other way but one of the ties was over his neck. He was stuck. He looked at me with wide eyes and I quickly and calmly came up and unsnapped him, turned him around and hooked him back up. Not what he had in mind at all. Now he's quite a bit ticked off and started calling. I ignored this. After a few calls Irish came down to the barn and into the stall next door:
Steele: "I'm trapped!"
"You're not trapped. You're in the cross ties. You've been then before"
"Yes, but you're out on the grass. It's not fair!"
"You're fine. Stop being a baby"
"can you stay?"
Irish stays and starts to eat the hay. I go back to grooming Steele. After 5 minutes, Irish decides to leave.
"sorry kid, but I want some real grass. You're on your own."
Steele watched him go and I watched him becoming more and more tense. We walked forward- hit the end of the cross ties, backed up, walked forward again. I thought that he was going to throw a major hissy fit so I shut the barn doors. That way if he got loose he couldn't take off. And then it was like he figured it out- he stopped and stood still. I waited one minute, and then unsnapped the cross ties. I put on the lead line and led him back outside. I made him stand still and then let him go. He left quite politely.
I went back in the barn and grabbed some more treats. After about 5 minutes I went back out and repeated the first lesson again. In 5 minutes, wherever I walked Steele was right at my shoulder. I would walk forward about 5 steps and then turn sharply left or right. He stuck right with me. Periodically he would get a reward. Irish then horned in on the action. It was kind of fun. I would walk, tell them to 'whoa'. Ask them to back up and then walk forward. It was a lot of fun. I should mention that I had my dressage crop with me just in case Steele or Irish got a little pushy. Good thing too, once he shoved me a bit with his shoulder and walked on by. He looked like a strutting teenager- all he needed was a hoody. I snapped him on the butt with my crop and walked away. After that he was very polite.
Today when I came out the barn he came trotting right up as soon as he saw me.
Tell me- what do you do to teach your horses to come to you in the field?