Hello from Ruby and Amber’s Farm

From Walt Bernard, Dorena OR:
Finally figured out how to get on this site. Thanks for setting it up. Our horse line up has changed some since the post I made above. We now have two new additions: Belle a 4 yr Suffolk mare and Larry, a suffolk belgian cross out of our mare Ray, now 6 mo.

Larry was imprinted and is now halter broke, trained to lead, pretty good with his feet, and yeilds to pressure pretty good. He is fairly independent of his mother which i hope is a sigh of his mother’s temperment, calm and quiet.

Belle was basically given to us and is somewhat of a “pet” (more of a pet than I like) I did some ground work with the lead rope/halter in the fall but other than a little work with her in our Doc Hammill winter workshop series, she hasnt had much training until last week. I set up the round pen and started in on her. Doug, I hope we will get to work with her when you are here in Feb, if possible.

Anyway, I started with ground manners and standing with the halter as I posted above. She’s doing pretty good here. I took her in the round pen and drove her with a lead rope, just working for about 20 minutes getting her to go and stop, which she did pretty well, standing pretty good. So I ended on a good note.

The next day I worked her with the lead rope, ran my hands all over her body including her face and ears, and sacked her out with a burlap sac. Then I put the collar on her, all of this she accepted readily without moving. I got an open bridle with no bit in it and then made like I was bridling her, (same motions, straps over the face, handle ears) about twenty times, but between each time, I asked her to do something else to break it up–like back a step. Then I put a egg butt snaffle bit in the bridle only on the off side. Put the bridle on being careful to not let the bit hit her in the face. Then I held the bit in my left hand near her mouth and opened her mouth with my right and slipped the bit in easily and buckled it in. She accepted this with ease. I choose not to us food or syrup with the bit on her because she already associates your hand near her mouth with food (remember she is kind of a pet). I tied her to the hitch rail and let her stand for about a half hr. I then carefully removed the bridle and bit as follows: I give pressure on the pole, and as soon as she drops her head I pull the bridle over her head and hold securely so the horse can drop the bit out of her mouth without banging on her teeth. Ended on a good note, lead her back to the pen, turned her 180 back facing the gate (Thanks for the tip Doug!) unbuckled the halter, gave some down pressure with the halter strap and when she dropped her head took off the halter. I then pushed on her chest and “told” her to go away from me.

1/29/09 In the round pen with Belle. I did the lead rope basics. Then I worked on driving her with a rope working on starts and stops, trying to get her to learn that a kiss means go and what who means. I was eventually able to get behind her and drive her with a kiss and occasional use of the rope on her backend. ( I am aware that she could kick me in this position, so next time I might use a bamboo pole such as the one Doug uses). At her head in the lead position, I was never able to get her to follow me without a lead, so I could use some tips on this when you are here, Doug.

I then sacked her out with a plastic bag, which she was initially scared of but after 30 minutes or so I was able to rub it all over her with her standing. Initially, I would move it closer to her and she would shy away so I would decrease the “pressure” by moving it away from her. Doug, I would like your opinion introducing scary things to horses like this. Because she is such an ‘oral’ horse, I wound up introducing it to her body at her mouth and working out from there, untill she stood calm and unconcerned.

I then did some lead rope exercises to finish on a calm positive note. I would appreciate any comments.

walt

One thought on “Hello from Ruby and Amber’s Farm”

  1. Walt,
    Your methodical approach is just what your horses like! Developing a routine and then stretching their routine to expand their world a bit. Your comments about always ending on a good note are right on. If they are overwhelmed, backing up to a point in the routine that the horse is comfortable with is imperative. Many folks don’t develop enough of a routine to fall back into when they overwhelm the horse with a new task. They sometimes feel they are being sneaky or creative by not letting the horse know what is coming up next. But what happens is that the horse never gets a trust level built up in their human so that they will allow the human to take them beyond their previous comfort level into a new challenge. You asked for comments on the bringing in of scary objects. Basically the way I see it, everything we do to them is a new scary object. Plastic bag, harness, single tree, or wagon. Later on when you are driving them, new scary objects can be blacktop roads, white lines, yellow lines, mailbox, or white rock. I have a horse in the training barn right now that previous to being here had never trusted a water pail. So we really have to allow ourselves to think of everything as being scary.

    A method that works well for me to introduce new things is to first of all intentionally allow the horse to observe me investigating the new scary object. We’ll assume a strap of sleigh bells is today’s object. One or two shakes will usually get their attention, and then lay them on the ground. Get down real close to them and wiggle them around a bit. Now pick them up and give them a little shake. Set them down a go over to your horse to show that it did not hurt you. I usually then walk back over and investigate the bells again. Usually the horse will follow. I then pick up the bells and intentionally put my body between the bells and the horse. If the horse is close enough, then I would touch him while holding the scary bells at the opposite side of my body and talk a bit. Then walk away. What I am trying to do is prove to him that I am willing to stand between him and the scary object, and that I have control over what scares him. I use a small enough set of bells that I can even make them be quieter by holding them against my coat. Usually in a couple minutes the horse is calm with the new object as long as I am separating them from it. Then when I turn around and the bells are next to my coat I approach the withers with my hand, the neutral line between zone one and zone two. Then I extend the bells forward to offer it for them to touch with that wonderful tool called the muzzle.

    This is a trust building exercise that you can use variations of for the rest of your career with that horse. If the harness is scary, “lets investigate it together, I’ll go first” When we are approaching a white rock, I walk between the horse and the rock. I want that horse to know I understand what worries him by reading his body language and I am willing to be his body guard.

    Keep up the great work. You will have a herd of helpers that will be the envy of many.

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