Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Short Takes

This morning was My Boy's farrier appointment. I had intended to drive up and see him last night, get a halter on him, and give him a little bute as that seemed to help with the last farrier appointment. However, I didn't feel well last night and did not make it up until this morning. I gave myself a good hour before the appointment in case catching my spotted pill was an issue.

He was standing by his tree as I approached him. He started to walk away, I told him to whoa, and rubbed his shoulder. I decided to try the lead rope around the neck idea. I unsnapped it from the halter, put the lead rope over his neck behind his ears. Oh, no! As soon as he felt the pressure, he pulled away. I tried to hold my grip in hopes he'd back off but nope, he's too big and strong and got out of it (and I got a rope burn as I don't wear gloves when haltering, they tend to make my fumble fingers even worse.) He took off in a run behind the turnout shed and into the far corner of the pasture. Here we go again.

I approached him again and he started to walk off. I told him to whoa, and I rubbed his neck, calming him down. I led him from under the muzzle again for a few feet, then stopped. I patted him, I showed him the halter. I am up front with him. I have the halter, my intent is to catch you. I was able to get the halter on his nose, but could not reach the crown piece and giving it a toss over caused him to raise his head further. I crossed over to his off side to put the crown piece behind the ears, and holding the nose piece up (all the while hoping he didn't panic) I crossed back over to his left side and buckled it without further ado. Then, I pulled the 4 cookies I had in my pocket out and dropped them onto the ground for him. I do believe in positive reinforcement/association. They key to My Boy's heart is through his stomach. Horses work on release from pressure and for safety and comfort (for many which is food.)
When I got him out of the pasture, I let him graze for ten minutes before taking him to the yard to work him at a trot on the line, loosening him up before the farrier arrived.

This is what My Boy thinks of Pony Girl making him circle in a yard full of juicy, wet, green grass!

I am not sure why he gave up so soon. I am wondering if his one run to the back of the pasture triggered the memory of the nearly 40 minutes of running that he did last week? I do not know if horses make connections like this. I really believe that today could have been a repeat of last weekend, based on his first reaction to being caught. I am hoping that my transition between dog sitting gigs goes well tomorrow and I can squeeze out a few hours to go spend more time with him. I really believe it is more than just not wanting to be caught, I think it also has something to do something in his past causing a quirky sensitivity to this area:

My Boy was good for the farrier-until the last hoof, which happened to be the one that forces him to keep his weight on his arthritic hock. The nails were going in and he got fussy and pulled his leg away. It took a few minutes to get him lined back up, every time I'd stop him next to the farrier and he'd go to pick up his leg My Boy would start pivoting his body away from him again. After getting after him a few times, he stood there and we got it done. I jogged him out again for a few minutes then let him graze another ten minutes before putting him away.

Next up, a quick trip to the local farm store to pick up My Boy's supplements. I just had to stop along their driveway and take a shot of the cornfields. The corn is getting tall. A true sign that the fall harvest is around the corner!

When I got back home this afternoon, I walked the "bear cub" I am dog sitting. He found a big stick and decided to bring it home. As we walked by a man working in his yard asked, "What's that bear's name again?" Jonas really does look like a bear cub. He is a Rottweiler, but is not short-haired as they typically are. Rather, he is long haired and fuzzy. He is about 8 years old, big, very well-mannered, although clownish at times.

Speaking of bears, I caught an episode of the Discovery Channel's/Animal Planet's program The Grizzly Man Diaries last night, which is a series based on the Timothy Treadwell films and journals. My obsession with bears had me interested in his story and now I want to watch his documentary movie Grizzly Man, which I have not seen. Although he was definitely a little odd, the man lived among these bears (even having physical contact with some of them) for 13 summers and survived. He was passionate about their protection and got some pretty amazing photographs and video footage of them fighting and foraging and eating, although I think his work was also controversial.
My sister Paint Girl was able to get some good dog behavior and aggression advice from a fellow blogger. She took the first step and has switched Sadie to an all-natural, lower protein dog food. I think we are all blessed to have this great network of animal people out there to help us with issues and questions, whether it be about horses, other animals or life in general. Thank you!


  1. Oh, I think your boy is a really big Pill!! When I use the lead rope around their neck I put it around the middle of their neck, just to let them know they are caught. Then if they try to run away it's in the middle of their neck not up by their ears. But it did seem like he was better at being caught today. Keep working on it, you have 14 years to undo. Sigh. Sorry about your rope burns. Those hurt.

    And I hope the lower protien works for Paint Girl's dog. I still think it might be hormones. :) It's a woman thing.

  2. Sorry about the rope burn PG. If you try the rope around his neck again, don't forget to move him a couple of steps before you move the rope up behind his poll to apply pressure. He does seem to have a strong reaction to that pressure, but it can be overcome. I know you will get this worked out.;)

    I'm going to throw in just a bit of info on equine eyesight that might help you. A horse cannot see directly in front of them(when you are this close) or directly behind. My Boy cannot see the halter when you stand in front of him and slip the noseband on. Since he is not sensitive about his nose, I don't think he would ever react badly. But another horse might. Be cautious catching horses like this because a horse that is startled by something unseen bumping their nose could strike. Also, it would be a horse's natural response to raise it's head to see what is going on down there and this could possibly reinforce My Boy's propensity to raise his head away from you.

    Believe me, I understand a person has to do what a person has to do, when you know you have limited time. So don't think I am getting after you or anything...I just don't want you to get hurt either.

    Oh and I read with interest the suggestions for Sadie...I am anxious to hear how things progress. I think she is a beautiful dog. Megan loves the blue merle Aussies. I have heard vague rumors about health and mental issues, but have never had any first hand knowledge of it. Very interesting stuff!!

  3. BEC~ thanks for the helpful reminder, you are SO right! I didn't stand in front of him to halter, it wouldn't have helped much in the reaching department! ;) What I did do was stand on his left side and do the noseband part of the halter as usual, then I moved around to the right side to get the crown strap over, then back to the left side to buckle. He seemed more comfortable with this, rather than me flopping it over from underneath. But this is all a bit moot because I have haltered this horse normally hundreds of times and he's never thrown a fuss! So it's just the resurgence of his old games, I guess (from before I knew him.)

  4. I wasn't clear either -- what Andrea said is correct. I sort of give the lead rope a casual, nonchalant toss around the middle of the neck. They'll dodge it every time if you get up too close to the head. Now, I can almost toss it across his withers and just let it draped there.

    I wonder why he's such a stinker about it? Maybe it's a game?

    BTW -- I went and saw the Parelli's yesterday and when we went to check out the merchandise, I exclaimed to my friend, "Look! It's Pony Girl's chinks!"

  5. I understand your problem a little better now having read the post. Here is IMHO suggestion....

    I am all about a positive reward system too but not much for treats (I find that the food game in horses is to where the pecking order is really put to the test) but I love the scratching deal (the one time I really see horses in the herd being "friends" and allowing themselves to be touched without pecking order coming in to play). Just to be clear, I NEVER let my horse rub on me. I will come to him to give scratches and do not let him touch me outside of that time...even with the tip of his nose. I found a very small curry comb type deal that had firm points. When I was getting Shaunti over his "dont touch my head" deal I did some serious scratching with that thing (having an object over your hand does two things. One- it makes a positive association with objects outside of you Two- it makes a MUCH better scratcher than fingers alone and feels OH SO GOOD:).

    I always started at the wither in small, round clockwise motions (like his mommas lips) and work my way up. The area right above the shoulder, where the neck starts but in the front was really a good spot. I think that most horses have a really positive association with scratching that starts at the wither. If I were in your shoes, I would spend a good 3-4 minutes scratching at the wither, shoulder, neck area with the line hanging over my arm in clear view and bouncing with my movements. When he relaxes, and gets into the scratch thing, walk away and then come back for more but this time after a minute throw the lead over his neck (hanging loose) and keep going with the scratches. I would make sure I took that rope on and off a half dozen times before trying to lead him with it. I dont use a halter for horses like him! Why?

    I personally don't like doing the halter thing in the field with a horse that gets tense about it. It is too abrasive for a sensitive horses. Have you seen a neck/lead line/style halter before? It is a 12 foot line with a loop (2 inch hole) at one end. You swing the rope over the neck of the horse and feed the slack end of the line through the hole creating a "noose" like hold around the neck. There is a flat piece of leather (in a oval shape about 6x10 inches wide) that lays over the crest of the neck to keep it from biting if he pulls back. Their is a "stopper" on it ensure that your horse can strangle himself with it. It is cheap and easy to have made. (I would not use it in a herd or in a big field)

    I find that if you have a double issue (catching and sensitive head) that dealing with both at the same time can be rough. That is not to say that he will not panic at first about the line deal. I would get him use to the idea FIRST in an arena well after being caught before trying it at catching time.

    If he freaks out about the line around his neck, don't pull. Let him hit the end of the line and hold, going WITH him to keep from having a pull-of-war but not releasing the pressure until he quits and moves IN TO IT! It is important to try to go with him and keep the rope tight but with no pull until he gives to it. If he stops, go to rubbing on him like nothing happened.

    I find that the rubbing deal when catching is a really natural positive and calming association.

    Not haltering WHEN HE IS CAUGHT separates the tension with having head/ears handled and the catching problem.

    The lead around the neck can be no big deal or an issue with him. If it is an issue after one or two, "I don't know about this" moments, let it go and try something else.

    That is my suggestion. When a horse pulls back like you are saying he did (when you had a lead around his neck), letting him get away is NOT what you want to see happen. Having him "lassoed" gives you the ability to stick with him until he finds a release. I never knew how to "stay with him" when a horse is pulling back and trying to run away. The key I found was to stay calm and just walk along with him like nothing big is going on. I watch my NH trainer do it and it really worked becuse if you PULL you LOOSE but if you wait long enough to have them do what they naturally do (fight presure and if that fails, run in to it) they find the release and accept it. Hope that gives you an idea at least. Sorry it is so long:)

  6. I'm sorry Pony Girl. I totally misread what you said. You said you were up front with him...meaning you weren't going to hide the halter from him. My eyes read "Up in front of him". Sheez!

  7. Have you tried this? Hold the crown piece of the halter in your right hand, then standing to the left of your horse, drape your right arm over your horse's neck letting the halter dangle. Then pick up the buckle side of the halter with your left hand and allow your horse to drop his muzzle into the noseband while you lift the halter and buckle it at his crown. That works for me with nylon web halters or rope halters.

  8. My horse told me to tell you that "cookies are the best encouragement for haltering...BEFORE it happens."

    Cookies keep a horse busy munching, too. They don't even care that a halter is going over their neck :)

    I know you have a valid concern about not rewarding for behavior not yet accomplished, but sometimes horses just need a little positive encouragement beforehand, too.

    That way your horse sees you as not just the Bearer of the Halter that Makes Me Work, but also the Bearer of Good Things.

    Look at it this way. I have 3 kids. Sometimes I give my kids a little incentive beforehand to complete a job, with the promise of more rewards after the job is complete.
    My kids tend to complete the job a little more willingly, and most importantly, are more open-minded in listening to my request.

    Sometimes a positive incentive is just what a horse needs too.


  9. OMG...I am still laughing to myself after reading Lisa's comment!!!
    I totally second her 'positive incentive' idea, because it usually works.

    Sorry that your Boy is being a Pill with a capital "P!"
    We have always been fortunate in the horse catching category...they have all just come running to us and placed their head in their halters, but I have worked with several other horses who are more like your Boy.

    It sounds like everybody else has given you great, tried-and-true methods, now it is up to you to figure out which one will work best. :)

    PS-that Rottie is too cute!!! I love the longer haired ones!

  10. Ouch! Rope burn. Hope it heals quick!

    kd - I use the method you suggested with all of the horses at the farm. I use the verbal cue "Nose" when I have my arm slung over their neck and the halter in position. Reinforced with a click/treat, they caught on very quickly that heads in the halter was a GOOD thing. They will all, even the old broodmares, now drop their noses down in search of the halter when it's offered that way.

    When I halter the weanlings I start with touch-it with the halter. The whole haltering thing happens in stages - just poking their noses in gets them clicked and treated. Then allowing the strap across their poll gets them clicked, and eventually, it's standing patiently until everything's buckled, etc. earns them the click. Ultimately, they're almost self-catching.

    PG, it does sound as if you're making progress. And you've already started making being caught less work than evasion.

    You might try this for a while when you don't have riding in mind. Go out, catch him, pet him, release him. Ignore him & take pictures or something. Then catch him again. Take him in and brush him. Turn him loose. After a few minutes, catch him again. Take him in, give him a little grain, pet him, turn him loose.

    If he evades you, make him work - just like you've been.

    Some days, work on catching him purposely radiating lots of energy (as if you're catching him FOR something, like a ride, or a farrier visit when your adrenaline is apt to be pumping), take him in, brush him or grain him a little, then just turn him loose.

    Catch him whenever you're out visiting, even if you have no intention of doing anything more than standing and communing for a few minutes; until he's not reading the difference between PG with an agenda, and PG who's intent on feeding & scratching the itchy spots. It might help....

  11. haha! Melanie,

    And we all know why your horses will do anything you ask......Cheetos!

    I'm thinking that your horses are planning to put up a sign outside their stalls that says "Will work willingly for Cheetos"


    You're got some very happy horses over at your place. :)


  12. Do ya think he has a long standing headache?

  13. Allhorsestuff~ I don't know, but he's sure giving me one!! ;)

  14. PG - I think that you've gotten some excellent advice, but I have to side with your Aunt J on this - Sometimes, what works best is what you think works best. So, your confidence that you can catch him will really help make it so. I'm sensing that you are dreading it when you approach him with the halter - and that's understandable - but he feels it. Someone mentioned the clicker - I've had amazing success with Siete and the clicker. I think some horses just respond to it. If you try it, be sure to read one of the books first and really get the behavioral science of how to do it, and be consistent about it. Start with getting My Boy to lower his head for you. Don't go for the whole deal with the halter right off - try just rubbing and touching his poll and teaching him that when you do, he should lower his head. If it works for whales and tigers, it just might work for My Boy. Good luck - he appreciates your patience. You're making progress, even though it seems slow.


    I thought of you and sister. Maybe this link can help.


  16. My prior neighbor had a horse that was a cattleman's horse before they got her. She was a great horse to ride and very sweet to be around until it was time to put a halter on her. We all think that the past owner must have used tweaking it's ears as discipline when the horse did not behave.

    I hope the rope burns heal well, I am sorry you MyBoy can be a pill at times. I know you will always work with him and do right by him, he is blessed to have you.


I love hearing from my readers!! I truly enjoy all of your feedback, advice, helpful tips, and stories. You all make me laugh and I learn so much from you, too. I will try to post replies to your comments as often as I can.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin