Monday, October 6, 2008

No Big Deal Saturday

On Saturday, I made a decision. When I visited My Boy on Sunday, I was not going to catch him and bring him out. It would just be a relaxing day in the pasture, no pressure, like many of you had suggested to me.

With my grooming tote on my shoulder and a small bucket of treats, I entered the pasture. My Boy was right inside the gate and of course, was eager to eat the treats out of the bucket as I held it. I gave him some rubs while he ate. He seemed very comfortable.
I took the empty bucket and walked towards his turnout shed. He followed me there and continued to lick the bucket as I began to curry him with the rubber mitt. He let me do one side, then as I fetched the hard brush he turned away and walked back to the gate and to his other bucket (this one stays on the fence every day for evening supplements.)

I left him alone to contemplate why his supplement was not magically appearing into his bucket. I grabbed the apple picker, fluffed up his turnout shed, and tossed some manure piles out of the pasture. I reapproached the gate, he was still there by his grain bucket, but I ignored him. Saturday had been windy and My Boy's water trough was littered with floating cedar twigs, so I used the net to clean them out. He watched me as I worked. After that, I wandered up to the back of the pasture. I then whistled and called him. He actually walked out back to meet me.

I reinforced this by rubbing him and giving him a cookie. Then I turned away and walked back down to the gate. He followed me again.

At this point I sensed my horse was still a little leery, but much more relaxed than he had been the past few times we'd interacted in his pasture. He did not see me as a halter-toting zombie Pony Girl. I left the pasture and walked the fence line to the back side again, calling him. He came up to the fence. I picked him a few handfuls of grass and tossed them over to him.
I headed back down to the pasture and had the thought to go grab the halter and lead, and just hold it on my shoulder as I visited with him. When I headed up to the garage to fetch the halter, My Boy hung his head over the gate and lifted his leg and air-pawed a bit. It was only a couple hours from feeding time and I know what was going on in his equine mind.
When I reapproached him, I visited and rubbed him from the other side of the gate, then slipped the halter on his nose. He was fine, so I took it off,rubbed some more. I then opened the gate. I let the halter hang on my shoulder. I let him smell it. He looked away from me again. I rubbed him, then left and closed the gate. I repeated this a few times, each time I held out the halter out in hopes he would push his nose into it like he used to (yes, hard to believe, but true.) He did not, but, he also didn't turn away from me or resist. I really had no intention of haltering him at all, but on another attempt to put it on his nose, I could just tell that he was going to let me buckle the crown piece. Without a hitch. No pulling back. I brought him out and let him graze, and hand-walked him around the yard. I wanted it to be a no-work day. I put him away, hoping I left him wanting more.
I got lucky with the halter. Had he pulled back, I would have had to work it out, and I am not sure what would have ensued. I am a little disappointed that I haltered him when I said I wasn't going to. My excuse is that I feel my time with my horse is so limited. It's been weekends only this past month, and I just want to make use of every minute we have together. I also felt my whole approach to haltering was different this time. I didn't intend to catch him, so my body language and demeanor were different. I didn't walk out to him and "chase him down" first thing; rather, I was moseying about it. And, he was at the gate, instead of walking away or holding his ground near his favorite standing place. He was more approachable, and seemed almost interested in coming out of the pasture. There was a huge difference in both of our attitudes.

Hopefully, we reached a small milestone. I am hoping to get up there one night this week if the weather holds, just to hang out and groom him while he's eating, no haltering, for real! And then next weekend, we'll see. I really think it will be a day by day process.

Here is what Paint Girl and her guy were busy doing all day:

Nothing like a toasty hot wood stove to keep you cozy all winter! But between her bathroom remodel project and chores like this, the poor girl has had no time with her horses. I miss my riding buddy!

Lastly, I want to thank Carolynn over at a Glowing Ember for giving me a sweet award! It is always fun to get awards, and to give them. However, I couldn't chose who to give it to, there are so many sweet bloggers out there. Just the fact you visit my blog and offer me advice for my spotted stinker make you all deserving of a big frosted cupcake with sprinkles or a tall vanilla latte with whip cream....or something sweet like that!


  1. Isn't it odd how things seem to work themselves out. There are times when I go into the pasture to get my mare and she seems to know what I am up too. Other times she comes right up to me as though she knows that I am only there to feed and groom her. Am I wearing a Ouija board aroud my neck or what? How does she know? Your posts make me appreciate the fact that my equine kids are just up the hill from my front door. I really need to appreciate that more often.

  2. Well done! It's funny how when we change ourselves, our horses change, too. Woo-woo!

  3. Yay...claim that as a positive experience all around. I think that haltering him was no big deal since you listened to your gut and it told you he would be fine. More days like that and he should learn that good things come when the halter is on.

  4. First off, don't feel bad about haltering him. You didn't work him you just let him graze and hang out so it was kinda the same as you had intended.
    Secondly, I understand how you feel about making good use of your time with The Pill. I board as well and can't get out to "just hang" with the ponies as much as I'd like to.

  5. Yeah! I am so happy for you. I think you played hard to get. He was curious and wanted to find out why you didn't want him!! LOL!! It worked!! You left him wanting more, I am sure! Great job!! And what a fun award!!

  6. Great Job. Hope that your changed attitude can change his too. And don't beat yourself up about changing your plan because it is just that- a plan and all plans are subject to change. If the moment was right you used it- and to your advantage as well!
    Happy Happy Joy Joy!

  7. I am so happy to hear your boy was good for you today. I know he will come around.
    Just keep doing what you are doing. Right about now if I went out to try to catch Brandy she'd look at me and laugh and run. It's been awhile since she's been caught! With the unexpected bathroom remodels (yes, 2 bathrooms at once!), the nasty weather (we are getting ANOTHER wind storm right now!) and making sure we stay warm for the winter on top of being very sick (I am sicker now than last week!) Who knows when I'll get out to play! I miss ya too sis!

  8. Don't be surprised or disappointed if he goes thru one of these mood swings again. Usually easy to catch, Poco is being a spotted pill to catch these days. He was an itch when I rode the other day too.

  9. Mmmmm. A cupcake sounds good right now! I hope the weather is good enough for you to see your boy this week. I wish I had put Jack's sheet on him last night... it's cold this morning! Good job on the relaxed way you handled him on Saturday :-)

  10. good for you for being patient with Your Boy. If you want him to self halter, hold the treat in front of the area he needs to put his nose into. This way he must put the nose band on to ge the treat.

    I also agree that quitting while you are ahead is difficult and you were lucky this time as he did not pull back. I would not chance that again. Slower is faster most of the time.

    I also agree that less is more, leave him wanting more.

  11. I loved reading step by step! Do you board him somewhere besides your house?

    Hmmmmmmmm, congrats on your award! Looks familiar;)

  12. I'm actually glad that you haltered him. Your breaking the connection between working and the halter by doing that.

    I think I;ve said this before, but when I was "rehabbing: my horse mentally from his years of abuse many times I would just hang out with him. Meaning bringing a chair out to the pasture and reading and watching him. Haltering him and going for walks on the roads or woods in hand. My normal routine when I get to the barn now is get out of the car, let all the dogs out. Go over to Possum's paddock and let him loose to graze while I get the grooming and saddle stuff out. Then I catch him after he's had some time to chill and start the work process. He likes routine, but even better enjoys the freedom and respect that I give him. I always say that if you respect and read your horses to what his needs are, he's going to do the same for you. There's nothing like a happy horse. Keep up the good work and I can't wait to hear more progress.

  13. I have loved reading about My Boy's wiley ways. Thank goodness there are many ways to catch a horse. When I first got Lyra, she was determined to not let me touch her and she had 40 acres to put toward her goal. Inspired by Dr. Robert Miller's mule catching strategy in his video Understanding Horses
    I borrowed his approach of becoming predator like whenever Lyra moved away and ever-so-passive whenever she made any move toward me (even an ear). Dang, it worked! Prssure and release applied on a big scale! Best of luck Pony Girl!!!!

  14. Hay ya!
    Reading about your haltering issues and solutions...I am reminded about my own problem that I have not blogged about..My mare's phobia to work. She has taken to rearing and bucking in the arena and I am trying my darndest to remedy this....Saddle fit,teeth,adjsutments, massage,lunging not riding sometimes, trails made it worse, and I can't afford lessons right now and the ones I got last mo were crap anywho!I even jsut somtimes hold on thje the grab-strap and rider-er-out prooving to her that- keep moving- will be your
    punishment to ill behaviour..not stopping!
    Soo...I am with ya in the-figuring department-with our horsefaces and JUST WHAT DOES GO ON IN THIER HEADS!

  15. good for you! horses are like people and they all respond differently - some you can speak to in a harsh voice and they shape up and others you've got to be a bit more forceful - pasture catching can be tricky - horses are smart and if they know they are going to have to work and its not pleasant the why let someone catch you? keep up the good work

  16. PG-
    I am so glad that you and your Boy had a good "I am not here with an agenda, so do what I want" afternoon.

    As I have mentioned, and I am sure that things would be different if you lived with your Spotted Pill, if your horse associates you with "fun" vs. just work, they seem to have more of a desire to just "be" with strings attached. Of course it is easier to have more of those types of interactions when you live with them...

    Just so you know, our horses are not actually caught with food (Cheetos!), they end up getting snacks periodically (even out on the trail), and then when we put them away, they get more. Maybe they associate us with food, but we have never had trouble catching any of our horses. We have also always demanded respect for ourselves (sometimes with treats they get pushy!), and do not tolerate bad ground manners.

    I like to think that they have all (I am talking about past horses as well)actually liked to be with us, and I know that your Boy will get that way with you too...I can see it in his eyes! :)

  17. Sounds like you are on the right track. Dont you hate it when you plan on doing something and then you just cant help yourself! lol, I am really bad for that in horses and in life ("just one more piece of that chocolate bar and that is IT, NO more!!! Or maybe just one more!")

    I would bet you'll have this whole thing sorted in no time.

    Good job.

  18. Not only have you taught him that you're not just some big ol mean predator comin up to make him work, but that being around you can mean lot of nice grooming and grazing. They need that too.

    My horses have been living waaaay down the highway for over a decade. It sucks. I only see them weekends and holidays. If I go out there and make them work every time they get very sour on me, while the guy who feeds them every day but doesn't ride them is Mr Favourite. I like the days when I go out for a visit three or four times a day as well as the ride.

    I don't want to JUST ride. I like to hang around and watch my horses too. I simply enjoy them.

    REally like your appaloosa!

  19. Great progress it sounds like! Keep it up!
    Love your rainy day movies!

  20. Look at you ! You horse whisperer you!! Good job, pretty soon he will be like Silver! Or Diablo! The Lone Ranger and Zorros trusty steeds!! Whistle and they will come!! he he!! I love your narration, it makes mucking seem fun! Like Hey I wanna come over and help you clean horse poo!

  21. He is sooo adorable - gotta love him!! I agree with everybody - you guys are gonna make it - no doubt about it!! Congratulations on being patient and just taking your time kiddo...remember Mr. Hunt's famous one-liner - "The slower you go, the faster you get there". So true! *sigh* We humans are such an impatient bunch. Loved your movie picks - I love each and every one of the sappy things - I too, am a sucker for the Hallmark channel and Lonesome Dove and The Horse Whisperer and Black Beauty and Sea Bisquit and...if it's got a horse in it - I'm there!! Thumbs up for us overly emotional horsey gals!!! I love reading your site PonyGirl - maybe someday, I'll get a blog up and running for myself. I don't know how to make one.

  22. I need to spend some quality down time with my Toby. He is leery of being haltered as well. He is finally NOT bolting from his stall when I open the gate. Baby steps...

  23. Bravo! Amazing how curious they become about us when we ignore them.
    Low pressure sure works around our barn.

    Just love the picture and caption in the "baby" photo.

    Many thanks to your for your commenting about my rescue horse. I really think he is going to make it! Each day is a gift.


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.

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