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Horse confidence issue.. or??
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cdodgen
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 Posted: Tue Jul 24th, 2007 11:24 am
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Dr. Deb

As this appears to be a basically private teaching thread with Andrea, I would like to inquire if and when it would be acceptable to ask questions regarding the information that you are sharing here. 

Thanks Cheryl

Callie
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 Posted: Tue Jul 24th, 2007 04:44 pm
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It looks like this is going to be a super thread, I am on my way to work horses now and am going to try this out.  Cool.

I hope it's ok to join in.

-Callie

Val
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 Posted: Tue Jul 24th, 2007 05:14 pm
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Well, Dr. Deb said at the start of her second post, the one where she laid out the instructions, that she would correspond with Andrea and "anyone else who wants to respond to this thread," so I figure we're free to join in as long as we remain topical.

I agree, super thread!!! Sam, great progress, but I do miss the drama queen. Do let her out occasionallly.  :-)

val

Pam
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 Posted: Tue Jul 24th, 2007 06:26 pm
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Dr. Deb,

This exercise in focus has been one of the most enjoyable and useful things I have done with my horse to date.  I found that he is incredibly focused on me and could stay looking at me longer than I could him.  In the first five minutes he only turned his head slightly, once, to look at a passerby.  When I did bump him with the lead rope he stepped back one little step.  I have one question and I don't think I've heard this mentioned, if it has sorry, the thing he did do is turn an ear to listen to the goings on.  Always keeping one ear forward on us.  Is there a correction applied for the ear turning out there?   Or is it ok if one ear is on us and one sometimes out there?

After this exercise we went for a walk in the dark and I did notice I could keep slack in the lead line, without him planting his feet in confusion, for a longer period of time than usual.  Makes me want to do this experiment lots more. 

So maybe my horse has better manners than I thought and maybe some people need to improve on their manners.  I did notice while doing this exercise how many people try and get me distracted and to pay attention to them, by asking questions and making silly remarks.  I did have a husband of one of my horse friends make fun of me as well.

Thanks,

Pam 

 

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Jul 24th, 2007 07:21 pm
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Cheryl -- Yes, you may certainly participate. Ask anything you like so long as it is relevant to what is going on in this thread.

Pam -- This exercise is not about staring at your horse, nor is it about getting your horse to stare back at you -- i.e., with a "hard" focus. We want "soft" focus. I did not make this clear in my initial instructions.

One of the things we are doing here is teaching the horse that it does not need to be vigilant or hypervigilant. We won't get this done if we simply shift his hypervigilance from the environment to ourselves.

When you bring the horse's eyes back to you, there should be nothing in the gesture that implies that you are punishing him. You are REMINDING him i.e., re-minding him, giving him a new mind or you might say "re-booting" his attention).

This should answer your query about the ear. The answer to whether it's OK for the horse to have one ear on you and one on something else is "it all depends". If the horse's whole bodily attitude is one of calmness and relaxation, then he is holding you in his regard. In other words, his birdie is with him. While a horse's birdie is with him, he (or it) can sit on its perch that is in the middle of his forehead, and from that vantage point, without leaving that vantage point, can look out and notice all kinds of various things that are in the environment, and he still has not left you mentally.

On the other hand, it would be quite different if the birdie lifts its wings, flutters, and flies away. When this happens, the horse will be obviously anxious, restive, not-calm and not-OK.

Harry Whitney tends to talk about this as the horse "staying with you mentally" or "leaving you mentally". If the horse is with you mentally, then that's all you have ever wanted or asked for. Every creature that is with itself mentally has a right to scan its environment. When the creature is with itself mentally, then the scanning of the environment will not have the obsessive "checking checking checking" quality that it does when its mind, consciousness, or birdie (whatever you want to call it) separates from its body.

Probably the greatest learning for the handlers who are participating in this mini-class is that you are going to learn to tell the difference between when a horse has its birdie with it, and when the birdie has actually left.

And -- as to distractions -- yes, we often notice that when a person is on the brink of learning or obtaining something deep, that the devil will try to intervene to prevent it. The person most in need of a certain lesson at a clinic, we often notice, when the best possible example of just what that person needs to learn arises after a long wait spontaneously and is right before the person's eyes -- it's at that moment that their cell phone rings. You learn to recognize where this sort of interference is coming from after a time, and then it's easy to make it go away, because at the deepest level, such interference is unreal. 

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

cdodgen
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 Posted: Tue Jul 24th, 2007 07:34 pm
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Val, Thanks for referring me back to the previous post; I have a very bad habit of reading in "chunks" and over looking small but important details unless they are listed in a 1..  2..  3.. format. 

Dr. Deb, Thanks for the reply and here's my question.  In working with my gelding, I am having a difficult time communicating my desire for him to stay out of my space.  We can accomplish the set-up (he facing me and me facing him), we can focus on each other for varying lengths of time, some even up to the 8 second limit, however even while focused on me, he will begin to walk into my space.   Is the object of this session just to stay focused on each other even if we are eyeball to eyeball or do I request that he back out of my space?  I have been holding the lead line between my outstretched hands, twirling it like a jumprope and allowing him to walk into it, which does cause him to stop and take one or two steps back.  Is this productive to what we are trying to accomplish?


Thanks Cheryl

Pam
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 Posted: Tue Jul 24th, 2007 07:49 pm
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Dr. Deb,

Thanks for clearing that up about the ear.  That was a big question in my mind and  makes me want to do this experiment again tonight.   It seems more sane to just be concerned about where the birdie is and not be too concerned about an ear scanning the environment.  I'm relieved to hear this because his birdie was with me pretty much the whole time.

If I hear you correctly, if he takes a step back, he was feeling somewhat punished instead of just reminded to bring his focus back.  It might be that I don't need to bump him with the lead line much at all.   I'll will do less and see how that goes.

Can't wait to try this again.

Pam


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 Posted: Tue Jul 24th, 2007 11:13 pm
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Pam, thanks for asking that question! It has become MUCH more clear to me how to read and what to expect from Tahoe when she has her focus on me. When I do this exercise again, I  think things will go a lot smoother because now I understand the whole thing better.

Pam
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 Posted: Wed Jul 25th, 2007 01:28 am
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Andrea,

Good luck to you and Tahoe!  I thank you for starting this very valuable lesson for us all. 

This would be fantastic information for the knowledge base, Dr. Deb, as you mentioned.  Since focus is a prerequisite to calm and calm is number one on the list for straightness in the Woody Article, I don't see how one could accomplish anything for their horse without this knowledge.

Thanks,

Pam

Julie
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 Posted: Wed Jul 25th, 2007 04:16 am
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Hi all, I am so greatful you started this thread.  Just what was missing in me and my interactions with my horses.

Have had the opportunity to try this on six horses today.  Just getting to see different facial expressions.  It worked to some degree or other.  They all seemed happier once in their room even if the seconds were few. Sometimes hard to tell if they blocking out or really focusing and relaxing??

Am so interested to see how this progresses.

Thanks Cathie Julie

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jul 25th, 2007 07:30 pm
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Julie, Pam, Andrea, Cheryl: OK, here you go -- here's the second "installment". Cheryl and Julie, this should answer the questions you just posted, particularly about how you're supposed to get the horse to be far enough away from you that you don't need to be touching or pushing on him with your fingertips, and how to get him to quit following you so that he's stuck onto you like a tack. There are times when we DO want the horse to do this, but only when we ask for it! And Andrea -- you be SURE you have completed the first part of this and that your horse really is giving you calm focus before going on to this part, OK? Let me know how it goes, all -- Dr. Deb

Continuing Rule no. 1 in process of mannering a horse

Review: “Rule no. 1” is: The horse must “go to his room” when asked, and stay there until permission is given to leave his “room”. (The horse’s “room” is an imaginary square that you draw around his feet. The square should be a few feet wider and longer than the horse’s body).

 

So far, we have only done “step one” in teaching Rule no. 1. Now it is time to add “step two” toward teaching the horse how to obey Rule no. 1.

 

As a result of your previous work, you now have a horse that is able to hold you calmly in his regard for 8 continuous seconds or more.

 

NOTE: If you do not have this completed, you must first complete it. DO NOT try to go on to new work at any time until previous step is completed, and you and the horse are both comfortable with that accomplishment.

 

Because you have completed the process of teaching the horse that it can, and should, pay attention to you, you also have a horse that is calm enough to learn the next lesson.

 

The next lesson is to teach the horse to back up, one step at a time; and that after having backed up, he is to stay back – stay in the area where he has been placed – and settle there -- even if you are not standing right next to him.

 

Begin this process by standing at the horse’s left side at the level of his head, facing to the rear. With your left hand, grasp the knot or bullsnap where the rope attaches to the halter; or you may grasp the lower part of the halter itself, just above where the bullsnap attaches.

 

With the horse calm and focused, apply continuous downward and backward pressure on the halter. Some particulars:

 

(1)   Do not “bump” or vibrate. The touch is to be smooth and continuous.

(2)   Do not talk. Do not say “back up” or give any other so-called “voice command”.

(3)   Use whatever amount of pressure it requires to get the horse to respond – but – use no more than this amount.

(4)   STOP the pressure as soon as the horse does respond.

 

We now need to define what a “response” consists of, and also to understand a little about how, on a mechanical level, a horse makes the response.

 

The response we’re looking for is that the horse prepares to back up, in other words he prepares to take the first step backwards.

 

The response we are looking for is that he prepares to take one, single, step – not five steps, and not even ONE step. HE PREPARES.

 

How a horse prepares to take one, single step is that, if he intends to take the step with his right front foot, he will lean or sway his body from his right to his left. This is so that he can get the weight off of his right front foot so as to be able to move that foot. A horse cannot move any foot that he has weight on (neither can you).

 

So, in essence, what you are doing with your hand on the halter is you are asking the horse to sway, either to the right or to the left; and then expand that sway, so to speak, into a backwards gesture with one front foot.

 

You make this clear and easy for the horse when you “aim to help” the front foot that he would have moved anyway. This will usually be the front foot that happens to be farther ahead.

 

So, you first notice which foot is farther ahead. If neither front foot is farther ahead, then look at the back feet and select the front foot that is diagonally across from whichever back foot is farther ahead. If all four feet are “square”, then you may select either front foot.

 

Let us say that you have selected the right front foot. You will then apply your backwards pressure against the halter obliquely back-and-towards-yourself. This will induce the horse to sway his body toward you, and make it easy for him to move the right front foot. It also makes it easy for him to get the idea of what you want (this is equally, if not more, important).

 

When you feel the life come up in his body, and you feel him sway toward you a little bit, let the pressure that you are applying fade right out. Let the horse do as much of the process as possible all by himself.

 

If he takes more than one step, that’s fine. If he takes one-half of a step (i.e. sort of shuffles his feet but doesn’t really take a clean step), that’s fine. If he just sways over, that’s fine too, the first couple of times.

 

Once you have this clear and it’s worked a time or two, then you can continue the pressure until you’re certain that he will actually take one good clean step back. If he takes more than one step, that’s fine so long as it wasn’t because he is going back because you are applying too much pressure. It’s important for you to figure out, with whatever particular horse you’re working with (it’s different for each horse), how much pressure is just enough to get ONE step.

 

You really are trying to get ONLY ONE step.

 

Once the horse takes the one step -- or a few steps -- stop and pet him a while.

 

Now you can ask for ONE MORE step back, and again, after he gives you a good try, stop and rest awhile – just hang out and be buddies.

 

And again, take ONE STEP back, followed by a brief rest.

 

After you take a total of three steps back, walk forward to another place, and repeat. Go through the whole stepping-back process perhaps three or four times, then turn the horse loose in the work area (assuming nobody else is around) and let him dawdle or roll, just as he pleases; or if that’s not possible, go hand-graze for a while.

 

If it suits your schedule, you can also put him up and come back later, or the next day, for the second part of this lesson.

 

Second part of backing-up lesson.

 

Now that you’re sure that the horse understands how to back up, you and he can proceed to the next part. It’s necessary, I think, to teach backing up with your hand on the halter initially, because so many horses have never backed up at all. When they go to try it the first time, they’re often very stiff and can hardly pick up or move their hind feet. It is very unfair -- way too much -- to expect these horses to have an easy time with the step I'm about to describe if they have any difficulty at all with you right beside them to help them.

 

So before going on to the second phase of learning how to back up (so as to be able to go in their “room” and stay there), you need to assess the quality of how your horse takes backward steps. Particularly, look at the hind feet – do they drag, leaving “elevens” (parallel marks) in the dirt? Does the horse grunt as if it hurts him? Does he stiffen and get real heavy? Does he raise his head very high, as if he might rear? Do the hindquarters slew left and right severely, preventing him from backing up straight?

 

If you have to say “yes” to any of these questions, then it’s not time yet for you to go on to the second phase of backing. Just spend another several days backing the horse the first way. This will never hurt him – more horses need to be backed this way anyway, and you will also be backing the horse this way (one step at a time) from the saddle. So it’s not at all a waste of time.

 

If your horse is doing well on backing from the halter, and the backward steps are smooth and fluid, and the horse stays relaxed and with its head in a neutral position or lowered, then you can proceed to phase two of backing.

 

This is where we teach the horse that you don’t have to be right next to him, and this is also where you finally break your old habit of trying to position him by pushing your fingers against his body. From here on out, you’ll know how to ask him to position himself -- from the rope, not your hand.

 

Begin by standing as far from the horse as you can get without him trying to come up to you. The farther the better, but if he sticks to you like a tack then you’ll have to begin pretty close to him.

 

Develop at least three feet of slack rope between where your hand is on the rope and the halter. THREE FEET MINIMUM. You need the slack – the slack is your ally!

 

You are going to use the slack in the rope as a tool, so be sure you have your tool. As you and the horse get better at this, you will have more and more slack available.

 

Plant your feet. This is now “your” space. Here is how you will be using your space:

 

(1)   You will not be leaving this space.

(2)   You will not step backward from this space (unless the horse tries to charge over you, in which case, dive out of the way. Very unlikely, but I need to tell you all the possibilities).

(3)   You will not step forward from this space. You will not go toward the horse. The horse is, instead, going to go backward from you.

 

With your feet planted, and with your hand no closer than three feet out on the line, begin shaking the rope left and right. Use big swings – big enough that the halter scoots around on his nose a little.

 

The response you’re looking for is that the horse gets the idea that the swinging rope is a kind of barrier – like a spinning airplane propeller would represent a barrier to you. You wouldn’t want to walk into it.

 

If the horse tries to walk forward, INCREASE the intensity and force of the swings. You can increase the intensity by swinging the belly of the rope faster, or by swinging it up and down so that it even bangs him under the chin. You can increase the force by putting most of the emphasis on the “down” stroke so that essentially you are bumping or banging him on the nose.

 

If he prepares to take a backward step (and by now you will know exactly what that looks like), then INSTANTLY stop all pressure and all movement. NOTE: If he raises his head and stiffens, as if to rear, you should also stop instantly in that case and go back to reviewing the first backing procedure -- a horse can stiffen and raise his head so hard in response to the swinging rope that he actually can faint over backwards -- we do not want this. After reviewing backing directly from the halter, then begin swinging the rope more gently until he gets the idea that the swinging rope means "back up".

 

VERY IMPORTANT: So long as the horse just freezes, or plants his front feet, or kind of sways uncertainly (but does not look like he might rear) -- then -- do not stop swinging the rope until the horse shows he’s going to take a backward step. You must swing the rope continuously – no breaks – no lowering of pressure – possible increase of pressure if horse goes the wrong way (forward).

 

EVEN MORE IMPORTANT: That you stop all pressure, instantly, as soon as you’re certain he’s prepared to take, or has taken, a backward step. Never give a horse “one for good measure”!

 

You can see from this explanation that what you’ll be doing is teaching the horse to step backward into his room. That’s how he goes into his room – he backs into it.

 

As he backs, because you've planted your feet and you're not going to leave your "room", he obviously is going to increase the distance between himself and you. As he does so, feed out the line so that there’s no restriction on him going back.

 

Once he takes the first backward step (for which you instantly stopped the motion of the rope), then YOU walk up to HIM and pet him and rest. NOTE: Don't charge up to him the "instant" he takes his step. Let him settle after taking the step. Let two or three heartbeats go by. Then walk up to him rather slowly or languidly. Otherwise, your walking up to him in itself will become a pressure! You're trying to show him "no pressure." With some horses, it will be better not to walk up to them at this time; merely the cessation of being hassled by the rope will be enough reward.

 

After you pet him (if you do pet him), then walk back to where your footprints were the first time, and ask him in the same manner to back away from you again. Guaranteed that he will be noticeably better at this the second and third times you try it.

 

You can do two or three bouts of having him back away from you on the first day. Don't do more than that; this is the sort of thing that is much better to "peck" at than go after all at once. After your two or three bouts, turn him loose again or go hand graze, then put him up. A little of this stuff goes a long way.

 

With almost all horses, one or two sessions of this and they get the idea very well and they respond rather fast. Once you see this, you begin to see how little it might take to get just a single step. Again, almost all horses would prefer that all the pressure they ever saw be just a small shake on the line or even a tiny vibration! They are neither stupid nor insensitive – quite the opposite – they are very intelligent and very sensitive. See how little it would take.

 

From that point, it’s just a matter of asking for one step (rest), another step (rest), another step (rest), and so on, until the horse has backed so far away from you that you have no line left to give out.

 

Normally, I select a spot for the horse’s “room” that is six or seven feet from me, so that I have a foot or more of line left in my hand.

 

You can expand this exercise by getting a 5/8” diameter length of smooth yacht braid rope. Let this rope be 20 ft. long. We want 5/8” instead of the normal halter-rope diameter of 3/4" because the longer the rope gets, the heavier it gets so you need to use just a little bit lighter weight of rope if it’s going to be a long length. You’ll be needing this piece of rope later anyway, as it will become your longe line.

 

Buy a bullsnap and firmly tie this rope to the ring of the bullsnap, or, nicer, get some needles as for repairing awnings or sailboat sails, and heavy polyester thread, and firmly stitch the rope down through the ring on the bullsnap. Lash the other end of the rope so it won't fray, and tie a knot at that end so that you’ll know without having to look when you’re at the end of the line.

 

Attach this longer rope to your horse’s halter, and ask him to back. Now you have a long rope so that he can back away from you very far. Once he’s got the idea of how to back on his own at your signal, then there’s really no limit on how many steps he can take back, so long as they are, as already emphasized, one at a time. I do this exercise of “long backing” with my horses once every couple of weeks. They really cannot back up too much, so long as it is done this way, and you will find that this skill helps them in ten thousand other things.

 

For example, the main reason I think most horses who are “bad loaders” are bad loaders is not “claustrophobia” but that they simply are not so stupid as to get into a narrow space that they can’t turn around in, when they know that they don’t know how to back out of there or might have physical difficulty backing out of there. As you make it easy for the horse to put backing himself up together, you’ll find he loses most problems with loading, including stepping down from trailers that don’t have ramps.

 

Likewise, when the horse knows how to back (interestingly enough!) he will quit or greatly diminish the force if he’s been in the habit of pulling back when tied.

 

Horses that rear also generally do it because they are stiff through the back and hindquarters, and for these horses pressure on the bit represents to them an unsolvable “bind” because, being stiff, they cannot yield to the bit. Learning to back is not only “learning” in the mental sense but also a form of physiotherapy that relieves stiffness through the haunches and topline.

renoo
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 Posted: Wed Jul 25th, 2007 08:23 pm
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so, I had a chance to try the first part with my boy.

reading the newest posts, I understand that it was actually not that bad, just I thought it to be too serious a problem, which made me drop trying.

So - I just couldn't make that horse to stand. As I backed more than a metre [~3ft?] away, he followed me. when I managed to slip away further away while he was focused on something else, and tried to turn him to me - he walked towards me. So I guess I'll have to try to do this the next time, this time with the distance he allows me to walk away, right?

actually... thinking more - he was not really focused [to me] while I was right next to him, but at most times turned to me when I was starting to back up...

Yet I noticed that there are three things that can draw his focus away really easy - other horses, grass, loud/"scary"noises.

P.S.

I've noticed a change in his focus when being lead after a friend suggested trying to lead him not in a straight line, but by making lots of turns, circles, etc. Beforehand I used to put the lead rope around his nose for extra "backup" - he became sooo very unfocused and uncontrollable when sensing a mare. now I use simply a lead rope, and if I start asking for focus by shaking the rope, or turning away from the mare - he doesn't fuss that much. Or maybe the mares around are all not in heat? He's a 2yr+ old stallion.

P.P.S.

Not sure if this is revelant, but... I recall one person telling: well, when you tell your horse something to do, imagine how you would explain it to a chinese. this kind of sets me to think how do my actions reflect in the perception of the horse.

* I feel so blessed with my boy, he seems to be quite a good subject for my horse training practice... the more I try to do various things, the more it seems possible to really communicate with him. he isn't what other people would call "stubborn" - if I "tell" him something he can understand, he does it... well, not always I talk in horse language or do it clearly, but somehow we get along. I'm really thankful for him not ever trying to do something like kick, rear, bite... he's like a big teddybear. of course we have some not very pleasant moments, but... well, I think I've learnt a lesson from him that before you start telling your horse something to do, you have to understand the horse himself... sorry, just felt in a writing mood...



Last edited on Wed Jul 25th, 2007 08:40 pm by renoo

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Jul 26th, 2007 12:27 am
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Yes, Renoo, your problem with getting any distance between yourself and the horse is the same as I think it was Julie was mentioning. The problem here for me is how to explain this in words, as if it were a "process" that would always go the same way, and it is not of course. I mean any explanation is to some degree artificial or mechanical. You cannot be shaking or snapping the rope back toward the horse to get him to back off until he first focuses. On the other hand, it's sometimes difficult to get him to focus or to get yourself into a position with the horse where you could even be safe, let alone make yourself intelligible, unless he will let you distance yourself from him to at least a small extent.

By the way, is your horse a stallion? Or if he's a gelding, why the big concern with mares? Is this a stallion/mare thing or is it actually more a herdbound thing?

Sounds like you all are enjoying working on this, and that's real good. I will keep monitoring -- Dr. Deb

renoo
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 Posted: Thu Jul 26th, 2007 06:14 pm
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He is still a stallion. He has his future to be gelded, but this most probably will be done in the autumn, when there are less flies and heat... That's why the mare problem. I have told myself that I cannot ask from a colt, that has recently realized he's a stallion, to ignore mares. Its a problem with mares in heat... I know that because once, while I was hand-grazing him, I noticed that one of the mares some distance away had escaped, and was walking around, and approaching us. My boy noticed her, and started tensing. Well, and I was getting nervous as I couldn't do anything. They sniffed, she turned around, squeeked, gave him a hint of kick and went away. At the same moment he [what I would describe as] "gave her a sad look" and turned back to eating...

To give more detail, he is turned out with a group of "boys" - that's he, his half-brother of the same age, also not gelded, and 2 or 3 geldings aged 3-6. They get along very nicely. There is an adjacent paddock, where sometimes there are mares [also those that are in heat and themselves show interest in the boys over the fence.] the fence is a heavy iron tube one, they cannot break it. So - I have monitored what do they do in this situation. The both young colts stand there, smell the mare, get excited, and try to jump on each other. As none of them is happy for the actions of the other, they end up chasing each other. Sometimes, one of the other geldings comes up, and shoves them away, and enjoys the company of the mare. the colts both go back to normal - that is playing their "boy-games", and don't feel disturbed until they get a chance to go back to the mare...

[that was a lot of writing, sorry, but once telling it, it had to be told in full]

So, I'm trying to resolve the mare problem by basically asking him to remember that I'm there, and we are going where I'm leading, and this time, and all the rest of times, its not to the mare. And he has to obey, and respect ME, while telling the mare everything he has to neigh...

Next time I have enough time I will try focusing him on me at the distance he allows me to go away. Then I will report, hopefully its tomorrow...

Thanks!

Julie
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 Posted: Fri Jul 27th, 2007 01:26 am
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Hi Dr Deb and all, I had to chance again today to practice this with yearling 3rd day now.  I am with her while someone rides his paddock mate and not sure if she can be left alone on own as yet.  So its understandable that there is some tension there.  However she is very calm about it and gaining focus able to step back into room and just starting to work on another step back.  I imagine thats as far as we go on that young one till we get some other things sorted out ie moving hind qtrs and front end or is that done in progression to this. May be jumping ahead sorry.

Am practicing on older ones they are getting it looking forward to more.

Thanks Dr Deb for your time.


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