Hello Dr. Deb,
The best part of the story is how incredibly well Barbara is doing. Because she was “semi - rejected” by the dam she required an extraordinary amount of attention. My sidekick Shane learned a lot during the process. This was a second orphan. to raise, a job I would not wish on anyone. It was made much easier by the use of a timed milk (formula) dispensing apparatus. This is a redrigerator to keep the formula fresh and a pump and timer that sent a measured amount of formula rhru a tube into a bucket hung in the stall. I had to make a low wide shelf that overhung the bucket to keep the mare from drinking the foal’s food.
Something interesting that was reinforced by this foal and the previous orphan was that a foal with make a facial expression with their lips and tongue to indicate that they are hungry. Sort of an upward curl of the upper lip and in some cases they roll their tongue into a ‘U’ shape ( as if they were latched onto a teat). This behavior is apparently hardwired into their instinct. It is interesting because the first trick in our book on horse training is teaching a horse to ‘smile’ as a way of engaging the
handler. The theory is if the horse knows the human will listen when they ‘talk’ there may be an increased likelyhood that the horse listen when the handler ‘talks’.. wishful thinking? maybe.. but intent is a very powerful training aid.
Allen, yes, absolutely -- I always tell students to expect that, once they get their horse mannered (per either lessons 'live' with me, or else they have listened to the 2-CD set entitled 'Mannering Your Horse' that they can get through our Membership section) -- once they get their horse mannered, the essence of that is that they are for the first time teaching the animal to pay attention to them, in other words, they are teaching the animal that THE HANDLER REALLY MATTERS. And the horse comes to believe indeed that the handler really matters. Tom Dorrance used to say: 'until I have THAT I don't even want to get on them.'
So once the horse begins re-prioritizing his life so that what the handler wants starts to be equal, and then even more, important than what the animal would have wanted to do on its own -- then we begin teaching them the first so-called 'trick'. In my way of doing things that will be teaching them to step on a target object, usually a white board laid on the ground. They learn to pick their foot up when we ask and then set it down on the board. This then we build into standing on the board with two feet. This is the basis for then next teaching the two-footed or plie bow, and next after that, stepping up onto the circus drum or platform.
And what I tell students to expect is, that once the first lesson is taught -- the real core of that learning is not so much the particular thing that the horse has learned to do, but that the horse learns that humans have something more about them than just coming to bring the feed; that humans can communicate sensibly, which surprises many horses very much; and that the horse can itself learn something from the human -- at least from the human who is also, and equally, interested in and capable of learning something from the horse. It is at this point that I find the horse starts to react with real joyfulness whenever they see me coming out to get them, because horses just love to play and they love to be rewarded for doing what the handler asks, once they have come to care about the handler. Cheers -- Dr. Deb