Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day three of wet blankets and long miles

Still a quagmire here... far too muddy and slick to do any work out on the trails.  We worked some more on disengaging the hind quarters, lateral flexion, and long periods of trotting to build muscle and wind.  Just look back to yesterdays blog for any details.   

In addition to training, I do farrier work for a small group of clients.  I'm about ready to mandate that all my trimming clients become training clients too- there are far too many ignorant owners creating monsters out of their horses!  1200 pound monsters with NO manners what-so-ever. 

Yesterday I had to trim two horses that would not stand, would not lift their feet, and would not back up... at least for the owner.  I tried to explain a little bit of philosophy to their owner, who was inadvertently causing ALL of the issues.  She brought the first horse out into the aisle.  She doesn't like to cross tie, and won't let me hold the horse (my preferred method), so holds the horse herself.  Even though the gelding was standing quietly, she had a choke hold on his halter and was pulling down.  Pretty soon, the horse began moving around seeking some relief.  She had effectively desensitized him to the halter.  If you want a horse to stand still, you need to SENSITIZE him to halter pressure; he needs to know that standing is comfortable and that moving causes pressure to be put on the halter.  This poor horse couldn't get a break no matter what he did, so in his mind, the best option was to try and leave. 

The next issue we ran into was him not wanting to yield his feet.  I'd ask him to lift a hoof, and he'd pick up his foot, then jerk it away.  This is a direct result of his owner allowing him to do so each and every time she picks his feet.  Her remark?  "He's just lazy.  That's what he always does".  Simply by working with this horse five minutes a day would remarkably improve his attitude towards hoof handling.  My horses at home will lift each and every foot from just a simple tap on the leg (SENSITIZE them to cue; tap until they lift, then quit and rub).  My horses will hold their leg up until I tell them otherwise.  It is NEVER permissible to slam a foot down; Most times, I'll place the hoof down so it's just resting on the toe - I want to lower the foot in a CONTROLLED manner, not just drop it rudely. 

Unfortunately, my recommendations of working with him have been ignored.  As I was asking him to lift a leg, using gradually increasing pressure, I suddenly found he was no longer responding to any suggestions I was making,  He wasn't shifting his weight, he was making no effort, when only a few seconds earlier we were making progress.  A quick glance upwards revealed what was going on.  This poor boy's owner had eared him quite severely; his ear was completely twisted around and pulled down by his eye.  I was a bit taken aback and explained to the owner that the horse was not focusing on me due to what she was doing.  Her reply, 'we'll he's being stubborn and needs to learn a lesson".  I, oh so politely, let her know that what she was doing was cruel, and that he would not make the connection.  I have no issue with increasing the pressure; in fact, I'll tap away on the cannon bone with my rasp if a horse is being particularly obstinate.  BUT, the horse is making a connection in my case.  As soon as he lifts his leg, the tapping magically stops! 

People, please think before you act.  If you are trying to get a horse to pick his feet up, hurting his ears will not fix the problem.  Learn the difference between SENSITIZING and DESENSITIZING.  Before you start labeling your horse lazy, stupid, spooky, etc.. take a look at the way you are handling them.  A dull, bull headed horse often has a heavy handed owner.  When my horses overreact, it's usually because I've tensed up or given them reason to.  When I loose my feel, my horses no longer perform the way I'd like them to.  But horses with owners like this never really have a chance. 

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