Monday, November 26, 2012

Simple Solutions.

While doing glamourous things like cleaning toilets and vacuuming this morning, I thought about what my approach was going to be with Armani this afternoon if he tried anything silly while leading him in. Sure, I could probably bribe him forward with carrots but the problem with that is it doesn't really address the issue, rewards the wrong behaviour, and I think likely does nothing positive for gaining Armani's respect.

I thought it through and decided on my course of action.

When I got to the barn, I grabbed my lead shank and dressage whip from my locker, along with the rest of my normal gear. Sounds ominous but stay with me! I took his halter, lead, and the whip out with me. I kept the whip against my body vertically so that it wasn't obvious or threatening. I was a step ahead because Armani was not at the hay but hanging out in the shelter with his new BFF. The BFF might be part of his reluctance to leave but at least I wasn't dealing with hay and his friend.

In my mind I was calm and went in with the expectation that he be 100% perfect.  I haltered him with no problem. I did put the chain over his nose. This was there as absolute last resort and protection for me if he escalated the rearing. It was not there to help me lead him. What do horses do when shanked? Lift their head, probably step backwards - the oppositive of what I wanted to encourage, which is forward when I say so. 

So, horse haltered, me realxed, I proceeded to lead him forward. He took a few steps and stopped. I stayed relaxed, gave a kiss, and put some pressure on the halter. I stayed facing the way I wanted to go but could see him brace in my peripheral vision. The dressage whip was in my left hand (held against my body up to this point) so I could give him some pressure from behind without changing anything else. At the precise moment where he looked long and light through his chest (i.e. thinking about going up), I reached back and gave a slight twist of my wrist, popping him in the bum.

The result? He moved forward easily and without any drama. I thought it might require more reinforcement but he moved forward willingly without a problem. I think the key was I was able to remain facing in the direction we were going without fussing with trying to use the lead to get the forward drive. Plus I was able to use the dressage whip at the immeditate moment he sucked back. It was gentle, barely a tickle, but clear. Simple.


Melissa-ParadigmFarms said...

Nice job! And no need to justify using a shank, they were invented for reason, and quite frankly I find them friendlier than a rope halter. Most of my leadropes have chains. I don't necessarily use the chain, just clip it to the halter ring without putting the chain on, but if I ever think I might need one it is available.

RuckusButt said...

I just meant that the chain was there to correct him, not teach proper leading behaviour, if that makes sense.

It seems I still have some work to do because it wasn't as easy last night. I think he's more unsure at night and I might have been a bit too firm and scared him, so he kind of shut down. Rethinking...
[that just made me think of a GPS saying recalculating... recalculating", lol.