Monday, March 08, 2010

Grand Behavior

On Saturday, Dutch and Cathy (Brian's parents) came to town. The primary reason for their trip was to meet Sham and reacquaint themselves with Steen. Brian and I headed to the barn, confident that after our wonderful Thursday everything would go smoothly.

Unfortunately, such was not the case. A few things worked against us. First, there was new hay in the pasture and Sham was pretty happy about eating the new hay. Second, the puddle was still by the gate and after hearing some stories about recent misbehavior by the electric fence, we're now pretty certain that Sham's big spook in the puddle on Thursday was from the water actually transmitting him a shock. So, when we arrived on Saturday, he was justifiably not interested in having anything to do with us. We only tried for a few minutes to catch him and then gave up, got Steen and treated Cathy to a very good ride, doing what Steen does best lately - walking and trotting in the indoor arena.

Steen was fantastic and Cathy enjoyed herself. Dutch rode a little too, and that also went well.

The next morning found us there again and though we did manage to get Sham inside, I am beginning to think unsympathetically forcing him through the puddle and indoors simply added more good reasons to support his "I'd rather not be caught" philosophy. Once again, however, Steen saved the day. I put Cathy on board with a bareback pad and he gave her a beautiful ride.

Today, Brian and I returned to the barn again. It was a hazy, mucky day. We found Sham once again exceedingly reluctant to engage with us, but with a new strategy we got him interested enough to make him follow Brian around a bit and then Brian left before Sham grew disinterested. We then went and got Steen, who was covered in muck from hock to poll. We groomed him for a while but eventually gave it up, put him back and had another round of "people aren't scary" school with Sham. He was even more ready to approach Brian and accept treats and pets, and once again Brian left before Sham was really ready to say good-bye, so we are hopeful with a bit of going slow and building up his trust again, we can get back on the right track.


  1. I think there's a fine line between being sympathetic to a horse's fears, and being a push-over. Sometimes it's best not to push a horse though something that scares them, but if you do that to much you end up with a horse who's disrespectful and balks at everything. It's a judgment call obviously, and a lot of it depends on how much you care about whatever it is the horse is scared of and how scared the horse really is. I couldn't care less about giving Trekker baths, but I make him walk though mud puddles (he hates having water touch him). A trainer once said something about "getting from point A to point B, and the horse gets trained along the way". I try to keep this in mind, although sometimes you do have to re-evaluate where point B is in a given situation.

    I feel your pain with Steen being covered in mud tho. Trekker spends a lot of time making himself dirty, and it sometimes takes forever to even reach a semblance of clean.

    Good luck with everything. :)

  2. I want a horse too!! :( He looks great!
    I hope things are good with you!

  3. Anju: Thanks! I wish you had a horse, too. I love reading horse-blogs!

    Erica: Yes, it is a fine line, and normally I'm not hugely sympathetic to a horse that doesn't want to walk through a mud-puddle - particularly when that horse lives in a field that is, basically, one big mud puddle. But in this case Sham had an open sore in his mouth for who knows how long, got shocked twice near the gate and has added all this up to conclude that letting people put halters on him is not worth the trauma that follows. What we need to do right now is convince him that being haltered is easy and relaxing, because all training starts with catching. If the first thing you do after catching a horse is reprimand him, he's only going to conclude he was right and should never have let himself be caught in the first place.

    There are certain battles I've had with Steen - certain things I can push him through without much sympathy because he's not scared enough to stay scared once I've 'proven' that the scary thing isn't actually scary. But there are other things that pushing only exacerbates, and of course each horse is different as far as where the line is. That's the joy of working with them, right? You never have the same problem twice...


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