Martha reading Baby D the Riot Act
My mentors have taught me to project a matter-of-fact attitude to my horses, that is, assume I will get the response or behavior I want when I ask them to do something, or place them in a situation. I try to relax and act as if we’ve done whatever it is a million times, not make anything a big deal, la-la-la, easy breezy.
I assume, for example, that I can walk up and fly-spray them while they’re eating or any other darn time it's convenient, whether they’re tied or not. Same with getting hosed down when it’s 106˚. With Jaz (and Poco), that is true most of the time. Rarely, I may have to loop a lead rope around Jaz’s neck if he’s of a mind to cut a rug.
One evening last week, I tried to fly-spray Daltrey at dinnertime.
O Stop Laughing [a play on Daltrey's registered name, O Stop Looking]
Last weekend, I gave Daltrey a lesson on how it’s supposed to work, and I got another lesson on … how babies are.
First, because of the bad horse juju plaguing so many of late, I donned my helmet.
As usual, as soon as I put the halter on Daltrey, he planted his feet, grabbed the knot on the lead rope, and began to play with it. I yanked to get it out of his mouth, and encouraged him to move forward. I “tied” him next to Jaz and he continued to chew the lead rope as he traversed every bit of available horizontal space.
I sprayed him with the hose. When he stood still, I stopped and praised him. When I was finally able to aim the hose at his sheath and he stood still, I quit, praised him, and gave him cookies. It only took a few minutes. I’ll wait to desensitize him to having his head sprayed. I have a wand with a mist setting that I use. Once they’re used to it, they actually seem to enjoy it, especially when it’s hot.
Two days later, I needed to spray them with fly spray. I tied them both again, and sprayed Jaz first. Daltrey watches how Jaz reacts to things. Jaz, of course, never flinched and neither did Daltrey. Lots of praise and cookies all round.
We’ll reinforce the lessons many more times while tied, and eventually try at liberty.
Other things we’ll be working on:
- Walking on lead, and everything that connotes.
- Not chewing on the lead rope. I’ve been lax about this one because it has kept the mouthy baby occupied when he’s tied. Now that he’s older, it’s a distraction that's becoming a habit, and I want him to pay attention to me. I’m funny like that.
- The meaning of the word “stand,” which is neither a suggestion nor a request.
- Patience, patience, patience.
Dénouement: This was the post I had prepared for the evening Daltrey tried to sever his leg. It only took a few moments before he stood still and allowed me to hose the leg, fly-spray him, and doctor the wound. I was even able to fly-spray that leg again at liberty. I wore a helmet throughout this episode, and will continue to do so, especially when trying new things with him. BTW, that was also the first time I actually tied him (as opposed to looping the rope), and he did well. Working on "stand" is a priority. Your mama don't dance ...
What lessons (or reminders) are you working on with your horses?