20 January 2012

You Want Me To Be Your Friend...

I don't leave it up to the new arrival to decide to befriend me. It's my job to convince the horse that I am worthy to be the leader.

When Bravo arrived, he wanted nothing to do with me. That doesn't work well in a training scenario. Fortunately, my herd took care of the problem for me. They would not allow him in. That left Bravo looking for a friend...

The day after he arrived, he was exhausted from being pushed around all night. The herd took turns tag teaming him and their restless hoof beats kept me up most of the night. I'm not complaining, though. The benefits of their efforts paid off for me big time.

When I went out to feed the second day, the herd was down by the gate. Bravo was eating on one of the big bales. He remembered me bringing him his bucket the night before, so he wandered down to meet me half way. When I set the bucket down, I didn't back away this time. If he wanted to eat, he had to agree to me rubbing him.

He scampered and scattered about, trying to decide. Finally, he stuck his nose out and we connected. I moved down his neck and rubbed his chest and legs. He kept a wary eye on me, but stayed still. While he ate, I moved all about him, scratching and rubbing, but he was skin jumpy.

Have you experienced this?

I touched Bravo with a firmness and gentleness that displayed my confidence and surety that he would come to befriend me. In return, he twitched and jerked his skin muscles like my touch was a jolt from an electric fence. I dislike this behavior. I want a horse to love being touched. I continued the firm, gentle touching until the skin jumping stopped.

After feeding, I started chores. The other horses kept Bravo away from the hay and he was hungry. Good for me. I set down several well spaced piles of loose hay and waited for Bravo to choose one. When he did, I walked over to rub him. When he left, because he didn't want me to touch him, I waited until he found another pile and repeated my approach. I didn't move slowly. I walked confidently up to him, with a friendly and comfortable attitude. If Bravo searched out a new pile and refused my touch, I remained the same - sure and confident that eventually he would agree to my idea.

Hunger got the best of him.

He settled and allowed me to approach. I repeated the procedure from the morning feeding. I touched him all over and then walked away. He needed time to think and eat in peace.

Thirty minutes later, I was back. Bravo was standing alone, so I approached. He stood his ground, albiet somewhat nervous about my intentions. In my way of thinking, he has nothing to fear from me. I've never done anything to harm him. He was transferring what some other human did, onto me. I don't allow that type of behavior to last long. I get right to proving that I am not like other humans.

Throughout the morning, I would stop my chores and walk over to Bravo and rub his entire body. Sometimes I would take the tool I had along with me. Bravo found an excuse to be nervous about every little thing, every little change. I would not relent until I touched him all over, implement in hand.

Mid-morning saw a huge change. Since Bravo was not accepted into the herd, he started seeking me out. He wanted me to be his friend. I accepted and we started a new behavior. Regardless of what I had with me, the dog racing around by my feet, the manure spreader, or the tractor with the drag, Bravo followed me wherever I went.

With that improvement, I took it a step further. Just after lunch, I walked out with his halter. He saw me approaching, took note of the halter and walked right up to be caught. He stuck his nose in the halter and relaxed when I tied it on. Then he followed me into the barn.

As a reward for this best friend behavior, I groomed him up good. He loved it. The attention I paid him throughout the process had Bravo licking and chewing with his head low and a hind foot cocked. I spent several hours with him. It was a wonderful time of getting to know one another better.

Since then, every time I go outdoors, he starts walking over. Every single time he attempts this connection, he receives something positive from me - a rub or a scratch, a gentle touch to his forehead, or a palm swipe over his eyes. He loves it.

...interestingly, since his behavior has changed toward me, now my personal horses are integrating him into their private herd. I've observed Bravo eating and hanging together with Carli, Ziggy and Berlin. This is a huge improvement!

1 comment:

  1. All of my horses, except Jojo, are attention hogs. They want everyone to be their friend. Jojo is more picky with strangers and even family at times. She trusts me but is leery of others. Of my 4, 2 were raised here and their mama was a spoiled and pamperd brood mare, who always got lots of petting and grooming but not much riding or groundwork. I think a lot of Jojo's attitude comes from being mistreated and neglected as a baby.