Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC
Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Ferriana Handling Hooves

When she first arrived Ferriana was fine leading from the trailer to the paddock (towards horses), but the first few times leading from the paddock to the round pen (away from horses) she was pushy.  Not terrible, just trying to walk in front of me and turn back towards her friends.  Now that she understands leading with a halter is just like leading without a halter in the round pen, she just stays by my side. 

Structure, consistency, and known expectations are big for her - as long as she knows what she is supposed to do she's good.  Ambiguity is super hard and stressful.  She is a dominant enough personality that she will take charge if she thinks no one else is doing it, but it stresses her out and she becomes pushy if she thinks she's responsible for everyone and their safety as the leader of the herd.  It's too much responsibility and too big a job to do calmly for this horse. 

Knowing that I'm the herd leader or "alpha mare" is actually quite comforting to her.  She knows I'll keep her safe, she doesn't have to be in charge or make the decisions, so she feels relief around me and wants to stay close and follow me. I'm a good herd leader, so I've kind of become her security blanket and she wants to stay close.  That's why the liberty stuff is working so well - as a herd animal she's looking to me (her 2 legged herd leader) to keep her safe and she knows what to expect from me. 

Ferriana is doing well working with me in the round pen. She comes when I call her in her paddock because she like to go do things, and she is very polite and mannerly walking from her paddock to the round pen even though we are leaving her horse friends.  Ferriana free lunges well (no ropes or halters), and understands the voice commands for walk, trot, canter, whoa, and reverse.  Standing quietly for grooming is no problem, and I've pulled her mane and given her a bridlepath so she looks more like a sport horse now.

She has been watching the other horses being ridden and worked with an astonished look on her face. I've made a point to ride all the other horses past her paddock, and even let them stop and graze with me aboard so Ferriana can see that none of them are concerned with me being on top of them.

In this photo Ferriana is asking Ritzy why she's eating grass but Ferriana can't.  I'm pretty sure Ritzy answered, "because everything great and fun happens when Kim is riding."

Currently we're working on letting me pick up and clean Ferriana's hooves.  Historically this has been challenging to do with her, and the vet has been giving Ferriana heavy sedation for farrier appointments. Needless to say, good manners for the farrier are very important so we are addressing that as a top priority.  Still at liberty, I'm now able to pick up and clean her front hooves with no issues after just brief discussion initially.  The first time I tried to pick up her hind feet she merely stepped away from me with her hind end, but didn't kick at me or try to leave.  I let it go that first time, because I want her to know that her opinion matters.  Today, however, I pursued it with a little more purpose so she can also learn that while her opinion matters, it doesn't always change what we're doing.

I began with the usual small amount of free lunging in the large 100' round pen.  Then I called Ferriana to the center and groomed her with the curry, brush, and combed her mane. Next I picked up and cleaned her front feet, and after a couple tries she gave me her back left foot to clean.  The back right hoof proved to be more tricky.

I'm not sure why she had decided she wasn't going to allow me to pick up and hold that right hind hoof.  By this point in the training session she was getting a little bored, so amusing herself may have been one reason.  However, she still didn't want to cooperate even after I gave her a break to trot and canter around.  She's been here a week now, and it was time to see how she handled being asked to do something that wasn't her own idea.

I put the halter back on, and had a long lead rope attached.  She never tried to leave or walk away from me, but having the halter and lead on allowed me to turn her in tight circles when she tried to pull her foot away.  I kept my hand on her hip as she pivoted around me, and eventually she stopped and stood still. Standing still earned her a cookie.  Then we could really see the hamsters starting to run on the wheels in her head, as evidenced by the ears tilted towards that hind foot and me. 

I would pat her on the haunches and slide my hand down her leg towards her hoof, but each time I got to her cannon bone she would pull her leg away and pivot again. It was becoming a game of keep-away to her, and I didn't want her to think refusing to give me her hoof was an option.

I got a second lead rope and began some rope work with her.  I draped the rope over her neck, back, and haunches, and then slowly pulled it off of her repeatedly.  She was a little concerned at first, but quickly realized it was harmless and just stood for it.  Once I was sure she was not going to worry about the rope, I looped it loosely around the right hind leg while holding both ends.  I gradually lowered the rope down to just below her hock, then began giving her the voice command I use for picking up feet: "Give me your paw."

I repeated the phrase while gently pulling on both ends of the rope, tugging gently with a pulse so she had time between tugs to decide what she was going to do.  When she picked up her foot in response to the rope pressure I immediately released the tension on the rope, praised her, and gave her a cookie.  This very quickly made sense to her and she realized I just wanted her to pick up her foot but not step away from me.  I repeated this exercise multiple times, gradually increasing the duration of time the hoof was in the air before I let go and praised her. I also progressively lowered the rope until it was draped around her pastern.  Eventually she would pick up her foot with a gentle tug and a "give me your paw", and hold it in the air for me.

Next I had to transfer the concept of using a rope to pick up the hoof and hold it in the air, to letting me do it with my hand.  Ferriana is incredibly intelligent, and when I ran my hand down her leg again she let me place my hand on her fetlock and pastern.  I tugged gently with my hand, said, "give me your paw", and she picked up her hoof and let me hold it in the air for a couple seconds.  I let go before she could pull it away.  I gave her a fistful of cookies and then immediately put her away in her paddock.

Once she was loose in her paddock, I swear she wanted to talk to Highboy about what I had been doing.  She hurried to the fence she shares with him, ignoring all the other horses, and whinnied at him.  He moseyed down to her and they began to conference about her training session.  I always feel a little weird when new horses do this.  It happens with every new complicated horse - the new horse wants to talk to one of my personal horses about what on earth is going on with Kim the Strange Human.

Highboy and Ferriana them touched noses as though conversing, then turned their heads to me, paused, and stared.  When I walked by they went back to touching noses and talking, then paused again to stare at me as I walked away.  I swear Ferriana was describing to Highboy what I'd done with her, and he was explaining that it's no big deal.  He probably told her to just cooperate and then she can get on to the fun stuff like jumping.  My ears sure were burning, though.

Over the following week this super smart warmblood mare continued to make good progress. Her ground manners are improving and she's no longer looking at other horses being ridden like they're crazy and in danger.

I've been holding a haltered Ferriana when I'm in the arena on the ground teaching lessons. She was super freaked out during the first lesson she watched but has acclimated to watching riding horses pretty well.

At the beginning there were many questions from her, such as:
"Why is Dewey allowing that human to sit on top of him?!"
"Why is he cantering calmly around like it's no big deal?!" "Why is he jumping over those poles and looking HAPPY while he does it?!"
"This is the strangest place I've ever been."

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