Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ground manners while NOT on a lead

Earlier I mentioned that I had a story to share about my horse. This story demonstrates the importance of your horse respecting you and having good ground manners even when not on a lead.

I celebrated Easter today by spending about an hour at the barn, mostly hanging out with Panama inside the barn because of the rain. He seemed to like the attention, but he was also being rather naughty.

Hanging out with my horse in the barn

At one point I tried to walk through the doorway into one of the back stalls of the barn (all the gates between stalls are down and the doors open) and Panama pushed me against the wall in his hurry to get through before me. He got a verbal scolding and a slap on the rump for that, and I decided we need to work on letting me through the doorway first, even when not on a lead. (He does fine while being led, so apparently he thought the rules would be different otherwise.)

But first I had to get him out of the rear stall. He just stood there in the doorway for the longest time, looking at me. I think he was afraid he'd get trouble again for walking through. Finally, though, he came through the doorway to me. I praised him, loved on him a little, and then walked toward the doorway, clucking to him to get him to walk with me.

At the doorway between the stalls — which admittedly is not wide enough for both of us at the same time — I made a little ehhh noise and put my hand out at about the same height as his chest. He stopped, and I praised him, walked through, and then clucked to him again to get him to follow. He did, and got lots of praise.

We practiced this a few times. I'm not sure he fully understands yet what I'm looking for, but when I tell him to, he does stop and wait for me to go through first. My goal is to get him to where he'll stop and wait for me automatically, just like he does when I have him on a lead, so we'll need to practice again sometime soon.

I think it's interesting how horses sometimes act like they are wild and untrained whenever the halter or bridle is off. I remember when Panama was a young horse, visiting my in-laws and helping them to catch and halter him. (This was when he was about 18 months old, before I moved him to Denver.) He was skittish and unapproachable without the halter, but once we got it on he was practically a lap dog.

While the differences in Panama's behavior are no longer that extreme (i.e. he's a lap dog all of the time), I think this demonstrates how important it is for both you and your horse not to become complacent, but rather to make sure ground manners are taught and minded at all times, whether "caught" or not.



At April 13, 2009 at 9:20 AM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Yeah, they can be obnoxious if they think they aren't working. I had Bombay do something bizarre the other day in which he walked past me while I was shoveling manure, cutting it too close and knocking me to the side. I spun around and slapped him on the part of his body that hit me, and he kept his distance after that. The horses don't want to have to wait to be fed while I shovel manure, so they try to speed up the process by pestering me to feed them.

At April 14, 2009 at 5:58 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Sounds just like my dogs at mealtime! Except horses are a lot heavier, and therefore a lot more dangerous when they feel like being obnoxious.


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