Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spoiled Little Brat

So, I've got a client horse in this month (yay! Money!) and I gotta say this folks: there is such a thing as spoiling your horse too much.

I'm not talking about too many treats or grooming them until they melt, or even letting them have some candy sometimes. I'm talking about spoiled little brats that don't listen and have learned that they don't have to.

This filly I've got in to start, she's lived in the same pen, with the same other filly, since they were weaned. She learned early on that she could push the other filly around, of course, since the other filly is a more submissive little creature. Then she tried it with her owner.

Obviously, it worked, because now I'm dealing with her trying to deliberately step on me, shove me, throw her head up and intimidate me, and various and sundry other examples of what a horse shouldn't get away with.

She's halter broke, and she leads well, but when she gets tired of being led she'll get in behind me and start pushing, trying to step on the backs of my boots. Or she'll try to turn away from me and when the lead comes tight she'll act like she's startled.

Today we had the "You can't catch me" fight. Needless to say, I won, but I'm a little sore from winning tonight.

See, she's worn a catch collar at home, because apparently she doesn't want to let you put the halter on unless you already have a firm grip on her. Since she'd never ridden in a trailer before, I pulled it before I loaded her. First trailer ride + things to get caught on something = not a good idea, since they will find something to snag a halter or catch collar or saddle on.

So, she didn't have the catch collar. I figured that once she settled in she wouldn't be that bad to catch, if nothing else run her into the alley and give her less room to make a fool of herself in. I was wrong, but that's why they make ropes.

I'd gotten her eating out of my hand by the simple expedient of having the only food available in the pen when she was hungry. So, I held the rope up in front of the bucket and let her stick her nose in it, and back out, and stick her nose in it, and back out... when she was distracted munching on the little bit of food in the bottom of the bucket, I flipped the loop up over her ears and tugged the slack out.

Of course she went nuts. She was surprised. I let her run around the pen for a little bit until she stopped worrying about the end of the rope trailing behind her, then eased my way up to grab the end. I started slowly coiling the rope, and she gradually inched her way towards me, until I could grab the trailing end of the rope under her jaw and give her a little bit of forward pressure. She walked nicely with me with just the rope around her neck, back to where I'd laid the halter and lead over the fence.

She stood while I petted her and told her what a good girl she was. Then, when I had the halter on her nose and reached across for the strap, she took off.

I let her run herself down a bit more (no point in chasing her, she'd get tired soon enough) and repeated this process, getting just a little further with the halter than I had the time before. We did this about three times, before I got fed up.

She was starting to look like this was becoming a fun game, and that wasn't the plan, so this time, instead of letting go of the rope and letting her run herself down, I let it slide through my hands until I got the end of it, and I ran with her. She made a circuit of the pen and stopped in a corner, and looked over at me like "What?!? You're not supposed to be on the end of the rope!!" and took off again. She was quite obviously indignant that I had changed the rules, but I just kept up with her (easier than it sounds, actually since I had less distance to run than she did, and could pretty much do it up and down the middle of the pen instead of making the wide circle) and was standing on the end of the rope again when she stopped again.

I reeled her in and led her a little way, then told her firmly to stand, and eased the halter on. I hadn't let her get away with her little game that time, and she decided to do what she should have in the first place. I led her around the pen a couple times, and when she stopped trying to climb over me, I took her out of that pen, and into the next one, where there's grass and weeds growing, and let her graze in-hand for a few minutes.

She got something she liked for doing something I liked. She'll come to see the correlation soon enough.

By that time there was a storm moving in, so I didn't work her in the round pen today. We'll start that, and learning how to carry the bit, tomorrow. I did leave the halter on her to hopefully simplify matters tomorrow.

And if she decides to play any "you can't catch me" games tomorrow, I'll just tie one of the lunge lines around an old tire before I leave, and let her drag it around for the night. That tends to put a damper on the whole running away thing.