When Sueño jumped off the trailer, Brandon, the shipper said, “He’s really sweet except he can be a little bit stubborn.” He then told me all about the troubles of loading him.
For the first few days I kept Sueño in a smaller pen to give him time to decompress from the trip, adjust to the higher elevation, and to give us some time to get to know each other before I let him up on the pasture.
What I didn’t know was how the walk up to the pasture and back down were treacherous paths for us. It became obvious immediately that he knew how to walk on a lead rope, but it wasn’t always a joint venture. He flung himself all around me, into me, and tried to go over me. When I decided that we needed to work on this before I turned him loose, he decided he wouldn’t leave the pasture refusing to budge. Each time I moved his feet, he’d try to drop his shoulder into me to knock me over, or rear up and over my head.
I don’t like this at all.
This is dangerous….
Bill has to push him from behind to unstick his mind, and this is when I planned our first training session for the next day. I hoped to not do anything with him for at least two weeks, but alas, three days and that stubborn streak screamed for my attention.
Two things were going on:
- He didn’t know about respecting space
- He used physical intimidation to get his way like he would with his fellow yearlings.
There are several different ways to teach about space. One is that you draw a circle around yourself, and each time the horse steps into it without your invitation, you back the horse out.
This is where we started, and within five minutes he picked up on this. After we got this down, we started practicing walking. I got my long stick (the same kind that most trainers use), and I first sensitized him to it. I let him smell it, mouth it, and then I rubbed his entire body with it. I wanted him to know that this stick isn’t anything to be scared of.
We started to walk the outer edges of the big paddock. Anytime he tried to drop his shoulder into me, which he did a lot, I’d poke him with the stick in his shoulder. At first it was a light tap, if he continued, the pressure graduated to a constant pressure with the end of the stick, and if he still continued, he got a stronger tap. He only got the strong tap twice. Usually, he moved off the pressure with a light tap. Of course as soon as he moved off of the light pressure, I stopped applying any pressure to let him know this is what I was looking for.
He picked up on this lesson really quick. We practiced going in both directions several times.
Where we had the most problem was walking back and forth between the paddock and the pasture. Bill was at work, so I had no help with me if I couldn’t get him down from the pasture.
All horses will challenge you. All horses.
We approached the entrance to the paddock and then backed up. We did a lot of approach and retreat. All went well.
We stepped one stride in and backed up. Went well. Repeated successfully two more times.
I then walked him in, turning him immediately to walk back through the paddock…
Feet locked up, head in the air. I tried to move him again, and here came the shoulder to knock me over. I poke him with the stick requesting my space, and then he rears up, and if I wouldn’t have moved, he would have landed right on me.
The challenge is on.
I start moving his feet, and before I know it, he’s longing a tight circle around me trying to drop his shoulder into me. I push him off with the stick. I get him to move in the other direction. He stops to rear up again. I’m waiting this time. I back up, so he can’t land on me, and then I go back to moving him in both directions and backwards without any reaction from me. This caught him by surprise; he expected me to give in.
We then stop moving. I walk up, pet him, hug on him, and we start walking and trotting in circles slowly moving towards the paddock’s gate. Holding my breath, the moment of truth is here.
He walks right through without any issues. I immediately let him stop, he drops his head to my chest, and we love one one another for about five minutes. After a good rest, we start walking back and forth from the paddock to the pasture. No more stubborn streak….just willingness and walking alongside me in a safe way.
I wish I could say I haven’t run into this again, but I have whenever he’s unsure of something or doesn’t want to do something. Usually, it takes a little bit of approach and retreat along with approaching from a different angle. There are times when he gets nervous about something, and he forgets about my personal space.
He’s a baby that wasn’t handled much. Thus, he’s a little bit wild, because he isn’t sure of what I’m asking all the time, which means he’s a little bit stubborn and impulsive. Everything I do with him is basically a new experience, and I sometimes feel overwhelmed for him. I put him through a lot bringing him here, and he’s gone through so much adjustment in a short amount of time. At times I feel really guilty about it. He takes it more in stride than I do sometimes.
I said it before, and I will say it again, he’s the sweetest horse. He is full of love, and he loves to be loved on. Time will smooth all of this out. We’re just beginning.