By Katie Dodd
I believe spring is now showing its face, finally some hot sunny days! Jake and Jolene are shedding their winter coats, can’t wait for them to slick out. Meanwhile with the good weather I’ve been doing some exercises with them both. Jake has gotten over most of his shyness and spooks but inherited Jolene’s pushy food aggression, of course I’m immediately taking care of this now that I’m not scared someone will break their neck. So far, what I’ve been doing seems to work! They stand back and wait till I give them the “go ahead” signal.
Solution: The food aggression I handled like most people do. I got my lunge line, otherwise Jolene will just push through. I brought in a bucket of sweet feed and carried it into the middle of the pasture where I set it on the ground, and stood near it. If the horses approached without my permission I’d drive them away. At first Jake freaked out running around bucking but surprisingly he was the first one to catch on. When he was standing back facing me with ears forward waiting on me I’d back off letting him know he’s allowed while keeping Jolene away. Now Jolene was a different story. She just ran in circles or pawed the ground a few times trying to just turn in on me. I think she started watching Jake and caught on what to do. I waited until she lowered her head to the ground and was licking and chewing. I’d then let them both come up and get a mouth full, then walk back up and Jake would immediately back off while Jolene tried to hold her ground so I easily drove her off. We repeated this process until they learned when I approach the food, they back off. After doing this a few times a day, every day they seem to have learned to wait back until I let them go to their own bucket.
Now Jolene has issues in the work area, she HATES any physical activity that isn’t eating. I’ve been having to come up with idea to make her interested in moving her feet. We’ve been working on backing up, which goes hand in hand with her pushy attitude.
Solution: First I tried wiggling the line and increasing pressure when she didn’t respond, then tried hitting the line, and stepping into her space to back her up. Of course she backed up! But not in the way I wanted; more of “Omg she’s gone crazy and I need to get away.” That’s how I saw it online, so my lesson was not to always do what you see online because it may not work for your horse. What did work for her was a kind of pumping motion on her line, increasing pressure when she didn’t respond, I raise my lunge a bit and she then would take a baby step back but not in fear. She now takes baby steps backwards, I have her to the point I don’t even need the crop/lunge thing, just a slight wiggle and she takes two steps back. Now I just need to get her to back up more than two steps but that’s a new challenge we’ll face after she has her baby steps mastered.
I’ve also changed Jolene into a bitless bridle. After trying on bit after bit I couldn’t get any that fit right, her tongue is thick and she has low palates. I got her a french link with copper that was my favorite but she didn’t like it, so I just switched to bitless. I have a cross over bitless and a side pull. The first day I got my cross over I tested it and she responded with no problem. I figured since she’s never been trained in a bit or bitless, that if I go bitless now I won’t have to retrain her to go bitless when she’s on the bit.
I’m happy spring weather is actually here now so I can go out and get some work done with my horse and mule, and be one step closer to riding Jolene.
About the Author: “My name is Katie Dodd I’m 17 years old, and live in Clifton, Tennessee. My hobbies are reading, writing, walking, occasionally riding horses, and a lot of other activities. My passions are animals first and then comes writing. I love making random stories up or writing poetry to express feelings. I have a lot of goals in life like finishing college, and opening my own vet clinic and animal shelter. I also want to get one of my stories published. I can get very passionate about things like the government and my beliefs. I like debating, and just sharing what I know. Out of all the subjects in school I’d say History is my favorite, it may be the past but it’s what shaped the world and changed a lot of things.”