The other day, I was invited to see my friend’s new horse. He had her for about a month before I got to see her. When I arrived at his house, he met me outside and said, “C’mon…let’s go see her.” We stood at fence and marveled at how beautiful she was. Excited, he asked, “You wanna pet her?” “Sure!” I said. So my friend grabbed halter and went after her.
As I watched him chase her I was reminded of those silent movies where everyone is moving comically fast with music in background. As I chuckled to myself I heard him ask aloud, “Why does she keep running from me?”
That was a good question. Lots of people have that trouble. There are lots of reasons horses run from their owners. One reason is fear. Horses are epitome of fear. If they sense their life is in danger they’ll run.
If a horse is comfortable with their herd, even if its one or two other horses, it can be uncomfortable for him. His entire DNA speaks loud and clear to him that herd is safest place to be. Therefore, if he leaves herd it could mean his life is threatened – at least…that’s his thinking.
One of biggest mistakes I see are new horse owners that make their horse work almost every time they go to see them. Picture it. You’re a horse standing there with your buddies. It’s ninety-four degrees out side, flies won’t leave you alone, and you were doing fine just standing there doing nothing – thank you very much. And because you are enormously alert due to your innate fear, you quickly spot your owner coming to you holding that weird looking, not-so-good-fitting rope thing that goes on your head.
The last 400 gazillion times your owner walked toward you with it in his hand, he accidentally jabbed your cheek while clumsily jerking it on your head. Then he made you leave your friends and go run in circles for thirty minutes. Boring!
Rather, horse owner should alternate working and pleasure for his horse. In other words, one day walk to your horse with halter in your hand and pet him. Talk to him. Tell him how beautiful he is. Take your halter and rub it on his body as if it were a brush. Get him thinking that halter will give him pleasure so when he sees it he’ll feel good about it.
The next day, with halter in hand, go see your horse and pet him. Talk nice. Then put his halter on. Pet him again. Keep talking nice. After a few minutes, take halter off and rub his body with it. Then walk away.
Now your horse is starting to think, “Great! That’s all he wanted.” For a while, alternate when you ask your horse to work versus not work and take your halter with you each time to keep him guessing, “Is he gonna pet me and tell me I’m purty, or are we going to work a little? I’m guessing he’ll pet me so I’ll stay put.”