I have a friend that lives in Cave Creek, Arizona and she helps find good homes for animals that are rescued from people in the area whose animals get confiscated for neglect. She also trains Mustangs and finds good homes for them. I asked her advice. What is the best way to get Zum into the two-horse trailer? She suggested that I put alfalfa inside the trailer as temptation for Zum. I tried this and guess what? It worked like a charm! Now Zum loads and unloads into the two-horse trailer easily. I always bring an extra bucket of alfalfa so I can load him when Huszar, Zum and I come back from a trail ride!
Yesterday, I went to the Spanish Market in Santa Fe. I especially love the Contemporary Art of this Festival. I am so impressed at how friendly and talkative all the sculptors, woodworkers, jewelers, painters and craftspeople were with me. One artist told me a legend about the Alligator Man. His version of this Colombian legend is about a man who lives by a river to spy on beautiful women and decides to take a witch’s potion to become an alligator. I was curious about this legend so I researched the Alligator Man Festival and read another story about a storekeeper who fell in love with a woman who was the daughter of a rice seller. This rice seller prohibited the storekeeper from approaching his daughter. The daughter had a habit of bathing in a river. With the desire of kissing her, the storekeeper went into the river to search for her and turned into an alligator. For days, he repeated the same routine, turning into an alligator to be with his beloved. They finally fled together to the deep of the river to be together. How romantic! And how lovely that a country has turned this Alligator Man into an icon! To me, this legend is about a man who loves beauty, femininity, nature and creatures of the earth!
When Zum acts out and non-verbally says to me ‘I don’t want to do it,’ I ask him to perform a familiar task that changes his attitude. Sometimes I say to him ‘I know you don’t want to do it, but you can do it anyway! I know you can!’ If he throws his head up, I don’t chase his head with my hand. I keep my hand down, asking him to drop his head by gently pulling down on his halter. As soon as Zum drops his head, I release halter pressure and pet Zum. I never use pressure that makes Zum explode. I ask gently and I release consistently when he responds to my request. Zum is very aware of his surroundings. Distractions unsettle him. I need to keep him calm with my peaceful humming or singing. Or, again, I ask him to repeat the action he likes to replace the undesired action. Zum doesn’t bite me. Horses that don’t bite get lots of pets, praise and attention. Horses that bite are telling you that they don’t like people because people are not nice to them. These horses are starved for affection and attention. Zum loves my attention!
On a warm November day last year in Cave Creek, my friend rode her mule and I rode my racehorse for a long horseback ride in the desert. We came across a big tortoise on the trail. I haven’t seen a wild tortoise in the desert so this was a rare treat for me! I love tortoises! I once read that ancient civilizations saw the earth as a flat table supported on the back of a huge turtle. In the Orient, the turtle’s round shell represented heaven and the square body underneath represented the earth. For many cultures on earth, the turtle is a symbol of material existence and longevity. Seeing this beautiful tortoise enjoying his day in the sunshine will be a moment I will never forget! Witnessing wildlife is the best part of trail riding on horseback!
There are two verbal cues that Zum responds to. One is the ‘please?’ cue and the other is the ‘yes, thank you’ cue. The ‘yes’ cue is ceasing to use the ‘please’ cue. Zum does not respond to an emphatic ‘please’ cue. Zum only mirrors any frustration he hears in my voice by acting confused. I don’t use the lead rope as punishment. I never jerk on the lead rope. Saying ‘Don’t’ or yelling ‘Quit!’ doesn’t work. ‘Don’t’ cues don’t work. This irritates Zum. Saying ‘don’t’ or ‘No’ to Zum never improves his behavior. What works is a signal or sound for him to do wanted behavior. I give Zum a little job to replace the undesirable behavior with behavior I want. When I reward Zum quickly and consistently, he quickly responds with more wanted behavior. I focus on one part of his body to make it simple. I put him to work, making him drop his head or stop or move backward or forward or sideways a few steps using the ‘please’ cue. My ‘please’ cue is a kiss. This cue tells him to move something or do something, please.The kiss sound will never irritate Zum. If a horse is irritated, it is usually what you are saying to him that is to blame. My cues are creating a happy, responsive colt!
For some reason, Zum decides he no longer wants to get into the two horse trailer. He stops 6 feet from the trailer and won’t move forward. This is the spot that Zum feels safe. I show Zum that there is nothing to be afraid of by loading both Kamar and Huszar into the trailer. They love being loaded into the trailer as they both love going out for trail rides. But Zum isn’t convinced. I let Zum wait in his ‘feel-safe’ zone and I allow him to calm down. I don’t want to fight him or force him to do something he refuses to do. I am telling him that I am not going to pick on him and that he is going to be just fine. I have read that once a horse knows the gist of what I want, he will go through learning cycles. His performance may start off bad, then get good, then get worse while he tries every option he knows. Then he will get better for a short time, then bad again but not very bad or for very long. Finally, he will be good consistently. Then I can say he has learned. So I cannot be discouraged that Zum got into a horse trailer easily to get from Santa Fe to Phoenix and now acts like he doesn’t have a clue. I just will keep working with Zum, getting him consistent at every baby step I ask of him and soon he will know this lesson for life. For now, I will pony Zum from Huszar from my house!
My parents believed in living off the land, growing gardens and fruit trees, building their own homes and having lots of animals. I have always been surrounded by animals. My parents especially loved goats! I was raised on fresh goat milk. My mother milked goats twice a day. When I was a teenager, she told me that my first baby words were ‘pretty goatie.’ People who know me well know that I love goats. A well known artist in Santa Fe painted a painting of me when I was in my early 30s. I am standing in my bellydancing outfit in front of an Adobe gate next to a white goat. I am holding a staff with my ballet slippers dangling at the end of the staff. The painting is called ‘Tanya of Tesuque.’ I bought a young hornless goat in Taos a couple years ago. This is my billy goat named Pan. I rescued a white pygmy goat last year. This is Somana. My goats love to butt heads and dance together! They climb up things and leap off of them. I take them on goats walks with my pet sheep. They all follow me around like dogs. They are constant entertainment!
I was so proud of Zum last October when he loaded easily into the stock trailer with my other horses! He was a champ for the entire 9 hour trip to Phoenix, Arizona. He unloaded without a scratch! I have a round pen in Phoenix, which is a great training tool for young horses like Zum. The first time I put Zum in the round pen, I let him gallop around as much as he wanted, as free as a bird. This is liberty! And Zum loves to trailer out with Huszar into the beautiful Arizona desert! Zum is always ready for an adventure and a new place to explore!
To teach Zum to like getting in and out of a horse trailer, I have to approach the trailer with Zum without conflict and make his loading experience pleasant. I want Zum to be tolerant and trusting of everything I ask him to do. When he gets nervous, I never fight with him. I take his mind off his insecurity by asking him to do something he likes to do and then by rewarding him with a treat. When I try to lead Zum into the trailer, I don’t pull on his halter. This creates resistance and Zum is more apt to balk or pull backward. I tap him on his hindquarters as I ask him to step forward. I have learned that encouragement to move forward is best when it comes from behind. I reward Zum when he moves forward. I am rewarding any forward movement by letting Zum stop, stand still and by petting and praising him. If he backs away, I go with him. I keep his head pointed at the trailer. I wait until he is relaxed. I patiently work with advance and retreat, approaching the trailer calmly to get Zum to lose his fear. I never force or whip a horse into a trailer. Then the horse thinks the trailer is scary. With my patient work, Zum learns to get in and out of the trailer easily and effortlessly, like Huszar and Kamar!
My mother firmly believed that when a beloved pet got very old, the best thing to do is to get a new, young pet. So when my Arabian stallion, Khalifah, could no longer be ridden, my mother bought me a 4 year old Egyptian Arabian gelding named Kamar. I am actually writing a book about Kamar as he had a serious accident right after we got him and my mother and I saved his life. Kamar is alpha-male, proud cut and the apple of my eye. And even though Kamar is handicapped from his accident, he is a healthy, feisty and energetic Arabian horse. Huszar follows Kamar around all day. And Kamar loves Zum! They like to play together! ‘Toss the rubber ball’ and ‘who can bite the fastest’ are their favorite games!