Natural curiosity, willingness to learn, a good attitude and spirit are precious gifts in a horse. These gifts should be preserved in training a young colt. Once lost, these gifts are difficult to recover. If a colt’s training is rushed, he gets mentally over-stressed, physically sore and emotionally sour. A ’30 day wonder’ job on a 3 year old colt doesn’t give the colt sufficient time to adjust to the pressures of his mind and body. The colt’s wondering mind could turn into resistance. His ears are permanently back and he closes off and tunes out. Everyday, I am so thankful that the ’30 day special’ I had planned for Zum as a 2 year old never happened! Now, I have Zum with all of his precious gifts intact!
I have a fifteen year old Chihuahua named Butterfly. She is the joy of my life! She is also my miracle dog! She once ran away. I looked for her on horseback until sunset all through my neighborhood. I couldn’t find her. She is a teacup Chihuahua. She is so tiny I can hold her in one hand. Miraculously, she ran ten miles through arroyos and past remote pinon and juniper forests to a resort near my house. A good Samaritan found her at the resort and took her to the Animal Shelter in Santa Fe. The next morning, I happened to call the Animal Shelter and there she was! It was the happiest moment of my life to hold Butterfly in my arms again. Now, I never let her out of my sight!
I am teaching Zum to stand still before and after I halter him to teach him to wait until he moves away from me. Zum is making a positive connection with standing still before haltering and before being turned loose. I don’t want him to run off. He is learning to be calm and quiet as I stand next to him.
Zum and I have a healthy horse-human partnership based on mutual appreciation. I provide good care and handling for Zum. Zum provides me with respect and willingness. There are no positive benefits if I get angry and yell at Zum. When I act with kindness, fairness and patience, Zum is trusting, relaxed, responsive and content. With a trusted human leader who treats him fairly with consistency, Zum feels safe.
I want to accustom Zum to being touched. Horses love solid body-to-body contact. Zum likes to touched gently on his head, stomach and legs. It calms Zum down when I kindly rub his forehead and below his eyes. Zum loves a strong touch on his chest and neck. After a good lesson, I always reward Zum with a nice caress on his neck!
I am teaching Zum how to walk on wooden platforms. Every time he puts a foot on the platform, I reward him. He learns quickly. I am introducing Zum to all kinds of things: plastic bags, sheets, tarps, ropes moving on the ground, tack, cardboard, paper, balloons, unusual animals, umbrellas, bicycles, brooms sweeping underfoot, dropped brushes, shipping boots on and off, spraying water, hats, grooming tools, saddle pads, saddle blankets and saddles. I wiggle things around him and under him and place things on his body. Zum thinks this is a fun game! It is!
Zum reacts to spooky things in different ways. He stops and freezes. He tenses up. He jumps sideways or backwards.Or he runs in a panic. I am introducing him to spooky things gradually. With familiarization and repetition, he is accepting scary things without fear. It took him lots of lessons but he now accepts a frightening blue tarp! He steps on it and he even lets me put the tarp on his back. I reward him for being brave with a rest break, a loose rein, a scratch on the withers, a rub on the forehead and lots of praise in a soothing voice!
I have a 5 year old miniature pony named Obsidian. She is the same size as my miniature donkey, Prince Clover. Obsidian loves it when I take her on a walk with me. For our walk, I put a pony bell on her halter. This is so I can hear her when she begs me to let her free so she can gallop home. She never runs away. She always races right back to my horses. She makes all my geldings dance around as she prances around the corrals. She is a tiny pony with an abundance of love and energy! She has won my heart!
Horses have unfounded fears and sudden over-reactions because they have highly developed senses. Luckily, when Zum overcomes his fear with one object, he more easily overcomes his fear of the next object. When he actively resists me by pulling away or bolting, he is beyond his ability to cope. I ease up and go back to Zum’s tolerance level. I know Zum is relaxed when he lowers his head and neck, rests a hind leg, looks at me with soft eyes, relaxes his ears, exhales through his nostrils or moves his tongue, chews and licks his lips. Once Zum relaxes, I reward him with a break, a rub and a kind word.
I give Zum all the time he needs to learn a lesson. If he refuses to learn, I try not to fight with him. I never create a crisis and I never yell at Zum. If Zum gets upset at a lesson, I practice something important that he likes. Right now, Zum refuses the bridle and the bit. So I am using the hackamore. This has no bit so he accepts this without a fight. I am not in a hurry. I know he will accept the bridle at some point in the future. I want Zum to be calm and confident that I am fun and safe to be around. I want Zum to trust me and my leadership. My corrections are smooth. Establishing genuine affection between us is the major lesson we both need to learn!