How to Train a Bulldozer

Today’s Tip: Different horses – by individual and by breed – have different personalities and learn differently. The unfocused, oblivious ones are my downfall!

I finally did it. I got out and worked with horses for the first time all year! For the first time since November, in fact. I had promised myself that today I would get out and ride Pretty, and so I did. We only putzed around the driveway as we have to much snow to go anywhere else. I don’t trust the snow pack, so we didn’t even do much there. Just getting out made me feel better and got her mind focused on work again. We tried not to be afraid of the trees. We did a few dog walk to flat walk transitions. We did a bunch of turns on the haunches (she still needs lots of work understanding leg, it gave us something to start building some muscle in her back end, and it was something I could do in a small and potentially slippery space). And mostly we just re-connected. It wasn’t much but it was wonderful!

Then I moved on to these ladies:

These lovelies – Merit (“mer” like “mermaid” not like the word “merit”) on the left, Dee Dee on the right – are my winter pastureguests. They belong to RideAbility, the equine-assisted therapy program I work with. I’ve kind of neglected them this winter. They’ve been well fed, which keeps them happy, but have not been reminded that they sometimes have a job to do.

Tonight I fed them their hay and then haltered one at a time. I just led them around the paddock a little. The pile of hay and the other one left behind to munch on it served as distractions. Dee Dee went first and started out willing, but then started to resist. Merit resisted strongly and then gave in and learned she actually did have to keep moving.

I call these two my “bulldozers.” Last winter (fall?) they destroyed almost half of the wood part of my fence (there’s wire too, but part of the paddock has wood and wire). If you are between them and a destination, you had best move or you will be trampled. They have no “personal bubble.” They’re not truly disrespectful, just oblivious. To try and direct their attention and teach them to focus is like trying to train a bulldozer to read your mind. They do learn by repetition, so we’ll do this kind of simple task with minor distractions over and over and over and over again.

If you have any better ideas on training bulldozers, please let me know! These are not attitudes I’m accustomed to!

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