Friday, November 5, 2010

Epiphany....for me

This past week's experiences with Danny have not only been eye opening for him but for me as well. I have to admit that it didn't take the vet telling me that I was babying him too much or Huston's scolding me for me to know that this was true but still I was reluctant to correct him as hard as I knew I needed to. Then last week, both Huston and  E.TN horse trainer, Erin Stevens, told me the same thing, if Danny isn't stopping his mouthy behavior when you correct him, you aren't hitting him hard enough. In my mind and my experience with the older horses , I did realize that: one, you can't truly harm a horse unless you hit them with a lead pipe...and then that would take some effort and two, you have to exert as much force as necessary to get the results you want and you keep increasing the pressure until that is achieved (that one comes from Brandy McDonnell,"As much pressure as needed to achieve the results you want and assertive not aggressive unless aggressive is absolutely necessary.) Just plain ol' horse sense and something I already knew but something that was still difficult to do with this horse that I still see as that new born baby. Finally however the light went off for both Danny and me....although it took two flickers for both of us, lol. First, I finally got tired of Danny's constant pestering....that was part of the problem with his latest "trick", he wasn't harming us, he wasn't biting us, but he was constantly grabbing at our clothes or anything we were holding.....and I really let him have it. I didn't just slap his nose away like I'd been doing with little success since it wasn't slowing much less stopping the behavior. This time, I pulled back and I slugged him. Oddly, this upset Django worse than Danny. Django screamed, reared and ran away but Danny just glared at me and then slowly turned and sulked away making me think so much of a teenager. The long term effect was however much larger. Steve took care of the horses for me the next day while I finished up some work here so there was quite a bit of time that past before I saw Danny again. I was truly surprised by his behavior. He attempted to grab my jacket hem only once. I pulled back my hand and he turned away. He came running up to me but he simply walked beside me as I searched for groundhog holes in the field (we're having a problem with them and with small sink holes in the pasture.) He was gentle and not aggressive or mouthy at all...with me, the other horses were another matter but that's their problem, lol.

My second lesson came on Tuesday when the Vet was due to come to give Danny his first shots and an exam. The first time I put on his halter and led him to the gate, he was very well behaved but the vet called to say that she was going to be late so I set him free. When she called again to say that she was about 10 minutes away, I went out in the pasture to get Danny and I led him back to the gate. We had a few stubborn stops but all in all, he led quite well for it to be such a long distance from one side of the pasture to the other. Then I stopped him about ten or so feet from the gate to wait for Dr. Hamilton. He quickly grew tired of just standing. He started to paw and I jerked down on the halter rope and told him to, "Cut it out!" That seemed to make him angrier each time I did it. The last time, Danny suddenly went wide eyed....I know he's young but I swear this is the same trick that Mouse has used to get her way. As the vet later said, this little guy is scared of nothing and also, there was nothing frightening or surprising in the direction he was staring........that stopped and for about 10 seconds, he stood there calmly but in hindsight, I should have been more on guard, I should have read the obvious tell. I guess I just didn't think that this six month old would actually be thinking about how he was going to get away from me. Suddenly, he wheeled around toward me and reared up catching me under the nose and knocking me backwards. I saw stars but I still managed to hold on to that rope as he jumped backwards. Then as he tried different turns and rears and attempting to gallop away, I held him and turned him sideways trying to get him under control. If it had been one of the older horses, I probably couldn't have held them but I did know that it was essential that I not let him get away from me. Once I'd tied him to the large post at the gate, he tried pulling back once and realized that he wasn't going to move that post. After that, he was perfectly behaved and calm even when the vet gave him his first shots and drew blood for his coggins. But the eye opening experience for me came yesterday. Once again, there was a day in between when I didn't see Danny because I was out shopping and running errands and I called and asked Steve to please feed for me. So, yesterday I went into the pasture for the first time since Tuesday afternoon with no idea how Danny would behave after our little "altercation" and the shots he'd received from the vet. At first, he didn't seem to want anything to do with me. Not only did he not come running to greet me like he usually does, he actually seemed to be avoiding me. But when I walked up to him he reached his head toward me and to my surprise, he did not grab my jacket, he gently nuzzled me. There was none of the pushy and aggressive behavior that we've had from him over the last month or so. There was no angry glaring just a sweet, gentle expression in his eyes. So, the good news is, the light went off for me then. I'd realized during our little battle on the day of the vet's visit that I had to control him now because if I don't, when he is 16.1 and 1000 or more pounds, I won't have a chance. But I also realized yesterday that, just like the big guys, my taking control did not alienate him, it actually made him respect me more and show more affection than he had before. It still seems odd to me that such a simple act could have such an amazingly radical result but it did, he is a different horse. I know now that I have to start thinking more like a horse when I deal with him since in the horse community, the lines are more visible and simple between the dominant horse and the others. As my husband....and numerous other constantly telling me, I tend to over think everything and that can be dangerous with a horse. Of course, I am aware that this won't be our last battle and I'm also aware that I have to be prepared because I HAVE to win every one of them and no matter what, I have to be ready to act instantly and as aggressive as necessary but never emotionally. But I also have to admit that I'm feeling much surer of my ability to handle what ever situation might occur. I think I'm on my way to finally becoming a horse woman....and just in the nick of time, lol
He still has a crush on Brandy:)


  1. He is SUCH a cutie pie! And my, how he's grown up. I've been following his growth and training progress from your first post. I am in love with him! Great work so far. =)

  2. Thank you so much for the encouragement and for following Danny's story. I need to put up a new post because Danny is a changed little horse since I disciplined him a bit. He hasn't nipped once! And he's obedient and follows me like a puppy dog, lol. He's so sweet and adorable. We've started calling him Little Big Man ;-)