Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wednesdays with Tex: Upping the Ante

There has been a not-so subtle change in Tex since he has become comfortable with me.  He is experimenting with trying to control my access; he is testing and exploring the lines.

I sense we are moving to level 2: Boundaries and Expectations

It started a week and a half ago when I decided to give Tex a thorough grooming.  I'd been carrying the brush for his mane, or the soft body brush, with me and brushing him at liberty in the pasture.  But, I wanted to do a thorough job and that was impossible with the goats crowding into our space.  Tex tolerates the goats but he doesn't like them much.  If they mob me, he leaves.

I took his halter and lead rope off the post, where they hang outside the pasture gate, and let myself in.  Tex looked up from the grass, saw the halter, and ignored me.  He wasn't worried, or scared, he just wasn't interested in me or the halter.  As I got closer, he calmly and casually walked away.  I think he might have flipped me off.

I calmly swung the rope towards him and sent him away; "If you are going to be difficult, I don't want you near me.  Go away."

I learned this technique from Lucy and Mark Rashid.  When Lucy and Pistol joined the geldings (while Brett was fixing their pasture fence), a negotiation ensued between Lucy and Tex.  Pistol took her place at the bottom and we moved Flash out of harm's way, leaving Tex and Lucy to duke it out for the top spot.  Lucy won.  She did this by successfully sending Tex away from her and only letting him back into her presence when he promised his allegiance to her, as alpha.  After that, they were inseparable.  Lucy even got him to stand in the run-in shed with her, and they grazed shoulder to shoulder.

Tex trotted in a big circle around me and then stopped.  I took a couple steps towards him and he turned away from me again.  Um, no.  I swung the rope.  It wasn't an aggressive swing, but it was deliberate and firm.  I didn't raise my voice or threaten him in anyway.  I just told him that I wasn't going to play games; that I will be kind and fair but that I am the alpha mare.  He doesn't get to dictate the rules of our herd.

Tex, I said with the rope, you can be in my herd if you play by my rules.  That means you come willingly when I approach you in your pasture.  Or, you can trot in circles all day.  Its your choice and I'm not in a hurry.

Oh, what is a horse to do?  He wanted to be with me; he wanted the cookies he knew were in my pocket; but he didn't want to be haltered.  He wanted to set the terms.  And it wasn't working out so well for him.

After sending him away from me four times, he stood still and waited for me to approach.  We had a lovely grooming session under a big shady tree.  And then I put him back in the pasture.

That evening, my foot was aching so Brett said he would do all the chores.  This included taking off all the fly masks.  Tex was wearing his old fly mask that Brett had been taking off for weeks.  Tex wouldn't let him near and Brett didn't waste his time trying.  He left Tex wearing his fly mask and finished up the chores.  I saw Tex, wearing his fly mask, from the dining room window and guessed that he had been difficult for Brett.  I put on my boots and went into the pasture. Tex let me get pretty close before turning and walking away.  I didn't have the lead rope with me, so I just swung my arm in an upward arc to send him away.  And that was it.  He said "uncle" immediately and the fly mask came of with no further discussion.

The following morning, he stood like a rock when I went into the pasture, slipped on the halter and took him to the barn with the others, to wait for the farrier.

He hasn't flinched in weeks and I no longer have to pause before entering his space.  We have reached another layer of the onion.  We've removed "scared," replaced it with trust, and now we are working on boundaries.

8 comments:

  1. Oh Tex. You will figure this out. :)

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  2. Really nice progress to read about. The fact that he's feeling confident enough to "negotiate" with you about boundaries is a sign of his trust that you won't do anything terrible to him. Keeping boundaries clear with horses is so so important to both their confidence and our safety.

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    1. So true, Kate. Horses are definitely happier and more relaxed when they have and understand boundaries.

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  3. Your progress with Tex is wonderful!

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  4. Why do you keep swinging the lead rope at me still? I learned the "alpha" rules a long time ago. LOL

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  5. An American in TokyoJune 22, 2016 at 5:21 PM

    Woo hoo! So great to hear of your progress with Tex!
    =D

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  6. Big steps, and it has to be a relief for you to know he's trainable.

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    1. He's very trainable. When I took him to the Mark Rashid clinic, Mark noticed that right away. He thinks part of the problem may be that because Tex is so trainable, he was pushed too hard, too fast, too young. He is such a joy to work with -- and I am taking it slow, so he is successful and enjoys learning.

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.