Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wednesdays with Tex: Making Progress

After Tex's big meltdown last week, I started introducing a new skill to him.  A skill that he could master, and one that would make him feel both more confident and more comfortable.

I am teaching Tex to lower his head when I touch him between the ears.  When horses are worried, anxious and on alert their heads are held high; their necks taut and their nostrils flaring.  In contrast, when they are relaxed, their heads droop a bit and their necks have a soft arch.  Asking a horse to lower his head not only makes it easier to halter, or bridle - it sends a message: "relax."

Tex already lowers his head for the halter.  I hold it, hanging, in front and below his nose until he drops towards it and then I slide it over his muzzle.  It's a smooth, easy, relaxed transition.  But, with the fly mask his head is always high.

Since this is Tex, afterall, I started with baby steps.  After the halter was on, I rested my hand between his ears until he dropped his head.  At first it was just an inch, but he got a "good boy" and a cookie for the try.  Each time I worked with him, I asked, and each time he dropped his head a bit further.  Now, he is dropping it almost level to his chest and not jerking it back up immediately afterwards.

A few days ago, I added asking him to drop his head for the fly mask.  Initially, his head didn't stay low long enough to get the fly mask on but it was a start.  Monday morning, he kept it low while I slipped it over his ears.  The air was cool and he had been playing a few minutes earlier -- running, and striking at the air, hoping Flash would join him (he didn't).  I thought he might be too wound up to relax for me.

It just goes to show that you can't predict their behavior.  Tex was happy and frisky, but he wasn't worried.  He lowered his head and I slipped on the fly mask.

Later that day, Brett's daughter and her family stopped by for a visit on their way home to Washington.  Of course, the grandkids wanted to visit with all the animals.  After giving the goats some Cheerios, they wandered into the bigger pasture.  Flash came over to investigate Harrison.  Tex cam over to investigate the Cheerios.  Brett said Tex tried a few, and then stuck around for more -- even accepting Brett's stroking of his face.

I think grandchildren must be magic.  I know these ones are.

13 comments:

  1. They are beautiful children for sure.
    I'm glad that Tex is starting to figure it out.

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  2. That's wonderful progress with Tex! Grandkids do bring out the best in all of us. My guys love to see them coming too. It's either they're less threatening or they have carrots.sounds like a great day.

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    1. I think its both. All our animals love children.

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  3. I have been working on the head down cue with Oak too! It really does work wonders. I do think children are magic :)... most of them

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    1. It's amazing how well it works. This morning Tex kept his head low the entire time I put on the fly mask and he was soooo relaxed during and afterwards. It blows my mind.

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  4. What dolls! I bet they LOVE to come visit you and Grandpa!

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    1. They do love to visit. Unfortunately all of Brett's grandkids live far, far away so they aren't able to come visit nearly often enough.

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  5. Beautiful picture and beautiful grandchildren. I think moving a horse into a more relaxed posture--head, neck, and even feet, does more to calm them down then running circles or anything else. At least it has for Leah.

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    1. I agree completely. I'm not a fan of running a horse until it is tired. I don't want a horse that gives because its exhausted, I want a horse that gives because he is soft and relaxed. I know you and I are on the same page here (and on pretty much everything).

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  6. A trainer I worked with told me that lowering the head also has a real biological effect and releases some endorphins or other chemicals (I forget exactly what she told me) but it makes them calmer for more than just association reasons.

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    1. That make a lot of sense, Olivia. I'm sure your trainer was right. I'm seeing it in Tex.

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  7. Oh, what a beautiful picture! Such happy faces too. Animals somehow know, and realize that children aren't a threat and usually don't have an agenda, like most adults too. There's just something special about the bond between kids and critters. It's a beautiful thing. I'm so very happy to hear that you're making some progress with Tex, and finding something (anything) that will build his confidence and help him learn tools to relax. I feel so sorry for anybody that carries stress with them throughout their lives. Such wonderful news Annette!!

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.