5.21.2010

look at it or away from it

The past couple weeks Iron Horse has begun working with Koda on trailer loading. Patty mentioned when they started he was truly scared of being in the trailer. Not a surprise. She carefully explained sometimes horses outsmart methods, and Koda had done just that. The gradual “load/backup/reload” method we used to train him wasn’t going to work anymore. They needed to change methods, and were successful using the end of a crop when he would bolt out without being asked. She said it took about three times, and he opted to stand inside instead of getting thumped on his butt. Wouldn’t be my first choice of methods, and it wasn’t theirs either – but, he has to be loadable - for his own good. She was happy to see he respected the trailer butt strap, and moves forward when he comes in contact with it. Now he waits to be asked to back out. Patty said he will likely always be a two person loading horse that has to get unlatched first, door open second, and then butt strap undone with a person inside holding a lead rope ready to ask him to back out. If that’s the worst of it, I can live with it, and apparently so can Koda.
With our first trail ride coming up fast, I asked Patty a question “when a horse spooks at something on the trail are you a look at it, or look away from it person”? Having observed both, I never really understood why/when do one vs the other. I was curious what she would suggest. I think I hit a nerve, and got a very passionate answer. She prefaced her answer by saying there aren’t many things she feels can’t be handled in various different ways, as everyone has their own style, but it’s safe to say Patty is definitely not a forcible “look at it” person! She feels it is really wrong, and has had to fix horses that experience that mentality. Without re-telling the whole explanation, the reason to not force your horse to stand still, and stare at, whatever they think is going to eat them is that it builds adrenaline, and fuels negative adrenaline-type behavior. She didn’t really agree with looking away from the object and pretending it doesn’t exist either. She favors introducing the scary object while mounted a “little at a time” starting at the horses comfort zone, and working the horse closer. I’ve done this, as I’m sure many of you have, and completely agree with this method. It works well. Of course it goes without saying there are exceptions, like when a human thinks that scary thing might eat them both – um, that might be a good time to leave!
Are you a “look at it” or “look away from it” person??

11 comments:

JeniQ said...

I'm a - you can do anything you like EXCEPT move away from it. Unless of course I decide it's going to eat us. But typically, you can startle, look, stare, make ugly faces at it but you will move forward in the direction we were going when I ask. Even if it's one step forward I'm happy.

Jessie said...

I try my best to teach a horse how to react to a scary object. So in training, I will introduce scary things, teach my horses what I expect from them when something new and scary arises, and go from there. That way, out on the trail if we encounter something scary, they have that training to fall back on. It has worked well for me, and for the most part, when my horses spook, I don't care if they are fearful of the object we are passing as long as they don't put me or themselves in danger. So, when they do spook at a big rock, I'm not going to force him to go up to it. If he takes a willing step to investigate, yes, I will encourage him to find out that it's nothing scary, but if he is convinced it's going to eat him, I will just ask him to calmly walk past and continue on down the trail.

fernvalley01 said...

Definitely a LOOk at it kinda gal.
BTW you were a winner in the contest on my blog. Could you send me your regular mail address at fernvalley01@hotmail.com

allhorsestuff said...

Depends on the horse I am riding...my mare- if I allow her to turn her back, she flips out... if i can breath through the scare and sing turn her to the left of the thing or the right-a kinda approach and retreat half version. She is good. We have it down now..if she thinks something is scarey..I normally can talk her outa it if she keeps walking..I look away.
Now Danny Boy..he is afraid of most things and I do not even get the chance to think of what I might want to do. . . he turns and tries to bolt= NOW, in a hoof beat! So with him , it is approach, retreat and so on, till we can close in on the subject of disdain! Most scary items...we must walk past or through, on our narrow routes...so bypass is not an option.
KK

Kate said...

I certainly never force the horse to look at something - I usually ask the horse to pass by, often while doing something that engages their mind, like leg-yield or shoulder in. I never force the horse to go any closer than they comfortably can. We just keep working and making passes, or approaches, for as long as it takes until the horse gets past the object without a lot of problems. I take it slowly and sometimes it takes a while. One reason to not do the "face the object" thing is it activates the horse's "alerting response", which often gets the adrenaline going and can be a preface to a spin or bolt - that's not where you want to go. Just calmly work as if the scary thing isn't there, and usually the horse will relax and start to accept that things aren't so bad - if you're not concerned, why should the horse be.

aurora said...

Interesting to hear the way everyone handles a scary object on the trail, depending on the variables. I think there is a difference between looking at, so they know it exists, and getting into a battle forcing them to stand and stare making a big deal out of it. I'll opt for the opposite, not making a big deal of it, with Koda. I'll let you know what worked (or didn't) as we are scheduled for our first (traveling) trail ride soon!

Dunappy said...

For me it depends on the horse I'm riding. Topper actually PREFERS to stand there and look and see if that flapping thing on the fence is really going to eat her. Ladybug PREFERS to pass on by with her head cocked a little watching the item as she goes. Shy Monster is the Spin and Bolt kind of critter. I have to work with her the most. You would think that after 17 years of being exposed to all kinds of scary objects that she would not be so spooky, but I think she does it mostly to be a Pain (one of the reason she's earned the nickname "Monster")

aurora said...

Absolutely Dunappy, cookie cutter anything isn't realistic.

Fernvalley, I loved the contest! Couldn't find your profile/email on your blog, so I emailed the one on your website. I'll forward it to the fernvally email address. Thanks for letting me know :)

Terri said...

We are a slowly "check it out team." And if it is just too terrifying sometimes we scoot past it. Maggie has a great mind and is highly curious. Usually we have to check it out.

Leah Fry said...

I agree with Jeni: anything except move away. I will generally try to turn them around to face their fear, which has worked thus far, BUT I have not used this to face something where the horse was truly terrified. Thanks goodness I have not had a situation like that. Yet.

Once Upon an Equine said...

At the clinic I took recently, we did an exercise to teach our horses to spook in place...getting them used to looking at a scary thing rather than bolting away from it, but they didn't have to approach the object. We were also told that it depends on the scary thing. If we hear a motorcycle approaching, we were told it is best to turn our horse toward it so they can see what is making the noise. But if it is a mountain lion, then it is best to be along our way and not make your horse look at it. It was meant to be humorous. I think it depends on the situation, how scared your horse is of the thing and your safety.