KBR Horse Net
Training Case Study:

"Magnificent Max"

A big fella...
Check out his neck!

Who says old wild studs can't be taught?

Joyce North adopted an older stud off the BLM Satellite TV adoption. He was gelded a month prior to being released to Joyce, however he was definitely a stud and is built like a locomotive. As soon as the weather permitted, Joyce brought him down to KBR to let us work with him. (All of the photos on this page were taken within 2 hours of entering the pen to work with him.)

Max arrived late in the day so we gave him the night to acclimate himself to the mustang pen. I went in the next morning to see what he was up to. While he would let Joyce touch him during the time he was with her, he would have nothing to do with me, turning his butt toward me in a defensive posture.

He seemed basically mellow in nature so we opted to be as non aggressive as possible but still stay in charge. I started out using the bamboo pole with him which he had seen already at Joyce's. He was very quiet with the pole but I had to scratch him from the rear. He would turn away if I approached his shoulder.

Basically we don't want horses to turn their butts toward us but in Max' case he was not aggressive and as soon as I had him used to my presence, I could fix the butt problem. After a few minutes with the pole, I started moving him quietly around the mustang pen. I moved him off by twirling the progress string and I would adjust my pressure so that he would not get stuck in the corners and feel the need to swing his butt around. Occasionally he would stop and position himself with his butt toward me and I'd just flick him on the rump with the progress string until he would move off again. Once this behavior was working, I would reward him with scratches from the pole, this time positioning myself at the shoulder.

One thing we noticed early on is that Max would keep people on his off side. If I tried to get to his on side, he would be apprehensive and try to keep me in his right eye. We've learned that right from the start these horses have to accept you on both sides or gentling them will be very tricky. Sharon started doing things on the outside of the pen on one side to catch his attention while I positioned myself on the other. No matter what Max did, he had people on both sides. Then I sent him around the pen counter clockwise at a walk for several laps, then reversed him several times. Within about 20 minutes he was at least as easy, if not easier, to approach from his on side as his off side.

Now that I could get some position on his shoulder, I used the pole to drop on a sliding neck loop. He yielded pretty well to neck pressure. If I pushed him a little too hard and he lost his confidence, he'd still turn his butt toward me so I just gently slapped the lines across his rump (from a safe distance) and we ground drove a little.

During this workout we would let Max take some time outs when needed by putting his head into the chute. At one point I quietly slid the neck loop lines behind his legs and let him get used to the feel of the lines. Then I started touching him at the shoulder, making nice scratching motions. I also started grooming him with the brush. I tried to stay within his emotional tolerance and he kept real quiet. Periodically I would adjust the lines on his legs so that they tapped him in different locations. A couple of times he kicked at the lines but he accepted them.

We asked him to back out, worked him a little on the lines, then pulled the lines and "herded" him back to his safe spot. At this point he would let me rub, scratch and brush him with nothing on him to discourage his backing up.

Max was a little less comfortable letting me groom him from his off side, but he did try. By now the session had now lasted about two hours, he would move off when asked, yield and turn, let me touch him and responded to the lines. This was enough for one day.

The First Two Hours:
Doing a little ground driving
with the sliding neck loop
(He's massive, isn't he?)
Getting Max used to
things behind his legs
Using the rope to
discourage him from backing away
Reaching over his back
to brush his off side
The touch of the hand
(Note ropes no longer required)
Brushing his hip...
And on down his leg

Continue to Part 2

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