We've had a recent string of BLM mares which we have gentled which
made for an interesting group to study as each mare illustrated markedly different
behavioral traits and responded differently to training. In addition
we have taken in a couple of rather solidly built 6 year old former wild stallions (that were recently
gelded) as well as an abused 3 year old stud colt who were also very interesting animals to work with.
On these horses we used a combination of traditional natural horsemanship,
clicker training, John Sharp's pole method, TTEAM, Frank Bell's muzzle
massage, a handling chute and our own open training and "learn-learn"
approaches. What was interesting to chronicle is while each horse
responded to all of these approaches, each favored one or two
specific methods over the others and each combination of approaches that each horse favored
was different from the other horses. This experience well illustrated the point
that to be really effective the handler needs to have an awareness of many low resistance and resistance
free methods, and using his/her powers of observation, determine which
approaches work best on a given horse and emphasize those methods that gain the best results.
We would like to mention that we found every one of the "low resistance" type methods useful on every horse,
especially clicker training which we tried for the first time on these mares.
Each of these methods seemed to have a positive effect on the outcome of our using the
other methods, therefore a broad spectrum approach of using all the tools
in our "training toolbox" made working with these horses easier and more productive.
Click on the name or photo to bring up the case study.
Patience was a gentle but standoffish mare who could not be approached.
Her feet were too overgrown to safely work in the round corral and
it was not safe to try to pole gentle her in the pen where she lived.
Patience was under saddle in about a month and even though she is a
fairly short horse, is the definite leader of her pasture herd. She is
currently serving as a handicapped riding program horse in Orinda, CA.
Keno was adopted about ready to foal and as such wasn't handled
in the beginning. Keno is very bright and alpha and quickly took
advantage of her situation. She was adept at avoiding humans
and when confined, such as when her adopters would try to run
her into a chute, she would kick or knock things down.
Keno turned out to be a real sweetie who likes interacting with people,
is not afraid (her owner found her exploring her barn apartment bedroom
after taking her home), will stand quietly for the vet, loads in
the trailer and will do anything she understands that you want of her.
Keno will be ridden in the opening ceremonies at the Salt Lake Paralympics
Shiloh was a genius about getting out of her BLM issue halter.
In fact, if left alone long enough she could get out of just
about any halter. This made approaching her virtually impossible
for her adopters.
They did, however, get her started in some clicker training
which turbo charged our progress once we got her in for gentling.
As a result several elements which ordinarily would take days to get down
solidly, such as giving feet to be trimmed, could literally be accomplished
Sheba is much like many mares who have had foals. She's
not flighty but she has strong instincts for being protective
of her space. Plus, she's a northern California forest horse
of nearly warmblood size.
Sheba is clear headed, in fact she was pretty quiet for
vaccinations her third day here, but she was very determined
that humans were not going to get close without her permission
and really hated people on her "off" side.
Annie is a sweet but uncertain mare who was also adopted
out as a mare and foal pair. Her adopter did some
work with her and could touch her head and shoulders as well
as rub her virtually everywhere with a bamboo pole, but found
it more rewarding to focus on gentling the foal who is now quite a tame little brat.
Annie just had to "give" the rest of her body to close contact and
now she is on her way to being a happy and well adjusted mare.
Debbie was an example of a mare whose adopter used really
solid approaches to gentling and beginning her training.
Formally known as "Debbie"
The ease in which she now learns things is not coincidental.
Max was a 6 year old recently gelded wild stallion who we
were eager to try out. With all the stereotypes regarding
stallions and older horses, we should be seriously challenged
by this great beast. In fact Max has been very reasonable to
work with and is not aggressive unless provoked.
(45 minutes after "first contact")
River was adopted as a young stud colt. Shortly before turning 3, his
adopter sent River out for training to someone she trusted. Unfortunately
for River, the trainer split up with his wife and without telling River's
adopter, the wife simply turned River out into a pasture for several weeks
where he was beaten mercilessly by three older studs.
River, now gelded, has a sweet disposition but has acquired a number of phobias
which he needed to work out. He is now under saddle.
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