Horses yawn for two reasons – generally.
1) They are tired (or very, very relaxed and the yawn comes with a lick and chew._
2) They are anxious. (Or expectant – like when food is coming, some will yawn.)
I’m sure there are other reasons, but for now, let’s go with those two.
I DIGRESS… ROJO SEPARATION
I had decided to start over with Rojo since he had been on his own, with his mare harem, in the mare pasture for almost a year.
He was very, very happy. But, he was regressing back into ‘wild horse’.
I knew I needed to separate him (poor guy) and become his buddy again.
So, I did.
I felt badly for him but he seemed OK being next to the ponies. Everyone got along and he didn’t fret.
MY PROGRESS WITH ROJO SINCE MAY 1.
For the last 30something days, I’ve been working with him in very subtle, no pressure ways.
Easy peasy, no pressure here, nothing to worry about, I’m the good guy, etc…
That method worked pretty well.
Now, he will let me catch him. He wears a fly mask again. He’s had his feet done – fronts only – but he stood and allowed it. I let him graze in the open spaces and he comes when called. He can ‘forward and back’ with my every move. He can stand by the mounting block and I can rub my hands all over him. He can work on a lounge line, move his fronts over (both sides) and his hips over (both sides). Yes, he can put his nose to his side – this really bores him – and yes he can handle the rope all over his body … (duh… he is soooo bored with those two exercises the he sighs heavily and glares at me when I ask for these.)
The above is not exceptional progress but fairly good considering previously he had gotten to the point of standing just out of reach of my hands – or any other device I might have had – with aggravating precision.
While trying to create that bond where the horse is partner, I like to have an incentive up my sleeve…
For example, most every horse responds to something. I know, I know…pressure and release. But they still gotta like you. I mean, the goal is to have them become good citizens and all… but when the two of you are stuck in the middle of a sudden elk herd (or some other fear factor thing) you want the horse to remember that he likes you or else you’ll find your tiny head thumping on low branches all the way home…
Some horses love treats. (and want to fleece you every 10 seconds to find the one they know is in the pocket they just checked…)
For others, it is “AttaBoys”.
Rojo is the AttaBoy type. He is a sucker for praise and hugs. He will forget himself if he feels your hands on his face, poll or neck. A simple (very enthusiastic) “Good Boy” will light up his eyes and provoke a lick and chew.
Personally, I looove that…
The downside of this kind of horse is that he is easily hurt. Rojo is overly sensitive. If he perceives an injustice, GAME OVER.
Oy. It takes me several minutes to get him back… and I refuse to quit until we are good again.
Hence, for us working together, I try to be firm and fair, with lots of moral support and encouragement. It takes more time, yes. But, I want him to think of me as his happy place.
Today I brought him up to the arena with a new gadget that I purchased at the Horse Expo on Friday.
It was a halter with two loose rings that were supposed to work as sidepulls. I won’t name the halter but I will say that it didn’t work for us as I thought it might.
Anyway, when I put it on him, he felt the weigh of the rings and heard them clang together – and he immediately started yawning.
Something about this was making him anxious.
I decided to go through our usual routine – and he was fine until there was any pressure on the halter or rings.
Then, he would yawn.
Clearly, this halter and the rings were bringing up some memory that was difficult for him.
I am guessing he knew of rope halters and clanging rings at some point at the Prison…
And, it wasn’t a good memory. I’m not saying he was abused AT ALL. I’m simply suggesting that the process of going from ‘wild to gentled’ must have created a lasting memory. And, some of those memories created anxiety for sure.
Well, I didn’t want him to feel anxious and I didn’t want him to associate our training with whatever was upsetting him.
So, I removed the halter with the rings and will probably list it on Ebay.
WORK THROUGH IT?
Many of you are probably thinking that I should just work through it with him.
Me, not so much…
Having been through trauma in my early life, I can tell you that my triggers are still there – no matter how intellectual I get about it all. No matter how much exposure training I have received, the trigger emotion (that I stifle for the cameras) is still there.
So, for me, I’d prefer to just remove the trigger. Why insist that he work through that when he isn’t spooking or endangering me, he is merely anxious about it.
Life is too short. I’d rather use a headgear that I know he likes (we use the LG).
END OF THE SESSION
At the end of the session, I let him graze freely.
As you can see, he chose to hang out with me and the barn cats. I was sitting on the grass and inevitably, the barn cats will come out from all of their hiding spots and sit with me.
The good news is that Rojo had the whole yard but he stayed by us… However, it might have had nothing to do with me because he looooves the barn cats.
In any event, when I went inside the house, he came up to the front door behind me.
It was a good day.
HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!