My friend who trains youngsters rang me a week or so ago and asked if I’d like to come and see her work with a very worried boy who was doing some very odd things when his legs were handled. So I went up to watch her work with him, and see what was going on. Poor pony: every time he was stroked down the shoulder his muscles would twitch all along his flank, and if you tried to run a hand down his leg he would drop his shoulder and start to collapse his whole front end. Apparently he’d also pee’d himself when she’d tried to handle his hind legs (although he didnt do that when I was there). The mind boggles about when how and why he developed this strategy to having his legs handled.. but clearly he was crying out for some retraining (finding a better way to respond…)
Having just completed the behaviour and handling course with the excellent Ben Hart, this was really good follow up. Ben promotes the use of shaping plans, where you work in very incremental steps towards reaching your end goal. The best way I can describe his approach is that you’re always working from within the horse’s comfort zone and gently stretching it outwards to get to where you want.
It was really interesting to watch my friend working with this worried little fellow, and just how quickly he was able to accept what she was doing.
I have been back to see him a couple more times, and he’s such a changed personality. After the twitchiness he showed on this session, he had a bowen treatment to try and help him relax the tightness he had around his shoulders/withers and rump and that seems to have helped him alot with both his ‘tightness’ but also his ability to relax and enjoy human company.
At the end of each session he is allowed to wander loose around the round yard, and the he came over and gave me a big sniff and a snuzzle – think he’s starting to learn that humans aint so bad after all. A real privilege for me to see the transformation…
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