Aug 28, 2012

Rules Are Good

Back to Bryan!

As you’ve seen, he was a festival of issues. He was not lame per se, as in he did not limp, but he moved so weird, like a gaited camel hybrid. He was not aggressive, but he sure was shut down and overreactive. He wasn’t ‘naughty’ but his issues sure made him a challenge on the ground; he rushed through openings, he crushed you in the cross ties, he leapt forward or back at a bird or lizard in the brush and woe to you or your foot if you were in the way.

People always notice and comment that my horses are well behaved and relaxed. One client nicknamed me Tranquilla after her horse came to me and became so mellow and nice. I can give any one of them a shot or wormer or whatever, loose in the stall. I can free lunge them, silently, with hand signals and body language. Trust me, they did not come this way. But they all learned, their first day with me, that no matter how badly they behaved, how spoiled they were, or how aggressive they were, that Tall Girl (me) had Rules, and it didn’t matter how long it took, or how much they fought them, the Rules were Immutable.

The Rules are quite simple. They basically say: Tall Girl can do what she wants, you the horse can not. You will stay where you are put. You will not rush the gate or door. You will not bite, strike, or kick. If the human wants to clip you, spray you, lead you, poke you with needles, and stick things in your mouth she can do so whenever and for as long as she wants, and you the horse will stand quietly. You will not scream for your friends in the cross ties or while being led around. You will move over if she pushes you. You will give her your foot your face your whatever. Now. And for as long as she wants it.

In return, she will always be very clear and totally consistent in her requests, will give you lots and lots of positive reinforcement, and will never break your trust in her. She will not talk on the phone and let you graze one day, and then punish you for reaching for food the next. She will not let you scream in the cross ties one day and smack you for it the next. She will make sure that every human with whom you come in contact with will treat you this exact same way, so you can relax, and not worry about the Rules changing all the time.

So everything we did with Bryan, from the very beginning, on the ground and on his back, was to get him to realize that his life now had clear cause and effect, that nothing was random, and that if he did A, then that meant B. Every time.

Bryan broke lots of the Rules at first. He had BARN on the brain. So when we turned him out he would tear out of your hands and start the mad pacing of the fence lines that he apparently thought would magically get him to the BARN. And when you caught him to bring him in, he would rush through the gate and drag you, to get back to ..well, you know where.

So we started rebuilding his brain, with clarity and consistency. Man, it took f-o-r-e-v-e-r with B. And it took breaking things down in to tiny leetle parts. What one horse might have figured out in a day would take Bryan a month. But we did it, and he got it. Eventually!

No comments:

Post a Comment