This is how we taught Bryan The Rules.
Aug 30, 2012
Small Therapeutic Doses
At the time all the boys lived in stalls. So first thing they would all go out. But usually before they went out they would go in to the cross ties for a quick groom, check, what have you. I don’t boot so they are always bare legged but they would get fly sprayed or whatever.
B had a total thing about the cross ties. Well, B had total things about a lot of things but he had a *big* total thing about the cross ties. My cross ties at the time faced the row of stalls. But behind them was a large lawn, with a lake, and ducks, and birds, and frogs, and a driveway. All of these things periodically made NOISES. In Bryanville, NOISE was bad. And noise *behind* you was DEATH. Of course, I am making that up as I have no way of actually knowing that. But that was sure how he acted. Or over reacted, as the case may be.
He would always walk *in* to the cross ties, but halfway around would leap *out* of the cross ties. Of course, since the human leading him in was right there, said human would go flying. Sure, you could muscle him around and push him back in, smacking him on the shoulder and telling him to get over himself. I certainly did that lots and lots of times. But I wanted to fix him, not just bully him. So we had frequent cross tie training sessions that went as follows.
When he would put his head down and keep it down for a second or two or ten, we would take a step toward the cross ties. Up would go the head again, since now he was One Step Closer to DEATH. Self-Preservation Perusal Process Re-Activated SIR! And so we would ask, again, for the head to go down. And we would do this over, and over, and over. One step at a time, head down. Until we were half way in, or part way in, but before we turned around.
But then, rather than make him go all the way in to the cross ties, just before I felt he was thinking LEAP! AVOID DEATH!, I would very quietly back him back out, still requiring that he keep his head down. We would stand for a moment. And then we would just just go to the turnout.
I think this in important. I didn’t always make him go in. I think sometimes that lessons are just not broken down enough for some horses to get. I see people trying to teach a horse to load, and they go on and on and on getting the horse in the trailer, and then he finally goes in and Ah HA! they shut the door and drive off, triumphant. What the heck?! A horse doesn’t want to load, or go in to cross ties, or whatever it is, because they are sure that once they do they will never make it out alive. If you just ask for part of the goal, and then say ‘attaboy!’ and *leave* it, it goes a long way toward showing the horse that while they have to do what we tell them, they also get a break to think about it, to learn the task in small therapeutic doses, and that *starting* a task that they fear doesn’t always end with them forced in to whatever terrible situation they are fearing
So that’s what we did. Just part way in, and then out. And then done.