Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thanks for the Leading Advice

Picture taken April of 2008.

An interesting thing happened on today's walks that gave me a little insight into Bombay. He was walking along just fine, no nervousness, no jigging, and then Lostine whinnied out to him. He backed up and reared a bit to try to break free from the lead rope, and I had to settle him down. Lostine whinnies because she's jealous that he's getting to go off property and possibly out to pasture, however Bombay interprets her whinnies as a warning that something bad is happening. It bothered me that he was more willing to listen to her than he was to me, even though I was walking beside him relaxed and confident, assuring him that everything was okay.

Then when I released Bombay back into the paddock, Lostine pinned her ears back and pushed him out of her way. He ran right into me and I had to yell at him and swing the halter at his chest to keep him from trampling me. That was a telling sign that he respects Lostine more than me. Everyone says that you, the handler, have to be the alpha mare. Lostine, the horse alpha mare, understands that I am the human alpha mare of her, and Bombay views both Lostine and I to be higher in the pecking order than him, but he views Lostine to be higher than me. That's a problem.

On another note, I took some advice from readers (Andrea and Shirley) and used my rope halter instead of my nylon halter when going for walks. I had bought a rope halter specifically for the purpose of halter training years ago, but my neighbor friend who breeds horses told me that she hates those halters and doesn't want to see me using it again. When she was boarding my horses while we were having our new leach system laid in the ground, she refused to use that halter and only used her own halters with my horses. So, I put the halter away and didn't use it after that out of fear that she might look out her window and see me using it.

Anyway, I did bring it out again today to reinforce a slack lead line, and I also brought a whip to tap Gabbrielle's front legs with to get her to back up, which was Shirley's suggestion. I had been stopping her and backing her up when she pulled on the lead line, but I had been backing her with my verbal "back" command only. The whip helped keep Gabbrielle's attention on me instead of everything that is going on around her. Backing is one of Gabbrielle's strong points, but she's so good at it that I can say, "Back!" and she'll back up like a pro, but without thinking about it or really having her head in the lesson. As a result of these changes, there was a little bit of slack in the lead line today and my arm muscles got a rest.

I know there were other suggestions from readers, which I will try next time I'm out. There's a lot going on during these walks and I'm lucky if I can hold two thoughts in my head. Some jerk pulling a horse trailer roared past us going at least 50 MPH while his trailer was banging loudly at every bump in the road and the poor horse he was hauling was kicking like crazy while I'm trying to walk my horse down the road. I wanted to put that driver in the back of my horse trailer and take him on a wild ride like that -- see how he likes it.

On another note, all three horses came to the gate without me calling them, and even though I had that rope halter in my hand. I'm guessing that they are enjoying our daily walks. Hurray!

7 comments:

dp said...

I had never seen a rope halter before moving to BC -- it was all flat leather or bust. Even nylon was frowned upon because it wouldn't give if a tied horse panicked. When I started with my Clinton Anderson DVDs I bought a rope halter and I will never go back -- they are so much clearer for communication and I find the horses move very lightly in them.

sue said...

for what's it's worth (and I know you will get TONS of everyone's opinions) I ALWAYS use a rope halter (Clinton Anderson's is my favorite!!) especially working with my big drafts!!!! They are wonderful and I wouldn't be without one. I even have one for our mini... I use the "regular" halter for the cross ties or when I have a horse on the trailer... but those rope ones are the only ones I swear by...

good luck....

photogchic said...

Great you are using a rope halter...no comparison to nylon. A suggestion I have is maybe instead of going for walks...go "mosey." That means keep your horses mind active as you mosey around your property. Ask it to go over obstacles, sidepass, go back/forward, ask to drop its head, trot, walk, yeild hindquarters. When you don't keep a horse's mind active...it wanders, and it usually wanders toward insecurity and fear. Try it and see how it works for you. Get creative and have fun.

Shirley said...

Glad to have helped!

Andrea said...

I am so glad the rope halter helped out. I use mine for training and then I go to a nylon one or just any halter I can find that has a lead rope attached to it!! hee hee. I am glad your three like to go for their walks. I bet they really enjoy their time out and about. And I am glad your arm got some rest. The whip was a good idea, too!!

Jenn said...

I am curious as to why your neighbor dislikes the rope halters so much. As long as you aren't turning them out in one, they are just as safe as a nylon halter. We all use slip knots to tie up our horses anyway, right?

I use a rope halter with Gabe and it works wonderfully. He had no respect for the nylon ones and pushed right against it like it wasn't even there. As soon as I slapped that rope halter on it was as good as having a chain on him. The other two wear nylon halters, but I've never had any kind of ground manners issues with them.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Jenn - She just said she doesn't like them without giving any reason. I suspect it is because she's seen some Arabs who ended up with permanent bumps on their chins and noses from someone using a stud chain on them, and probably worries that a rope halter could ruin the shape of those beautiful dish faces too.