5 Steps to Harmony with Your Horse

30 Jul

“Jill, Milkshake is loose.  He is in the back yard under the tree.  What should I do?” It was my husband’s voice on the phone and it was full of panic.  I was shopping with my girl friends in Delaware.  I was trying to escape the farm for a day and I was not in a hurry to get back.  After all, it is Milkshake, my kindest and sweetest puppy dog pony.  He comes when I call his name and I am certain that my husband would be able to get him back in the field without any assistance. 

“Put a lead line over his neck and put him in the pasture,” I told my husband as I grabbed the sweater that was on sale.

I went back to shopping, catching up with my friends, and enjoying a day not consumed with horses or the farm.  Then the phone rang again.  I knew it was Dan, he must be telling me that all is well and he put Milkshake back.

“Milkshake is playing hide and seek with me.  If I go to the right, he goes to the left, and vice versa.  I swear, he is finding this comical, but I am not.  What should I do now?” Dan was frustrated.

“Get a handful grain and put it in the feed bucket.  Then shake it.  He will come right to you and then put the bucket on the ground and wrap the lead line around his neck.  He will go into the field and he won’t bother you again,” I told him.

Five minutes passed and that’s when the phone rang again.  Dan told me that Milkshake grabbed the feed bucket from Dan’s hands and is now doing a victory trot up and down the lane.  He wanted to know what he should do now.  Then I heard my neighbor laughing in the background.  Apparently she had been watching from her window and had enjoyed the show.  Now she knew Dan was in trouble and needed her expert help.  She easily wrangled the lead line around his neck and put him back.

Living with Milkshake for the past three years has been a time of fun and laughter, but it was not always like that.  When I first got him, he was seriously entrenched in the business of hurting riders.  He would shake his head and buck, knowing that a rider would be unseated by this action.  He would try to scrape our legs against the fence or trees.  He would bulge so violently that he would walk side ways into the tack shack for a drive thru meal of horse treats.  He was dangerous and he was going to hurt someone if I did not employ some strict strategies.  These are the steps that I took to turn Milkshake into a true gem and delight.

  1. Grooming-  Daily grooming is a chance to form a strong bond with your horse.  Watch horses in the field and it won’t take long until you see two pair off and groom one another.  This forms within the herd strong relationships through this mutual ritual.
  2. Consistency-  We would consistently train on certain days, and we would be firm and direct in our aides and expectations.  Consistency teaches trust and forms a bond with the horse.
  3. Find Your Horse’s Strengths- Milkshake loves trail rides and gallops.  We would intersperse his training with jaunts over fields just galloping without a care in the world.
  4. Feed First- The morning ritual of feeding was altered so that he was fed first, this taught him that he was the most important horse.  He LOVES food, so this really spoke to him.
  5. Just Because- I would go in the field and scratch or pet him with no expectations.  There was no reason, other than to tell him that I enjoyed making him happy.

Milkshake was transformed through these steps.  Today, he is the farm favorite.  He is fought over, loved on, and he has taught almost all of my riders how to trot and canter.  His jumping is smooth and unsettling and he teaches the advanced riders to read distances.  He has paid me for my kindness and mutual respect through his willingness to trust me.  It is through this that I have found the lesson of Milkshake to be priceless.  I hope that you can use this information with your horse.

As usual, I always encourage any feedback.  Tell me the lesson you have learned with your horse.

Find tack, horses, and equine businesses on http://www.anythingforhorseandrider.com.

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