Saturday, January 5, 2013

beer for my horses

I found the secret to a calm horse. . .beers!
A healthy variety. . .
Just kidding. Shyloh didn't get any beers. We didn't get to do our horse sledding either. Instead, I went to the barn with the plan to just hang out with Shy and work on non driving stuff. . .maybe.

I received another homework assignment from Becky. I have completed all of my previous tasks, with the arrival of my driving whip today! The new assignment was: get a bag of cans to introduce to Shy. Have them make some noise and work to putting them in the tire. So I got the only type of cans we have at our house (not my beer, I swear, yuck!) and took them out to the barn. I brought them up to Shy and she sniffed the bag and stuck her nose right in it. This horse is not afraid of plastic bags, plastic bags usually contain food. I was really surprised at her reaction. There was none. No thinking noise, no backing up, nothing. I shook the bag, crinkled it, tapped her up and down both side. Nothing. And I was clicking and treating her as well. 
Cans on Shy's can
After that, I did some more clicker work on trying to refine her front foot picking up skills. I met a new friend at the barn while doing this who was interested in what I was doing. While I was chatting away, Shy took the opportunity to try and pry loose hay out of the snow.

Then I figured, I'll work on some showmanship stuff, specifically setting up. I found my show stick in my tack box on wheels (car) and tried it out.
This photo was taken at an angle

What do you think? We have a ways to go. . .

I was having a ton of fun with Shy, just hanging out. On a whim, I asked her if she wanted to do some work. She actually smiled when I said this, so I took it as a yes. I grabbed the tire and her harness and hooked her up. Away we went. Like it was nothing. 

I can tell she is getting very comfortable pulling stuff now because she is starting to give me a hard time. I asked her to whoa and she did, but she would not stand. Every time I asked for whoa she did, then proceeded to do a complete 180 and end up in a tangled mess. But she didn't care. She had the traces between her hind legs, both on one side or the other, and somehow crossed once. Didn't bother her, she kept on walking. 
See the trace. . .how my horse prefers to pull tires. . .
One time, she had one trace between her legs and I told her to fix herself and she did. The cool part of this is that she did this in front of two people who I don't even know and they thought it was awesome. It was pretty cool. 

She was so relaxed, I decided to go ahead and add the cans into the mix. I held them and rattled them randomly when we were line driving. She started the first time, but from then on there was zero reaction. I took it a step further. . .I tossed the cans in the center of the tire while we were walking along. Nothing. She kept going. It was loud! Here is a small sample. . .
Cans in the tire
Eventually the bag kind of ripped and the cans came out from under the tire, crinkling the whole way. Shy just kept trucking. I made her stop and turn around so we could pick the cans up, then attached the bag to her side. Every once in a while, I had the lines hit the bag to make it crinkle. 
Bag on the side
Wow. It was just another day for Shy. I cannot believe how she just took everything in stride. This is so different from the horse I had a year ago, shoot, even a couple months ago. I gave her a ton of praise, a few treats, some loving, then put her back with her herd. 
I'm glad I took Shy's smile as a yes. We had a great session. Any suggestions on how to deal with the 180 turn when I ask her to whoa? Happy pony! Happy me!


  1. I'm guessing that living out is helping her more than you know... not dissing all your hard work or anything, it's all adding up to helping her learn how to process new stuff.

  2. I was just going to say what Martine did; this new barn is good for her (and you). I don't know much about the other barn, but she seems much more relaxed, which increases her willingness to try new things. I'm happy for both of you.

    1. Living outside seems to be the best thing for her, you both are right!

  3. That is one relaxed, happy horse! The two of you are just amazing, together.

  4. She keeps a truckin' and looks good doin' it.

    I've been tempted to give Mitch Guinness now and then. It's supposed to be good for them, lots of racehorses get it. I wonder if I could get cited for drunk driving if the horse was the one that was drunk, hahaha.

    Haflingers just love plastic bags, plenty of horses freak out at them, but Haffies are "cool, maybe I can eat what it's in it." I think Mitch viewed 'The Plastic Bag that Flapped' as a comedy rather than horror.

    1. Haha! I agree, Shy has no issue with a plastic bag.
      I wonder how much Guinness it would take to get a Haflinger drunk?

  5. All looks great! How happy and relaxed is Shy - fab!

    1. Thanks! I can't say enough good things about her. . .even when she is giving me a hard time. That is when I know she is most relaxed, testy testy.

  6. Wow! You and Shy are doing really well. Congrats!


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