Tuesday, August 30, 2011

the honeymoon is over

Head for the hills, it's about to be a bumpy ride! I think Shyloh's honeymoon period is over. When I worked in residential care and foster care with juveniles and at-risk youth, there was a period of time when they first entered care that we referred to as the "honeymoon." During this time, the youth was well behaved, just kind of sitting back and taking in the new surroundings. After about a month, the "testing" testing phase would begin, where the youth would see how far they could push every one's buttons and see what they can get away with.  

I think I am at this point with Shyloh. She was wary, yet assessing her new situation and deciding for herself how to read me. And I think I am about to be tested big time! I have to keep reminding myself to be clear, concise, and consistent. That nip yesterday was the first in a series of a testing and trying time. All I know is that I need to come out on top! 

What is it with people wanting me to hit the horse? Is this really a necessary part of owning a horse? I would really like to get some comments on that. Yes, Shy bit my arm yesterday. Did she mean to bite it, I do not know, maybe. But, I take full responsibility for that. I was letting her comfort herself by licking me when she was nervous. Or so, I thought because it seemed like when I asked her to do stuff that was out of her comfort zone, she wanted to come in and lick. Then the licking progressed to pushing the fronts of her teeth on me. Yesterday, it ended with a nip. So, Shy is done with the licking. She will have to find a new coping mechanism.

When I yelled out in pain and disbelief, someone in the arena commented that oops, I got bit. I turned around and she stated that next time I need to wail my horse. I must have given a sour look at this (I have little control over my facial expressions), because then she added that I could pinch the neck. She stated that pinching the neck is more natural, because that is how the horses correct each other and it feels like a nip to them. I am not sold on this method yet, either. 

Another thing. . . Shy "mentioned" yesterday that I took her halter off. She has not had her halter off (except for being bridled) since the first week she came to the barn. Even then, Robin had fashioned a "catch tab" to attach to the halter. I have since removed the tab and have been able to catch her pretty easily. Today, my only goal was to successfully catch Shyloh and halter her. 

And it worked!! All it took was a butterscotch! After I haltered her, I took her for a walk around the property and let her graze. Shy is quite different outside than she is inside the arena. I wonder if she was ever worked inside before. Outside, her walk was much better, she even trotted while I ran next to her! She refuses to do that inside! She seemed much more confident while we were walking through the grass and did not spook once. One day soon, I want to go into the big pasture with Shy after the other horses go inside. There is a pond that I want to check out.

We visited with the other horses still in their pastures and checked out the new pasture that is in the process of being fenced in. We also went in the round pen. Now, I think Shy has been in a round pen before. I am not sure if it is instinct or previous experience, but when she got in there, she started trotting at the edges. 

After our walk and graze, I took Shy back to her paddock. We had a really good day. Small steps=big success to me! I took her halter off again today. I imagine it being the equivalent to me taking my bra off at the end of the day, sweet relief!

Shyloh completely enjoying her mouthful of grass and a cool breeze! Sweet bliss!


  1. Sounds like you're doing good work. Yes, I have heard that before about pinching or even poking hard with a finger.

    ...but I know nothing, so never listen to me!

  2. If you do react to biting, the reaction has to be immediate - within a fraction of a second - or else it's meaningless to the horse and just meanness/abuse. I typically back the horse out of my space and make loud noises and hand gestures - I think slapping/hitting/pinching and other physical responses tend to result in tit-for-tat - and who are we kidding - the horse knows good and well that we're not another horse so pretending to be one isn't very effective, in my opinion.

  3. I also believe in the 'honeymoon' period and my trainer commented that even on the greenest newbie you can have a dozen good rides before the horse begins falling apart.
    I don't often 'hit' my horse. Sometimes Doc will bump into my foot. He has a funny habit of swinging his head to the right while under saddle. Sometimes my foot just happens to be there and he hits my foot. Likewise, if one of the boys is moving into my space while I'm working with them on the ground, I might put my fingers in a 'knife' hand that they bump into. Same thing when leading (especially horses at the therapeutic riding center). We were taught to hold our hand up as a 'knife hand' if we had a horse that would swing towards us as were leading him, perhaps thinking to bite. In many ways it is defining your space.
    I laughed about your keeping the halter on. I did the same thing for the first few days with my guys. I did have a few times where I had difficulty catching one or the other after that. Then I 'walked them down'. I would approach them, aiming and looking at the shoulder. If they walked away, I'd change directions, again, aiming and looking at the shoulder. I had to do this with someone else's horse for 45 minutes. I was calm, he kept walking and maybe half-heartedly trotting away, but I was keeping him from grazing. Eventually he stopped and let me catch him. With both my guys, who are now very good about being caught, I first drape the lead rope over the neck and catch it below in a loop. Then put on the halter.
    Pippin is very mouthy... and loves treats. I only rarely gave him a treat from my hand. If I want to give him a treat I'll but it on the ground, or feed it from a bucket. He will 'lip' me, looking for treats, and I discourage this as I can see that he could easily become pushy and nip.
    I'm so glad to have 'found' you! I love reading and learning about other Haffies!

  4. Kate - I made a loud and ugly noise. I hope she got the picture. . .she did not do it today, but I did not ask her to do any work today.

    Dreaming - I'm not sure if you have seen some of my beginning posts. . .but it took me two hours to catch Shyloh at first! She was so scared of people. Then I think it kind of turned into a game for her, because as she trotted away from me, she would swing her head. I called it her Justin Bieber head swing. Shy didn't even know what a treat was when I got her. We decided to use hand feeding her treats as part of trust and deal with lippyness later. I guess now is later!

  5. You are making great progress! That is awesome that you can halter her now!! I had a colt very much like her and I worked with him in much the same way. He eventually was super easy to halter. He loved being "caught!" So keep up the good work!! I like everything Kate mentioned about biting. She mentioned making "loud noises," I'm actually yelling NO! You want to shock them IMMEDIATELY following their indiscretion in a negative way so you can bring any biting/nipping issue to an end. React BIG and just for a few seconds. She may do it again- to test you a bit - so be ready to react the same way again.
    Love your blog!!

  6. Gail - Thanks! I have come to realize that if you ask 20 different people about horses, you get 20 different answers! I often wonder if anyone knows exactly what they are doing, lol!
    And Kate - lol at the horse knowing that we are not a horse, so stop pretending!

  7. Deanna - Thanks! She doesn't mind the halter, it's just getting close enough to get it on that is the issue. But she is getting much better!
    And I am on high alert for being bit again! That was just a nip and it hurt!

  8. Just now saw your comment Allison - sounds like you have the "reacting" thing to Shy's nipping already going on! =)
    Also- with my colt, the last step in using treats to catch him, was I would just grab some grass, put it my fist (with the grass) in the nose part of the halter so that as he was taking it from me, I would just slip the top part of the halter on. It was easy. From there, I was eventually able to just catch him sans grass.
    Don't know if that's helpful or not- but there you go.

  9. Deanna - While she does love food, at first, she would not come for anything BUT grain. Stinker! Now I am able to get her with just a treat, since grain is not part of her regular diet. She was awful at first, she would stretch her neck out as far as it would go, then stretch her lips out. And she was lightning quick, so but the time I got my hand up to where the halter would be, she was on the other side of the paddock! lol. i live and learn. . .

  10. Bahahaha . . . I can just see her by your description! She's clever, that girl!! You're so right - live and learn! And also- you are so completely right about when you ask 20 horse people a question, you get 20 different answers.
    I always listen/weigh advice given - then follow my own gut.
    Also, I must say - from your blog here, it's easy to see that you have a lot of natural ability. I can tell you have great natural instincts.
    Shyloh sure is pretty! Take care!

  11. My boys were also Amish. Just like Shy, they wouldn't eat apples or carrots. They will take them now... but other fruity treats, like melon, just get sniffed and they turn up their noses!
    Doc may have had some issues with a whip - although most Amish don't drive with one, he will bring his head up and show the whites of his eye if I move too fast or swing something near him. We have done a lot of desensitizing.
    After I left my first comment I did go back and read through your posts. You have come a long way! Shy sounds like a fabulous girl... but then again, I'm a bit partial to Haffies anyway! ;-) Welcome to the Haffie world! As I was thinking about getting a horse, a Haflinger wasn't even part of the picture. I had seen a team of Haflingers one time, and yeah, they were cute, but I hadn't given serious thought to owning one. Then, I was confronted by a team of beautiful boys. I did some quick research, and the next day went back to the auction and bought them. No regrets! Love them. Love the breed. Love their versatility and sense of play!

  12. Dreaming - Do you know anything about Amish training? I wish I had more insight so I knew exactly what I was dealing with. Shy has not turned away anything that I have given her yet. And I know all about the whites of the eyes, I call them Shy's crazy eyes!


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