A few days back, a neighbor came and asked me to come over because he was having trouble with a two year old filly. The filly was scared of the flag, and had started pawing at the flag and charging our neighbor on the ground.
When I arrived my approach was to not go in there with the flag and make an issue out of the already existing problem. Instead, I entered the round pen quietly and moved the filly around the perimeter from my own horse. When I entered the round pen on my horse, I felt the two year old immediately become more comfortable in the herd environment of two horses. As always, I started slow, and moved the horse around, letting her use her own instinct of survival. In other words, I allowed her to become scared to eventually realize she didn’t need to be. When the filly finally began to relax, I quietly built a loop and roped her around the neck with my 50 foot horse handling rope.
When she was caught, I did not snatch or jerk her, I simply guided her and allowed her to give to pressure where she found a resting spot next to my horse and I. At this point I rubbed her with my hands, working on both sides of the horse. My most important job here, as with all horses is to take the fear away from the horse. I want to let her know whatever happens, I am not going to hurt her. I am developing a learning for an important component… trust. From there, I slowly re-introduced the flag, still working from my horse. I rubbed her, both sides and both directions until she became more sure that there was no element of danger or getting hurt.
My final step was to dismount my horse and work the filly from the ground. I wanted her where she was perfectly relaxed with everything I did, including the flag. I ended on a very positive note, rubbing her all over with her head down, ears wiggling, eyes blinking, licking her lips and turning loose physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Our job with these horses and our job with all horses is to make them feel safe, sure, certain and secure. From here, they are capable of learning anything we ask.
Until next time, keep riding smart and we’ll see you down the trail.