Monday, July 7, 2008
I've had people ask me how is it that Monty just stands there? I almost never use crossties with him and he just stays in his place on the aisle floor. And the only answer I can give is he taught me to let him do that.
Maybe you have as puzzled a look as they did with that answer. Well, here's the "secret", maybe someone will find it useful to try with their horse.
Monty was always good on crossties at my last barn. When I moved to this place, he was fine for awhile, but then began to have issues with pulling back and breaking the ties or his halter. This could happen just from raising my hand with a brush to brush his face! I know the guys who work at the barn are not rough with the horses. Something was up.
All the crossties at this barn have a rubber "O" ring fastner at the end that will simply break if a horse pulls back hard. The vet would rather replace this cheap part than have someone's horse seriously hurt themself. After my horse went through a few of these I thought he had just figured out it was too easy to break them. I continued trying to crosstie him and watch his body language as I groomed him. If he gave any indication of going back to pull into the ties, I'd move to the side behind him and tell him "Step up!", but this only worked when I was grooming around his back and hind end. I couldn't get in position fast enough if it started when I was working around his head. I also noticed that after he broke the ties and was free, he didn't bolt or run out of the barn. After the initial pull and scramble until the ties or halter broke, he'd back up a few steps, then stand there. Also, if he's crosstied in an area that is closed behind him, like at the end of the aisle with the door closed, he won't pull back. Which is what my farrier does when he's being shod.
Ah, that's why I had no problem at the last barn, that's exactly the way the ties were set up. Okay, I guessed he just didn't like being crosstied with all that open space behind him. Well, then if he was willing to stand still in the aisle untied then I was willing to allow him to do it.
So from then on, he was haltered with a long lead shank clipped to it. I would either hold the lead or drape it across his back where I could grab it if I needed to in case he moved. Any time he moved a step, I would put him back in place with a gentle push and a simple command to step up. As time went on with this repetitious cue, he would just stand where I put him and I didn't have to hold the lead. He was never allowed to walk away, walk into his stall or move over unless told to do so. And after several weeks, he "got it".
Now, when I come to the barn in the evening and I'm alone, I can ask him to walk out of his stall, turn around and stand in place on the floor with no halter or lead. I have even went to the tack room to get things and left him there completely free and he doesn't move! I would never, ever do this during the day when the workers and other boarders are around, for their safety and ours I keep a grooming halter and lead on him but no crossties.
Patience and kindness are key but the important point is the constant repetition of the desired behavior. It took him weeks, it could take a different horse days or months.
HE taught me to let him do what he wanted, on MY terms.