Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bratty animals

A couple weeks ago, Mary's horse managed to remove her own halter. Even though it couldn't have ended up outside the barnyard or shelter, we can't find it.

For a while, it was no big deal. We would let Sarah and the goats out to graze, then put them back when we were done watching them (I won't claim that they were done grazing). It's easy to bribe the goats by rattling a can of corn. Also, we put a dish of sweet feed (oats and corn with molasses and vitamins) in the manger for them. Then, we put some horse feed (looks like rabbit pellets) into her bucket. No matter where she is, we can lead her around by walking with that bucket of feed. When she's almost done, we pick up the bucket and carry it into the shelter. She follows us in and she and the goats maneuver for the rest of the feed.

But after a couple days, she was on to us. Even with a full bucket, she would follow us to the door and no further. Brat!

Actually, she started this trick with Mary. She called me out and told me that her horse wouldn't go into the barn. I grumbled that all you have to do is to carry the bucket of grain into the barn, but it didn't work. I ended up putting the bucket into the barn, then hooking my arm around her neck and leading her in.

Now, please understand that if a horse really doesn't want to go where you want it to go, you're not going to get it there with anything short of a tractor. They are a whole lot bigger and stronger than we are. The only control we have over them is due to a certain respect and authority, assisted by the fact that they are herd animals. They are genetically programmed to follow the herd leader. We, as the keepers of domestic animals, have to be the herd leaders. It sounds simple, but the devil is in the details. You can literally spend a life time learning how to handle horses properly.

But anyhow, we went to Mustang Sally's and bought a halter for her. She wasn't thrilled about letting us put it on, but she didn't give us too much trouble. There's a trick to displaying the kind of confidence and authority, as well as kindness, that an animal will respect.

With the halter attached, we now have a handle. Lead the head, and the body will follow.

Sure, she could still do what she wants despite our best efforts. She doesn't, though. She's a very easy-going horse, and we have never led her anywhere that has hurt her.


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