So today, I went out to Welcome Ranch to see Goldie. I arrived before all the fog had burned off. The barn sort of appeared out of the mist. I found a plastic chair and drug it out to Goldie’s pasture. She is pastured with another mare named Hanna. Hanna is more dominant, so I couldn’t really spend time with Goldie. So, poor Hanna got tied so I could chat with Goldie. I sat down in my chair. Goldie was already next to me investigating this new toy.
As I sat there, Goldie nosed me all over. This is fine until she starts to push on me or bite. At that time, I get up and move away. I am attempting to teach her that if she is polite, she can have my company. If she is not, I will leave. She of course followed me and when I sat down she resumed her investigation. We did this several times. She is learning though that if she stands there and just hangs out, I stay.
After spending about 30 mins doing this, I moved to another pasture where a young colt is living. His name is Red. Red is by himself because when he is pastured with other colts his age, he is impossible to catch. I went in and sat with Red while he ate breakfast. The chair and I were immediately more interesting than food.
Red is an interesting little character. He has such a machismo personality. He will come straight up to me, head high, chest pushed out, and then he’ll rear and charge away. But at the same time, he is hyper-sensitive to fast movement and touch. He is like a little ball of energy, just bubbling for something to do.
So how to handle this little man. I started by just sitting with him and reading my book. He came over several times and sniffed me. He was very pushy with his sniffing and tried to nip a few times as well. Yet when I flicked even a finger he would jerk his head away. After 20 mins of this, I decided to try playing with him and establishing some rules of engagement. He has demonstrated to me that he was a playful guy by trotting circles around my chair and playfully striking. I put my chair outside the pasture and backed away from Red. He followed me cautiously, not really sure what I was about. When I kept retreating and even broke into a small jog, he got the idea and came right after me. He had no problem coming after me and showing me just how cool he was. At this point I decided it was time for a rule. We can play, but you can’t be aggressive. So I turned around and walked in his direction. He looked at me as I came closer. He wasn’t really sure what to do. I kept moving and started to shoosh him away with my hands. He backed up and gave a little half rear but did not retreat. He was being defiant. I shooshed BIGGER. He finally reared and trotted off, annoyed. I followed him. I moved him all over his pen. After getting him to gve me space, I then stopped and put my hand out to say hello. He looked confused, but came over to me for a sniff. We did this little dance several times. At one point, I brought the chair back in. He thought this was an amazing toy. He bit it and pulled it, thinking this was the best! We played ring-around-the-chair together and he had fun. He was so cute when he would bite the chair and then the chair would move, he would strike out like he was telling the chair it was being bad. I laughed out loud more than a few times.
After an hour, I decided that was enough. I look forward to working more with Red. He is a super confident guy. He needs some hierarchy manners. Carolyn Resnick talks about foals and how they are inducted into the herd. First, foals are very mindful and obliging. They do everything they are told. Once they get enough confidence, you’ll see foals kick their mothers. The dam doesn’t kick back because she is trying to allow the foal to develop some confidence. Once the foal gets to the arrogant stage, then mom will discipline him. Its a push and pull between being submissive and being dominant. Carolyn says only when a horse will let you massage his character, asking for him to be submissive and then asking him to be more confident, will be accept training.
Having never done this method fully, I will be learning a lot from Red on how much is too much and how much is not enough.