So yesterday we got our first snowfall of the season. I wasn’t excited about it, other than the fact that Indy had never seen snow before.
He really didn’t seem to care as we walked out the barn door and into the snow. His biggest concern was that the other horses were still inside and he was the only one outside (it was very windy, cold, and changing back and forth from snow to freezing rain).
I decided to grab Shady for support and we headed to the round pen, hoping there he would run around and play.
His biggest concern, however, was the snowballs that were forming on his whiskers.
You can see in the video that he keeps trying to shake them off!
He did pose for a handsome picture…
and tried to get himself stuck….
and then ran around some, but I think it was more because he had energy from staying in all day.
Indy ties. He ties quite well. He also leads very well, and has excellent ground manners. I’d say it’s because I’ve been fortunate enough this spend a lot of time with him, but it’s not fortunate. It’s because I made time for him. I waited to breed until my life would allow me that time to spend with him. When he was born I actually had three jobs, three very time consuming jobs. I got up early, sacrificed time with friends (they just learned to come to the barn if they wanted to see me) and made the time. I’m not the only one who will handle him in his life. He will be boarded, he will be handled by barn staff, farriers, vets, and, should the unthinkable happen to me, someone else may have to step in and care for him. Unfortunately, not everyone has patience, and not everyone in the horse world is kind. I don’t want my horses to know abuse or have a fear of humans. Doing my part to teach them good manners will only make them easier for everyone to handle, and also they area less likely to be handled harshly. It also helps keep them safer in an emergency. I know that they both will easily go on a trailer, can be led by anyone, stand for hosing, stand in buckets for soaking, etc.
But I digress. I wanted to talk about how I taught Indy to tie and crosstie.
I have to first give credit to Shady, who has been an excellent role model for Indy. She has been incredibly patient with all the crazy things he, and I, do.
I began teaching him to tie in conjunction with teaching him how to be hosed and bathed. Does anyone think it is fun to try and hose off a full grown horse that has never seen a scary scary hose before?? Been there, not fun! Why wait? Take the time when they are little and less likely to kill you.
I had another set of hands and I took my time. The barn we were at had a nice set of crossties outside, with a fence on either side, creating a stall like feel. First, I introduced Indy to the area by walking him in while Shady stood next to it, being supportive as always. Then, I would crosstie Shady and lead Indy in next to her. I would have my helper hold Indy while I very gently turned the hose on, letting the water gently spray his hoof. Nobody likes being sprayed with a cold, hard stream, so I kept it very light. I would keep one hand on him, patting him and telling him he was a good boy. I then very, very slowly moved the hose up to about his knee, still patting and reassuring him. He was great, so I left him alone and hosed off Shady right next to him, being careful not to spray him. That was it for the day. He felt the hose, heard the noises, and saw the splashing around him as his mom stood very quietly for her hosing. Foals have a very short attention span and there is no need, or rush, to push them to their limits.
Over the next few days I did the same, using a helper to hold him so I could slowly begin to move the hose all over his body. A little more each day. Then we added in some shampoo and a rinse. His first bath. He seemed to like the sponge scrubbing him all over. He never really resisted the hose; he wasn’t too keen on it at first but never showed much of a fear of it. Soon I was able to hold him myself while hosing him, as he stood quietly next to Shady.
Eventually, I began needing two hands to be able to bathe him by myself. I began loosely tying the lead rope around the fence, in a loose slip knot that would easily come undone should someone panic. He was still fairly little at the time and if he did step back I could reach his bum to push him forward. He got the idea fast. Thanks to all the leading I had done, he had learned not to pull back.
Crossties too came easy for us. I began by putting Shady in the crossties and putting Indy in front of her. I would put a crosstie on one side of his halter and the lead rope on the other, with me holding the other end of the lead. I always kept these lessons short as Indy’s little attention span would get the best of him and he would start to squirm around or want to nurse.
I held the lead initially so I could have a little more control and be able to let go if something went wrong. I should also note that the area we were in had a solid wall on either side of Indy, and another about 8 feet behind him. With Shady in front of him, facing him, there really wasn’t a lot of places he could go.
Holding the lead also helped teach Indy boundaries. When he would try to turn sideways, I could use the lead to pull his hind end back to a straighter position. When he would go backwards I could apply pressure and then soften when he came forward. When he showed signs of understanding the crosstie, I added the other one. Shady was very patient, standing quietly as a great example while I groomed Indy. It helped of course that he loves to be groomed. Grooming to him was a great reward for standing still and tied like a big boy.
I always, always keep these training sessions short. There is no rush and no reason to push a foal beyond their comfort level mentally. I will have a better horse, and a better relationship with my horse for our lifetime together.
Ponying Indy was a something I always planned on doing. The advantages of ponying endless, but in particular I wanted to:
Expose him to new (and potentially scary) things alongside his brave mother
Take him trail riding, which includes going through puddles, over small natural obstacles, hearing strange noises and seeing wild creatures
Add another option to our training – a way to keep him curious and his mind fresh, rather than burning him out with the same in hand exercises.
Give him more exercise than I can do on foot!
Of course, all of this could not be achieved without the incredibly well behaved and patient Shady. I had never tried ponying with her before as she hates other horses and doesn’t like her personal space invaded.
Before I could try it, I had a lot of ground work to do. On Shady’s end, I had to make sure she neck reined well enough so that I could control her one handed. I also brushed her up on our voice commands, making sure that when I said “ho” she would stop immediately. These things were easy.
For Indy, I needed to make sure that he led well and understood the halter. Halter and lead training started at 2 days old. We spent a lot of time leading around the paddock, turning left and right, doing circles, serpentines, and all other patterns. I led him from his left side, I led him from his right side. I let the lead rope slide all over his body; between his legs, around his rump, under his belly, around his head, etc. I tried to get him exposed to every possible position the lead could be in, hoping that if something happened he would be less likely to panic.
At two weeks old, I started leading them both to the riding ring, then letting him loose while I rode Shady. It was a bit soon to bring Shady back to work, only 2 weeks after having a baby, but she was ready for some more mental stimulation. We just walked, bareback, doing ring figures, but it was enough to keep her satisfied.
Indy was confused at first; he didn’t quite understand why he wasn’t the center of attention. He would run by and try to kick Shady. When ignored he would cut us off, then try to nurse as soon as we stopped. Eventually he would give up and do his own thing while we rode.
Thankfully, I have a wonderfully supportive boyfriend who I can solicit help from. I would have him lead Indy alongside Shady while I was riding her. Then he would hand the rope off to me and walk behind us. Indy, being about two and a half weeks old when we started, was more than happy to stay close to his mom. Should he need encouragement, we could give him a little push on the bum.
We practiced everything in the ring first. Turning left and right, halting, circling, mounting and dismounting. Then we ventured out of the ring. For a long time, we only ponied when we had a helper on the ground. I have to say we never needed anyone; Shady and Indy seemed to enjoy going places together and understood the ponying process quite well!
Of course, everything was kept fairly short too, as Shady has a big walk and Indy would get tired keeping up with her! In between all of our ponying, I continued to walk and trot Indy in hand. Everyday we do something.
When he got a little bigger we could trot along side by side. He’s very good trotting along next to us. Sometimes at the walk he gets a little excited and jumps around, bouncing off of Shady. She takes it all in stride. The first time we went in the woods Indy absolutely loved it; looking at everything, smelling the air, and trying to canter alongside of us.
I love going on a trail ride and bringing Indy with us. I can only foresee that this experience will make riding and cross country a lot more relaxing and fun for Indy in the future. I am glad I started him as young as I did, and as carefully as I did.
Like anything else, it’s easier to expose Indy to clippers when he is a manageable size. At the moment there is no need to actually clip him, but why wait to introduce him to the noise and feel when the need arises? I like to know that if something came up, an injured area that needed to be clipped perhaps, Indy will be less stressed and stand quietly.
I did not crosstie him for any part of this. As good as he is, it wouldn’t be safe or fair to him.
I started with the clippers in hand, turned off. I let him see and smell them; he obviously didn’t feel threatened by them and quickly lost interest. I then rubbed them all over his body, up and down his legs, and on his belly. I also brought them up towards and over his ears. No big deal.
I then put them down and turned them on. I put them on a surface that would not vibrate and cause a louder noise. We then walked by them, back and a forth several times. He was a little leery at first but he is pretty used to noises so he settled quickly.
I turned them off and patted him for a minute, letting him relax and telling him everything was fine. I then picked them up, held them against his shoulder, and slowly turned them on. As I expected, this was quite scary and he backed away. I turned them off and reassured him.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. He got rewarded by backing away from the scary object. I’m teaching him that if something is scary he can back away and not face his fear. Keep reading please.
Horses are flight animals. They always have been and they always will be. We cannot train that out of them, no matter what we do. What we can teach, however, is trust. Had I fought with him or continued following him around with the scary clippers, only fear would have been achieved.
We repeated the process twice more. Each time, he looked calmer than the last. The third time I positioned him with his butt up against a door, so he could not go backwards. I did not corner him in though. I gave him an out. Cornering him would only encourage him to plow through me to get away and that is certainly not something I would want!
I rubbed the clippers on his neck again, waiting to turn them on until he relaxed. He was anticipating the noise and vibration. I then turned them on and continued rubbing slowly up and down his shoulder and neck, not getting more than halfway up the neck and near his ears at all. He stood, tense, for about 20 seconds and I turned them off. He was good and that was enough. We then went and groomed on the crossties. The crossties are a familiar and comfortable spot for him, and he loves to be groomed so it was a good reward.
The second night we did the same, but with less anxiety and less backing away.
By the third night I could run them over his whole body.
Tonight, our fourth night with clippers, I had to fight back tears of pride. Not only did he not pull back once, but he actually rested a hind hoof while I ran them all over his entire body, legs, belly, and up to his ears. He was completely trusting and calm.