Basics of the Human World

Apologies for not getting a chance to post over the last couple of weeks. It has been difficult to find the time to write after horsing around and studying for my Christmas exams. Unfortunately, the weather has also been a disaster here for more than a week now so I haven’t been able to get Ellie out to do Groundwork.

In the mean-time, Ellie has been busy overcoming some hurdles that we take for granted in an older, more domesticated horse. She has had her feet trimmed, which was interesting experience to say the least. Suffice to say that Ellie can do a wonderful three legged hop! Anyway after just 10 or 15 minutes (which seemed like an eternity) she settled down and politely let the farrier do her feet. So for that weekend (the 7th and 8th) I spent most of time on handling her legs, and doing halter work so that I could manage her when the farrier came, and in the hope that she wouldn’t kick him. Unfortunately, all of my handling didn’t help much as she’s decided that I’m ok, but she’s still not sure about the other 2-leggers. She tried to kick him anyway but thankfully he has good reflexes! I discovered that Ellie’s also very ticklish so a friend in my yard suggested I regularly hose her legs to reduce that reflex to kick every time she feels a tickle. I honestly can’t endorse that method enough now! I had tried flag work with Ellie but she didn’t even register its existence so the hose was a great option for handling at a distance.

We also did some preliminary work on tying up that weekend. Again, I felt it was something I’d ideally have left until later but it was proving impossible to do anything with Ellie around as she kept jumping out over the chain of her stable and I couldn’t tie her anywhere. So again I sought the advice of the same guy. He starts all of the home-bred polo ponies in my yard and they all turn out relaxed, confident, soft and affectionate – he is gentle but firm with them and has buckets of experience. When it came to teaching Ellie to tie up, I realised it was something I always took for granted and I had no idea where to begin, especially with it being such a controversial aspect of horse training. The one thing I did know is that since Ellie may well become a polo pony she will have to respect the tie, regardless of what distractions are going on around her. So my friend kindly offered to take Ellie (and me) through it. Since his strategy was to tie her hard to a triple loop of strong twine and let her fight it out, I was quite apprehensive.

  • This was on a soft surface of deep-bedded straw, firm enough that she wouldn’t slip.
  • She was tied to a completely sturdy gate, at her eye level.
  • We were able to access the other side of the gate and had a knife to hand should we need to cut the twine.

So once she was tied and he stepped back, Ellie tried to follow him after a moment and realised that she was tied. She thrashed around and fought the tie for about a minute, maybe two at most and then stepped up closer to the gate to slacken the rope. Within 10 minutes she had relaxed completely and was standing quietly watching the world go by. A couple of times over her various tying sessions that weekend she fought again for a minute but returned to being relaxed again very quickly. All in all, I felt it was successful – it caused her momentary stress but didn’t seem to cause any mistrust or lasting stress. She was still eager to get her halter on again after lunch, and stepped up to her tying spot without hesitation. Having said that, perhaps this might have gone very differently with a different horse. I’d love to hear your thoughts and methods in the comments below!

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Not wanting to let this post drag on too much, I’ll leave you with the news that Ellie is now standing tied very well. When she gets bored or other horses leave the yard, she occasionally paces within the confines of the slack on her rope but Rome wasn’t built in a day! I also began tying her in her stable for short intervals last weekend (the 14th and 15th) which seems to have solved the problem of her jumping out over her chain, even when she’s untied!

Another post to follow soon on our progress these last 2 weeks with handling, attitude and nipping vices in the bud.

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2 thoughts on “Basics of the Human World

  1. Tying is the single exercise that trains the horse even when you’re not around. The first thing experience is usually the ugliest but just like weaning a colt from its mother you have to expect their instinct to kick in. Horses are into pressure animals and when they feel confined they will fight as hard as they need to until the pressure is released or they release the pressure themselves. In your case it sounds like she released the pressure herself by stepping forward. Yes indeed all horses react differently to the tying process but sounds like you had an easy go at it and she will remember that forever! 🙂

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    1. Yes I’m very lucky that Ellie was quick to catch on. I was so concerned that she would be worried in the future about tying up, and hated to watch her struggle. I was also even more worried since we have two horses in our yard who can’t be tied due to some unknown terrible experience they’ve had. Thankfully though it worked out well – she now ties very nicely and isn’t worried by it at all 🙂

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