Monday, March 17, 2014

Are Babies for You?

I've shared on my blog and with others that baby Luxxx has broken a couple of my leather halters since I've had him.  I am a bit surprised by a few reactions I have received.  "I hope he gets better" to "that doesn't sound like a horse you want to keep."  This has made me realize people don't understand young horse behavior thus my post for today.

Most baby horses do not hit the ground with perfect manners.  Some are better than others but most have to be taught.  They learn some from their dam.  Then when weaned it is best to give them pasture time with others so they can learn to socialize and learn more manners.  Then it is up to us to teach them.

Horses are flight animals.  When scared they run from what scares them.  As youngsters coming into a training program they have not yet learned to trust us so when introduced to new things sometimes they run.  Hence death of leather halter #1.  Luxxx has never seen clippers.  These noise making vibrating jaws of death are scary to a baby who has never seen them and has not yet learned to trust me.  I turned them on and back he went, safely away from the jaws of death.  I grabbed another halter, stuffed treats in my pocket, caught baby, and took him to his stall.  I backed him in the corner and we started desensitizing to the clippers.  I gave him a few small pieces of carrot to reward him for
allowing me to do this.  After maybe 10 minutes or so he let me clip his muzzle, then his bridle path, then his ears.  He learned I was not going to hurt him with the jaws of death and if he allowed it he got rewarded.  That is a good baby.

Death of halter #2 came with trying to give him a bath.  He flew out of my wash stall with me in tow.  Again, imagine how scary the hose is if you aren't used to it.  It took awhile and a lot of convincing to get him back in there but he eventually went and he let me bath him.  Good baby.

It will take time as I introduce him to many many things but this is the process with youngsters.  He will build a trust with me and it will get easier but there will be many firsts for him.  If you do not have an enormous amount of patience or experience babies are not for you.  Their "bad behavior" is merely a lack of understanding and following their instinct.  It is our job to teach.  Keep this in mind as your finished horse stands quietly in the cross ties for you to tack them up, pull their mane, or clip their ears.  Someone taught them that.

Luxxx in his new rope halter. If he pulls back it puts pressure on the poll to discourage that.  I also have safety release cross ties.  I leave the lead rope dangling so I have something to grab should the cross ties release.  He will continue to get tying lessons at M's.  He has a pole that is concreted into the ground.  He will be unable to get free and with the rope halter applying pressure to the pole as he pulls he will learn to break the pulling back behavior.  Let me also say that when doing this you need to supervise and also have the halter correctly knotted for a quick release should you need it.

All of my horses stand quietly tied.  Even my mini.  And Luxxx will be no different in due time.


  1. So true, my "baby" is so much bigger and older then Luxx and I was lamenting that I wish someone had taken the time with him when he was Luxx's age to get him used to this kind of stuff instead of just letting him be in a field.

  2. I know I definitely do not have enough experience for a baby!! I love Luxxx and I'm really enjoying hearing about your training... I'm certainly learning a lot!!

  3. Not everyone understands what it takes to get a broke horse :) Its lots of days in and out teaching them about EVERYTHING!

    Grayson isn't as old as Luxx (10 months) but it's taken some time for him to get used to brushes, picking feet, curry combs, water, shampoo... you name it- all the things someone takes for granite in their broke horse was hard work at one point!

  4. Practice & repetition, as with anything in life. Love this post, we do take a lot for granted when it comes to horses, but as you rightly point out someone has put all this work in. Patience is the biggest thing you can have when dealing with your horses, especially as they will "get" the lesson one day then the next day have completely forgotten it and we have to start again at zero.
    One step forward two steps back - but at the end of the road when we can look back and now that we helped them reach such a stage of training & that their trust in us allowed them to mellow - priceless!

  5. I always find the subject of young horses funny. Everyone knows how to handle them, everyone knows the outcome, everyone throws in their two cents. Babys are babys. They don't come out of the womb knowing to stand, lift their legs, not run people over. Of course, some are easier then others to teach these things, but overall every baby goes through these things.

  6. Preach! I love young horses but you're right, they're not for everyone.