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May 3, 2014: Horse Training: No Horse Left Behind

I am not a horse trainer. Some clinicians tell their paying customers that if you own a horse, you’re a horse trainer. This is total bullshit. I, like many, am a horse owner who on an ongoing basis is attempting to teach her horses new things, and constantly going back over what they already know.

I’ve worked with other people’s horses, but found that I prefer working with my own horses. Time spent with their horses is time that I end up feeling should be spent on my own horses. At the same time, training a horse or horses takes a lot of time. Long, intermittent sessions over a few weeks or months don’t cut it.

Raudi and Lifre

What cuts it are short, ongoing sessions over a period of several years. Time also needs to be spent actively interacting with one’s horses. Riding, grooming, doing ground training—all these things better enable owners and their horses to bond with one another.

A caveat here: The above statements are truisms, and in my mind completely irrefutable. I don’t always do things right; however, when it comes to horses, I’m now more apt to get things right when things go wrong. This evening is a good example.

I went to take Hrimmi out of the pen, so that I might (along with Tinni) get her some exercise. Pete had attached Ryder to her line, which was in front of the horse gate. I realized too late, that is when Hrimmi was halfway out of the gate, that Hrimmi could not turn around, meaning that I could not latch the gate. I moved sideways, rather than let her go. In the process, Raudi and Lifre bolted out of the gate. By then it was too late to distract them, by giving them some hay.

I tied Hrimmi to the hitching post and then retrieved Tinni, so that Hrimmi would not be alone. I then went to catch Raudi and Lifre, who were racing at top speed around the yard. Both were blowing off steam and attempting to get away from the mosquitoes. I approached Raudi with halter and rope in hand, and of course she again took off. I followed her, got close, and again she took off. History continued to repeat itself for about five minutes. I finally went and got some treats. And additionally, I slowed my pace.

Raudi then allowed herself to be caught. I put the rope around her neck, gave her some treats, and put her in the enclosure. As I was latching the gate, she went over to the other, open gate and rejoined Lifre. I followed slowly, offered her a treat, and again caught her. I also praised her, repeatedly, telling her that she was the best horse in the entire world, which is true.

I penned Raudi, and then easily caught Lifre, who most wanted to be with his sweetheart. I next went around and doused everyone with plant based bug spray. The bugs were so bad that all saw this as sort of a reward.

I well know that I erred in not, beforehand, first putting the dog elsewhere. I also erred in not giving Raudi and Lifre hay before taking Hrimmi elsewhere. It later occurred to me that catching Raudi and Lifre wasn’t that big a deal. In other words, all the time I’ve spent interacting with them (and in this case mostly Raudi) paid off. Otherwise, they’d still be out of their pen, racing around like wild horses. Truly, this was an instance of no horse left behind.

Next: 123. 5/4/14: The Importance of Big Reinforcers