Recently a cute little pony came into my life, that in a very short period of time, has taught me more about trust than any other equine! In his short little life, he has learned to evade being caught….forcing well meaning people to perpetuate the little guys belief that humans bring food to catch, “trick”, me… In our busy lives, hard to catch horses/ponies/minis are just one big pain in the @#*.
It brings out the predator instinct in all of us, me included….little pony grabs treat from hand and bolts just as he see the lead rope coming out….:)
Sooo I had to rethink where he must be coming from. After successfully “catching” him on day one, WITHOUT FOOD, we went through some clearly needed desensitizing exercises. He is a jumpy little guy. So lets be perfectly clear….he was not at all harmed doing this.
Day two…after round penning him, and getting him to follow me at liberty, his old tricks came out as soon as he saw me with a halter/lead rope. Even though I had NOT tricked him into being caught the day before, when he bolted I held him with the lead rope, then haltered him….in his mind he was not a willing participant.
I left it on a good note, and went in the house to think about what just happened…..
Here is my theory… although he is a little jumpy, he really is not afraid of humans. The mere act of being tricked/forced to be caught upset him…
Who could blame him?? Would you trust anyone that said they were your friend (bringing food), then grabbing you when you lost confidence in them? It would take only one time, and the trust would be broken. I had asked him, he said no (his old behavior), and I proceeded anyway. So, in order to build trust, I had to put away the goal of “catching” him.
As SOON as I did this, and just followed him when he left, and turned away from him when he turned to face me, he would approach and except being scratched. It blew his mind that I would leave without “catching” him. This strategy worked very quickly to the point where in two days he munched his hay quietly while I stood next to him and just scratched him. His left side was the most reactive…most people handle horses on the left. So I gained his trust on his right side first, then the left. That was three days ago, and tonight he willingly stood beside me while I put the lead rope over his neck, paused to scratch him, and asked him if I could proceed. He sniffed the halter, never loosing confidence in me, while I got it arranged to ask him if I could put it on him. His eyes softened, and he lowered his little nose into the halter, and stood so softly as I did it up. I couldn’t stop grinning. Little DUDE. I promised him he will NEVER be “caught” again. I will always ask permission to proceed.
I have a feeling that his training will go very smoothly if I stick to this principle. Always check your predator at the gate.
Trust is sacred …always ask before you proceed…the rewards are well worth the time.
To ponies everywhere!