Attentive and thoughtful behavior is taught and expected in this herd!

Besides Sterling, my Andalusian stallion who is now 4 years old, I have a 19 year old thoroughbred gelding who is his pasture mate. The boys live inside of the track system that the girls live on and they can travel the property together separated by the fence. You can see the dirt track behind Sterling in the photo below. Sterling If I have a complaint about Sterling it’s that his right front foot is so difficult to trim because he cannot, or  I believe will not just stand there and hold it up for me to trim it. He pulls it forward and paws. This is not something he does when he stands tied, waiting, only when I want to trim it.  If you have followed my blog, you’ll know I have spoke of this before. Currently I am steeped in Linda Kohanov’s book “The Power of the Herd.” I likely have been reading it’s parts for a year now because I believe its information is applicable every day in every situation. In fact In the Company of Horses has a workshop based in these understandings. Yesterday when I went to get Sterling to trim , Harley came right along with us.  I tied Sterling to the hitching rail, gathered my stuff and began trimming.  If he was attentive and thoughtful with his feet and my trimming, every few minutes he would get praise and a cookie, if he was not, a no and no cookie.  Well, Harley caught on to this pretty quick and came over to get a cookie, but the price was to get a foot trimmed first.  Now Harley has no problems getting his feet trimmed but Sterling watched as I talked and worked with Harley at liberty to get his feet trimmed, just one at a time and I made a big fuss telling him he was a good boy, lots of rubs and a cookie.  Then I would go to one of Sterling’s easier feet and do the same.  If he pulled any of them away at any time, I just let it go, said no and went back to Harley to trim another foot, lavish him with praise and cookies and then back to Sterling again. Sterling and Harley Running Happily Harley has 4 feet to trim because it took that much back and forth for Sterling to catch on and stand, holding his foot up and waiting with attention and thoughtful behavior, being careful of me, while getting his feet trimmed, getting tons of  “good boys” and of course cookies! Wearing shorts and sneakers is another good incentive for a girl to not fight with a big horse to get his feet trimmed!

The Sweetest Thing…

It was already dark when I got home, and as big as this Harvest Moon is, it wasn’t very high in the sky.  The girls were already in the barn eating and the boys were still far away grazing, so I went out with their dinner calling them.  Sterling appeared shining in the moonlight first trotting across the bridge, Harley shortly behind.  Sterling greeted me in his usual lovely way and went and stood by his food bowl and waited.  I got Harley all managed with his dinner and brought over Sterling’s dinner, he met me half way and we walked together back to his bowl, went through his dinner time rituals and I left him to eat.  

After the girls were done and the hay ready, I went to let Harley out of the round pen where he eats and noticed Sterling standing in the shed, so I went to see why, because this was unusual.  I began scratching his back and he moved forward so I was closer to his tail and he lifted it to pass gas, but it was gurgly sounding.  I thought ” he does not feel well” so I went to his head and began to rub around his eyes across his cheeks and onto his ears, circling from base to tip over and over.  I did this for about five minutes and his head was down by my knees.  His eyes were closed but I could hear him masturbating, so I guessed he was enjoying this and wondered if he would be masterbating if he did not feel well.  

ImageAfter a little bit he lifted his head and looked out of the shed, thinking we were done, I went to let Harley out, usually Sterling comes over and investigates Harley’s food bowl or just visits, Sterling followed me out of the shed and instead of going in the round pen, he came right to me and put his nose on my hand and began licking and licking and licking, he licked it, for a long time.  He’s 3.5 years old and has lived with me for 3 of them and he has never licked me.  I had the distinct feeling it was a gesture of gratitude. My heart was moved, It was the sweetest thing. 

Springtime number three…..

And the grass is sweet!

And the grass is sweet!

The flowers are blooming and the grass is green.  The annual shedding ritual has come and gone and only a few remnants of winter remain.  My boy is growing into the most lovely man.  Strong; bold; athletic; interested and attentive.  Attentive to me, his gelding friend and his herd of seven mares. He holds himself and carries himself in the most attractive ways.  He is officially three years old now! Oh how time flies.
Happily during a recent horsemanship workshop at my house where there were new horses coming and going, Sterling did the right thing and stayed quietly with his herd or by his gelding friend Harley in their woods field.  He was quiet, and all the while attentive and calm.  I could not ask for anything more.

Positive Reinforcement – The Solution! (I hope)

We are into our fourth session.  The first one was WAAAY TOOO LOOONG.  I learned from that and now do much shorter sessions.  I knew the first session was too long because after I got through the third leg, Sterling was not interested anymore.  Today’s session was very clear to him, when his foot was softly in the air, he got paid, if he was pawing or throwing it out in front, No Pay. Being positive is FUN! Image

I first played around with having Valentine put her nose on an old feed bag that we use for a prop at work. It took 8 minutes – tops. So I had high expectations!   The coolest part of Valentine’s single session was that she is always rooting around looking for something in my pocket, she learned in that one short session rooting equals nothing.  Looking for the answer is the answer!  She was funny, when I was done, I left her in the arena and the bag was in there, I went to the viewing room, she first followed me, then she went to put her nose on the bag.  just waiting!  Continue reading

@ 2.5 years old, he reminds me of my human sons!

Most days I bring him out of his field, have a bit of time with him, maybe walk or eat hay or maybe some grain, perhaps I’ll groom him, but I always tie him to the hitching rail for 1/2 hour or so.  All this goes well, but having him stand with his front feet on the hoof jack for trimming is always an adventure.



When I lift up his front foot to put it on the hoof jack out in front of him, he has quite a bit of trouble just keeping his foot there without lifting it high up in the air to do something sassy with it.   I’ve changed the height of the hoof jack to make it taller/more comfortable and still He can’t seem to keep his foot calmly there or his other past time is putting his mouth with the potential of teeth on my head/neck/shoulders because I’m out there in front of him bent over looking at his foot.  So, what I do is employ all of my techniques and ideas until I eventually get mad and yell at him.  Then, he stands quietly,  and softly lays his nose on the side of my head, not biting or messing with my hair, for as long as I want.  And here is my question about it all. Why can’t he just stand there and wait BEFORE I get mad?  My sons grew out of testing behaviors, I trust Sterling will too!

Another Sterling Moment!

BluebirdI was helping Sterling and his gelding friend go over the creek bridge to get to the hay. He’s big now at 2.5 years old and with the recent cold snap, he is full of himself! So I was walking through his field and was talking with him about being careful of me and my space when all of the sudden I saw blue birds! I live in NJ and have never seen blue birds here! I have blue jays but they are different than blue birds.
So while my attention is turned to the birds as they were flitting about, I was telling Sterling to look and wait. I feel him close behind me then his head over my shoulder and his nose on my cheek, looking with me at the Bluebirds.
Ahhh…. Horses…..