I talk about building confidence a lot here. Helping my ponies feel calm and connected and confident is always my #1 concern when training, or handling them. Exactly how to accomplish this can change from moment to moment and from pony to pony. So being flexible and quick thinking while also having good timing is key to helping a pony find calmness and confidence more quickly.
This blog is about a pony that is fearful in a situation but is not having a total melt down nor is it afraid that the travois or the cart or the ? is going to hurt them. This is situational and something you typically run across when out and about. For Zorro this happened with our neighbor horses. I shared this on Facebook but realized that I did not share it here. This post should have come before the last one on Choosing Our “Battles”, but I thought I had already shared it here! LOL
On January 3rd I was ground driving Zorro using two 10′ lead ropes instead of my super long lines. They worked perfectly because they aren’t too fat and heavy and they aren’t too long. It’s freezing and windy and snowy here so to be dragging my long lines wouldn’t work so well right now. Also one of my lead ropes is orange and one is black so that made it a little more fun!
Zorro did awesome until we were almost home and the horses at the corner completely lost their marbles as we came down the hill. They are always afraid of him (it’s a new group at the corner for the winter) but this time he thought they were freaking out because of something across the field. He could NOT figure out what it was but was sure he better get the heck out of Dodge. So he turned and tried to run back up the hill. I had gloves on and couldn’t get a grip on the lines, so had to wrap one around my hand (I DO NOT RECOMMEND DOING THIS EVER!) and used my big butt as a anchor to send him around me instead of away from me. Thank goodness for long lead ropes that give me leverage!
He could not stand still because he would freeze and explode, so instead I kept his feet moving until his brain turned back on. Then we walked up and down at that spot in the road for 30 minutes or so, until he would lower his head, blow out, lick and chew and stand quietly in a relaxed way NOT a frozen in fear way. Having him be calm also meant he was no longer looking for boogie man to come bursting out of the field. Poor Zorro! I’m sure it was confusing to see the big horses totally losing it, snorting and racing away in a thunderous cloud. He didn’t know they were afraid of him!
The entire time Zorro worked on his emotional fitness, the big horses stood shaking and snorting in the far corner of their pasture. On the way up the hill, as we were heading out on on walk, they were panicking in the dry lot they were in at the time. I thought for a second they might try to run through the fence, that’s how scared they were.
While I was helping Zorro overcome his fear I was thinking about tomorrow’s session. I knew this needed to end on a calm and confident note so he would be more confident tomorrow and the next day and the next day!
The next day Zorro needed to stop and check things out so I allowed that, I gave him time to think it through and then asked him to walk on. My long term goal at that time was to have him offer to walk past those horses without having to stop and watch them. We can do that now! But I had to stay flexible because though he needed to move his feet that first day, the days after that he needed to stop and think it through. To push him over his threshold while he was thinking things through would have resulted in blowing him up and causing him to feel emotional instead of confident. This is why I don’t say you must always move their feet or you must always allow them to stand. Instead it boils down to reading the pony and the situation you are in. How you need to support your pony can change in an instant!
Here is a video of the next day that we walked past the neighbor horses. This actually happened two days after because I wasn’t able to take him out the very next day.