Reclaiming Andi

Normally, when a foal is born here, it receives attention multiple times a day for a week or more then daily (at least) attention for the months until weaning. By that time, they're already trained and performing tasks that many grown horses don't even do, such as being halter-broke, leading, having their hoofs picked and trimmed, and loading in the trailer.

Marah's baby, Andi, is my 'divorce baby,' and her training has fallen through the cracks of my life. She got all the usual new-baby snuggles, but at a week old, she was turned out to pasture and not handled much at all. Much to my shame, she's seven months old this month and just now being halter broke.

Usually with the little ones, it's a case of showing them the halter, letting them sniff it, rubbing them down with it and slipping it on and off a few times until it's a non-issue. Andi wore the halter a few times; she would sorta leap alongside when you tried to lead her, but I was never consistent enough for her to learn to give in to pressure and be happy and comfortable about it so she developed an aversion rather than a liking to being handled.

In addition to all the toil and turmoil of divorce and trying to finish the new house, I've been working a lot of overtime - up until about two weeks ago.

Now, Andi's not at all feral, and she's not panicky and wild-eyed. She’s perfectly comfortable with being around people in her Andi-defined comfort zone of about three feet out—arm’s length. She simply doesn't want to be touched.

My solution to that has been to bring her up out of the pasture and put her in my large stall and start over from day one --handling her multiple times a day.

If you ask 20 horseman their opinion on this matter, you'll get 47 answers on how to handle a young horse like this: anything from rope, throw, and tarp them; withhold feed and water; bury them up to their heads in sand; round penning; to trying to give them away; or simply turn them back out and let them be wild.

I have what I consider an advantage in that I have all the time in the world and, IMO, a good focus on what I want. My main goal, aside from halter training or anything else, is to open lines of communication with her, gain her trust and get her to come around and want to work with me. I have obvious ulterior motives for all this. Her sire is a proven performance horse (and his sire and uncles and so on), as is her maternal grandsire and his dam. I have big plans for this filly, and I know through long experience that I want her working with me from the start, or we'll end up nowhere.

Since she's used to being grained, I provide (in her stall) full buckets of clean fresh water and free-choice hay, but she only gets grain out of a bucket I'm holding. She's not being starved or tormented -- I'm out there at least twice a day and she's getting her usual amounts -- but she has to make a choice to come close enough to me to eat out of the bucket.

This is a no-brainer and takes her about 30 seconds to figure out. She doesn't stand and eat at first. She’ll come in, grab a couple of big mouthfuls and pace around behind me while she chews, but by the second day, she's standing quietly and eating out of the bucket as long as I don't reach out to touch her.

So the first part of step one - to get her to come to me - has been accomplished. She's approaching the bucket while I hold it, and we'll use that baby step over the next week to work in a simple transition to get her wanting to wear the halter and follow us around.

9 comments:

Val said...

My, my, my... I could regale you w/stories of how difficult QUIGLEY was to halter-break (there's a good reason his family nickname is "Big Dummy"!), but it sounds like you're on the right track...
[I tend to be a little more cowgirl than you - I'd probably wrestle her into a halter by Day 3 or 4 - not necessarily to try to lead her yet, just to show her that the halter Is Not Fatal.]

Sue L said...

LOL! Yeah. We did that. I have photos of her wearing it when she was younger, but she was showing me a lot of attitude. ;) I love attitude, but I like to try to keep it on my side instead of her trying to figure out ways to get around stuff!

Chris W said...

I'm going to enjoy following this, because I have walked this walk all too often - a walk I hope to avoid with my expected blue foal coming in April.

Sue L said...

LOL! Stay tuned Chris. I'm posting days behind what we've already done - this little girl is smart!! I'm sure your baby will be too, so hopefully, you'll get some good ideas here.

Susan said...

I loved reading about Andi! It will be fun to follow her along, and eventually see her on the endurance trail.
(Susan Brehm in Boerne, TX)

ann said...

This will be good info

Becky Sue Burkheart said...

Hi Susan, it's great to hear from you. It seems like a long time off, but she'll be out there before we know it.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Free yourself from guilt for your slow start with Andi. Life is a process and you're doing the best you can. Sounds as if you're making great progress with Andi.

Sue L said...

Thank you Caroline. very insightful. Yes, I'm trying release the guilt for having failed her in all the turmoil of my life in the last year. I know she forgives me, but it's hard to forgive myself. The extra time I'm spending with her now helps me as much as it does her.