Head Games

Work: early PM – heat therapy, long-for us-walk to the top of the hill/late PM – 2 grooming sessions in an attempt to deferalize.
Evaluation: Dawdled up the hill with his head down & yawned twice halfway up. Since he used to pull me up the hill, I’m counting this as a solid win.

Rodney is not headshy. He is given vile-tasting oral meds twice a day. He could not be more amenable about getting caught and having a turkey baster shoved in his mouth. Tonight I accomplished it with only a rope over his neck. Plus, when he wants to be comforted he will bury his head in my chest to let me scratch him and give him a head hug.

Then there are other times when I go to touch his face and he flings his head up in the air looking as if I were about to strike him. He particularly objects to brushes. Curry combs come a close second. Yet, it’s not objects near his head. He loves having his face scratched with a towel. Once he realizes that I have switched from waving a brush to waving a towel, he relaxes & lets me rub all over his head.

I’ve mentioned this before, more than once. My question today is what to do about it:
a) Hold the line. Calmly stick with it and eventually desensitize him.
b) Compromise. Brush one side first & then brush his head when he has relaxed.
c) Ignore it for now. Clean his head with a towel.
I vary depending on the day.

Comments, questions, concerns?

Categories: Barn Life, Groundwork, Horse Behavior, Horses

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4 replies »

  1. So what do you know about clicker training? You know, like what I do w/ my dogs. Because I did it w/ a friend’s horse several years ago when I was visiting her for a few days. While she was at work, I worked with him with his fear of tight spaces and also of being tied. I did 2-3 days of work. She’d done it w/ her dogs but never thought to apply it to her horse (and she’s a smart woman and a great dog trainer but we all forget things). Within a week of my leaving, she was able to calmly walk him into a trailer which she had never come close to doing before. She just finished what I started. There’s lots of people out there that have applied it to horses (and any other animal that you can think of). If he were mine, that’s the approach I would do with the grooming and possibly much of his other stuff. And you are showing much patience! Proud of you

  2. Hand on poll. ask him to lower. Each time he raises ask him to lower. He must keep head down to your waist or lower. When he knows you insist, he can do this. He knows this. As long as head is down you can do anything, i.e. ear clipping etc.

  3. He also knows halter pressure, down, release, if you can’t reach poll. You’ll know when he is giving in. He’ll keep his head down. j

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