Here we are, a new year and my first blog of 2019.
This blog is not an easy one for me to write, admitting your horse makes you cry most of the time, is never an easy thing to talk about. Right, putting my brave pants on and here goes.
Some of you might be wondering why I am not riding Rudy. Well, you might remember last year I had lots of checks and investigations carried out on Rudy to find out if he was in pain anywhere. Thankfully the vet said there wasn’t any painful areas and it could be a behavioural issue. The trouble is, resolving behavioural issues is more of a challenge than if there was a medical problem to solve. Rudy is quite prone to biting and kicking and swears a lot at people. He wasn’t too keen on being caught unless it was tea time. He hates being groomed, tacked up and didn’t enjoy being ridden. The funny thing is, he loves being clipped, strange horse LOL. As for putting a head collar on him, that was a challenge in itself, he would generally try to bite it, fling his head about and anything else to avoid putting it on him.
Getting him to load was hit and miss, he would load going, but didn’t want to load coming home. There was a time, I had a new bruise every day where he had bitten me. I have tried all sorts of training methods, with some success to start, then he would go back to being angry and not want to do anything.
I can tell you, I have cried so much because I just didn’t know what to do. I felt totally useless and thought I am just no good with horses. I still persevered though and kept trying to communicate with Rudy, always doing my very best to make him happy and comfortable. Rudy wears his heart on his sleeve so to speak, showing his angry feelings (which is most of the time) as well as when he is happy. After finding out Rudy wasn’t in pain anywhere, I decided to look for a different training method, one that could help me with Rudy’s behavioural issues. I am a great believer in things happen for a reason, we might not know at the time why, it does make sense in the end.
October last year, positive reinforcement came into our lives. I researched a lot (there is a huge amount of information on the subject and not all is what it seems). Anyway, I finally found a training method and coach to work with Rudy and me in October 2018. There was something I had to stop doing though, I had to stop riding Rudy. It wasn’t a hard decision to make, as I wanted to give the training 100% commitment. The reason for stopping riding is so we can restart Rudy, giving us a clean slate so to speak. Positive reinforcement training is not a quick fix. It takes a lot of time, hard work, patience and learning. Rudy and I are 3 months into our +R journey and it has not been easy going. I make lots of mistakes, as I am learning to understand Rudy and vice versa, plus learning how to be a +R horse owner. I video our training sessions and send them to our coach. She reviews the videos and then gives me feedback on what I’m doing right and what changes I need to make to overcome any challenges Rudy gives me. Rudy and I train in all weathers and mostly out in his field. Thankfully he has his Derby House rugs to keep him dry and warm. I have my gorgeous jacket to keep me warm and dry and my cosy comfy riding tights and jods. I’d be lost without my boots and socks to keep the wet and cold at bay too.
The changes I have seen in Rudy since starting +R might be small, they all add up though. He now comes to me even when it isn’t tea time. He puts his nose into his head collar. He moves towards me when I use the rubber curry comb on him to scratch him. I am loving it and Rudy is too.
There will be those (hopefully still reading this blog) who think I am crazy and those who are curious and those who already use +R training. There is one thing for sure, all animals learn in the same way, even humans, it just depends if you decide to use traditional training methods or +R training methods. I know which I prefer to use. Force free training can be used on any animal. Our coach even uses it on her chickens as well as her dog, cats and of course her horses. It is fun and can be used to teach all sorts of things. If you follow Rudy and me on Facebook, you have probably seen some of the things we get up to. So until next time, enjoy your horse or pony and the precious time you spend together.
Have you experienced behavioural issues in your horse and have you any advice for fellow horse owners? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.