Yes, it was definitely time. Zeke needed to be tied up for the first time in his life.
The day started out just fine, I went into his stall in the morning with a green horseblanket he had never seen before, and with pretty much no fuss at all, put it on him and walked him around in the stall.
So great – he’s been consistently more accepting of being approached, although he does still have a bit of ‘suck back’ to him. He gives you the idea that he might leave, if he decides you’re not OK. But it was time for another chance to walk outside of the pen, this time with no barriers, just a real walk around the ranch. So we stepped out of the pen.
We walked around, we met the goats and even though they seemed scary at first, Zeke accepted them just fine. On our way back towards his pen, BAM – another breakaway and run. There is just NO way I can hold an 800lb horse if he wants to leave! So as I swore and dusted myself off, Cindy calmly said, “It’s time to tie that boy up.”
The idea is that for the first time ever, Zeke would try to leave and not be able to. We tied him up high, so he wouldn’t get tangled in the rope and could move under it, then I began gently sacking him with a towel. I didn’t try to scare him, I just made movements big and small all around him, until he decided he didn’t like it and wanted to leave. That’s when he hit the rope, and panicked, and fought like the wild horse he is! It’s upsetting to see, but it has to be done. He doesn’t just get to go whenever he feels like it – and he needs to understand that in the end, nothing at all bad will happen to him if he waits.
So we did all kinds of towel play, until he learned that leaving and pulling back got him nothing but more stress, while stepping forward then remaining quiet got him a pat. After that, he stood there learning patience for over an hour. He wasted some of that time with trying to paw and show his displeasure, but he quickly learned that that got him nothing, so he stopped. When the session was over, he went nicely back to his pen.
For the rest of the day, I did a lot of approach and retreat, and found he was much better, and no longer had that ‘suck back’ feeling when I went in. Maybe some of the “no leaving” lesson actually sank in!
So that ended our Wednesday, February 29th session. Over this weekend, Cindy is helping me out by tying Zeke up whenever she has time, since I will be at work. I don’t want to hold him back by waiting so long between sessions that he forgets and has to start over! But I do see a difference each day as I go in to groom or pet him on my way to work, and I sincerely hope our next walk will be a good one!