Saturday, December 18, 2010

39. Handling Level 2

Goal: Allows hands rubbed all over body, including head and ears, no cues
(This is a general overall allowing you to handle his body, not specifics such as opening mouth, poking in ears or lifting tail for inspection. Those come later after he trusts you to handle him and each need specific training.)

Continue your training from Level 1, choosing new locations to start 'advance and retreat' and 'work the clock' from.

An easy location is to start from the shoulder and work from top to bottom of the barrel and front to back towards the hip, again working both sides.

Start at the top of the shoulder and work your way down and around the front legs to the hoof. Repeat for the back.
Handle the chest, top to bottom, middle to point of shoulder on each side. Work down the middle of the back, loin to the croup.
From the top of the tail, work down the tail. Try a gentle even pull on the tail (not a tug which can be startling), Move the tail hair around to begin getting the horse accustomed to having his tail braided and the like.
From the poll, work around the ears, handle the fetlock, and down the face including the muzzle. (Conversely, he may prefer you starting at his nose and working up to his poll. Let the horse tell you which he prefers).
Include general handling the sheath or udder. (It helps if your hands are warm so the temperature won't be shocking to the horse)
Make sure all parts of the horse have been handled by the time you have finished training the general handling.

Note any areas the horse shows any sensitivity to touching (on both sides) and address those only after you have completed handling the rest of the horse. This will allow you to start building trust so he will let you approach and work those areas.

Also note any areas that the horse enjoys you touching. These might include above the tail, below the tail, mane, withers etc. These can be used in place of food rewards later in training.

Sensitive Spots
Go back to the areas you have identified and use an even more gentle approach than you did before, progressing slowly. Start where the horse is relaxed and comfortable and work your way in. Let the horse decide how fast you will progress. This can be a long process, depending on the horse. Again, use the ‘advance and retreat’ and ‘work the clock’ circling inward to the sensitive spot.

After he is comfortable with handling these spots, you can include these spots in a ‘once over’ handling of the horse where you start at the head and work your way to the back of the horse and down, touching all spots. This is another way to assess any sensitive spots that may have developed due to equipment rubbing later on. Always keep an eye on the horse's subtle body language for indication there may be pain or fear.

Recording the Horse’s Progress
It helps if you keep a running list of where you have already worked, especially if you are training several horses at once. Having two blank diagrams of a horse (one for each side) where you can make notes each training session or just put a check mark where you have successfully trained is very helpful. You can also write down sensitive and enjoyable spots as you notice them. Ideally a clipboard works well as you can hang it out on a nail of the horse’s reach but where it is easily accessible to you. If you have access to technology and can remember to enter data after the session, you can record your training digitally.

1 comment:

  1. One sensitive area for many horses is the sheath (for geldings) or udder (for mares). It often takes extra training to get the horse use to having this area handled.

    And, it's a good area to be cautious at first. Many will kick out if they're not use to having their sheath or udder handled.