Sunday, August 5, 2012
Horse Games: Legs and Hooves
When I first got Pacem we played a lot of games. Just like with people, games are a great way to train horses.
Pacem was very young and also a very 'hot' breed of horse. He was barely three years old when I got him, and was a (rather inbred) pure Polish Arabian. He had energy to burn. It would have been a huge mistake to treat him roughly in any way. He had had very little human contact prior to me getting him, and his first contact with me was when a family friend literally picked up his hind quarters and pushed him into the stock trailer.
One of my favorites was a game to teach Pacem to pick up his feet nicely.
1)I spent a lot of time playing the first part of the game. I would touch Pacem's legs and feet gently and stay there until he stood absolutely still. Then I would walk away. I got to the point where I could rub his belly (which he loved) and he even got good with his hind legs. One leg I had to rub with a stick for a while before he would let me touch it with my hand, but it was still basically the same game.
2) I would run my hand down Pacem's leg and touch the hoof. If he stood still, I would walk away.
3) I would run my hand down Pacem's leg, touch his hoof, then tickled the back of his fetlock with my finger. I kept tickling him there until he picked up his foot (even a tiny bit) and then I would walk away. At first I would just accept the shifting of weight away from the foot I was touching.
The game ended when Pacem lifted up his foot anytime I ran my hand down his leg and touched his hoof.
It was really fun, actually, and he became a champion for hoof cleaning!
I never got upset or blew up at him, even if he got rowdy. Sometimes I had to go back to Step one and go from the beginning again. Through me staying calm and not punishing him when he got hot, we formed a really strong bond, which eventually led to me being able to 'ski' around the dirt in the arena being pulled along by his tail... but that was after a few more games!