Teaching Naughty Behavior with a Purpose
Sometimes I think it's important to test "naughty" behavior with a horse to see how they might react in a future home. For example, over the past week I have been leading Golden Dove down the aisle together with Lady MacJazz for turnout, and tonight I worked on allowing her to walk in and out of her stall without being led.
I do this primarily for two reasons. First, because I want to be sure I expose a sale horse to as much as possible in preparation for whatever type of new home environment they might encounter. Although my goal for Golden Dove is to place her in a forever home, it's still possible that her new owner will have her in a boarding facility where they allow the horses to walk into their stalls on their own via a chute from the pastures. Or maybe it will be a facility where they lead multiple horses at a time. I want to be make Dove's transition as easy as possible by exposing her to as much as I can while she is with me.
The second reason I practice what I would typically consider undesirable behaviors is because testing these behaviors often can lay the ground work for training a desirable behavior or it can give me insight into how a horse might react in a new situation.
I actually put the end of our session at the beginning of the video since it's a longer video.
By practicing allowing Dove to walk in and out of her stall without a halter, I am laying a foundation for self loading in a trailer (a skill I think every horse should learn), and I am also giving her the added confidence to know that sometimes it's okay to venture out on your own as long as you have permission to do it. I want her to feel relaxed when approaching new challenges without being concerned and stressed that what she might perceive could yield a negative outcome. She needs to understand that if I say it's okay, that she can trust she won't get hurt or punished so she can move forward with confidence and trust in our bond. That will also play a big part under saddle in how she approaches obstacles on a trail ride or new sights at a show for instance.
As I mentioned in the video, this is not a behavior I would encourage someone to train their horse to do on their own, but I also chose to put my "addendum" at the beginning of the video to show that any behavior can be taught as long as you still maintain respect. Think about a movie horse that is taught to rear on command...not exactly the most desirable behavior, but when trained appropriately the horse can learn that it is only acceptable when prompted.
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By Kyle Rothfus
This blog is dedicated to providing insight about OTTB re-training, Thoroughbred pedigrees and general equine care. You can also track the progress of horses I have for sale through posts here.