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.
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.