Mas and I took a short ride on Sunday with Stephanie and Morado. I rode bareback and used a bridle rather than a halter. Our short ride started with me searching over the arena panel for Mas’s bridle, which I couldn’t find so I climbed into the caboose’s tack room and searched.
All the while I was paying attention to Mas and making sure he was okay with me being in the caboose. For a few seconds he seemed very still and quiet while I had my back to him. I turned around to find him nosing a corner of the caboose, trying to reach an old apple on the floor. I started laughing and grabbed the apple, holding it out for him to bite into.
Finally, I found his bridle, the one with the blue ribbon on the headstall, and climbed down to the ground. I have noticed that Mas is not keen on taking the bridle and bit. This was never a problem for me and the horses that I had growing up–a good thing that I learned early on was never to rush the bridling process and always make it an enjoyable experience for the horse. Don’t jam the bit into the horses teeth and mouth and don’t force the headstall over his ears. Similarly, don’t pull the bridle off of the horse when your done, and don’t yank the bit out of his mouth.
Noticing that Mas was not accepting of the bridle, I walked over to the outdoor arena, where Stephanie was riding Morado, and asked for some help. I wanted to learn to put the bridle on with “savvy” and learn to do it naturally. Stephanie told me to first play the friendly game with the bridle and then use some approach and retreat tactics with it, every time getting a bit closer to putting it on. Mas is very dominate and as Stephanie likes to say, “He is dissing you!”. I need to learn to be a bit more assertive with him, but still fair and friendly.
After I had the bridle on I walked over to the pedestal and climbed on Mas’s back. Then I began learning how to make eating grass a bit harder than moving the feet. Mas likes to eat grass. Well, Mas likes to eat pretty much anything–he has a high food drive. Every time I became distracted (or started talking too much) Mas would put his head down and eat. What would you do if your horse dropped his head to eat? Instinct might say, pull up on the reins. That is what I tried to do before Stephanie said not to pull on the reins but instead drive him forward. Ask him to move his feet by sending energy from your body into his body. It may even take a bit of prompting from the carrot stick or the tail end of the lead rope to move those feet.
Parelli talks about how learning the Seven Games and playing them with your horse helps to establish you as the alpha. He says:
“The natural horse training solution for a horse eating grass is to be understanding and considerate of horses, which might mean allowing some grazing time before asking for a horse’s full attention. By allowing this now and then – but only when you invite it – you’re being a considerate partner and a firm leader. But be sure to give your horse permission rather than just letting him plunge his head down whenever he feels like it. Invite him by using Game #2 of the Parelli Seven Games – the Porcupine Game. Simply lower your horse’s head to the ground when you want him to graze.
If you never let your horse eat grass while you’re riding, he’ll take every opportunity to lunge at the grass, even unseating a rider to get at it. But if you’ve proved to your horse that you’re not an unreasonable person, and that you’re considerate of his desires, he is less likely to resent you or resist your attempts to shift his behavior.
When your horse lowers his head, allow him to start munching without even touching the reins or rope, then smooch and lightly begin tapping his hindquarters, becoming firmer and firmer until his head pops up. Stop tapping right away and rub.
At first it may be a surprised reaction and his head may go right down again. Just repeat the smooch and progressively firmer tapping until his head comes up, then rub him again. Very quickly, a quiet smooch is all it will take to ask your horse to lift his head from eating grass. He will learn to graze when you invite him to, and to stand respectfully until you do. He’ll stop to think whether he’s been invited to eat before just hauling you off for a snack.
Patience and Persistence
Be prepared to out-persist your horse on this. Once your phased firmness and timing of the rub is effective, the change is lasting, and it sure beats the old habit of pulling on the reins or the lead rope to stop a horse eating grass – not to mention the resentment that builds in response to your lack of regard for his desires.” You can read the entire post at Parelli’s website: http://www.parellinaturalhorsetraining.com/video/eating-grass/.
So the next time I’m with Mas, I will invite him to eat grass and then ask him to move forward after a few bites, and continue this game. I’ll let you know how it goes!