When did you last teach your horse something new?

Since my last post, it’s been discovered through extra blood tests that Yogi does have an active Lyme infection – his mild positive on the initial one was because its a new infection. He could, I suppose, possibly fight it off himself but given his Cushings and given his recent illness, the Vet doesn’t want to take any chance and neither do I. His treatment has got me thinking…

My horses are now 18 (Yogi) and 12 (Swift). We’ve been here, there, everywhere and have numerous T-shirts. I’ve worked out their strengths and weaknesses and either alter what I do to cater for these or have trained some of those weaknesses away (see my page about the learning curve). 

When we were all initially new to each other the ratio of training vs doing was probably 9:1 – these days we generally sit at 0:10. They know all they need to know (to do what we do) and if there’s something they won’t do, then it’s probably quicker just to work around it. A work around is acceptable because the “thing they won’t do” is small fry in the bigger scheme of things (see earlier post about Yogi only approaching gates on his left). 

Having to syringe some meds into Yogi twice a day shook all this up. He has never been good with syringes / wormers but I had a work around for the 1-2 times a year I needed to do that. She is a friend and neighbour and is the fastest wormer in the west (or Scotland at least). I couldn’t call on her to come twice a day for a month to work her magic but I did call on her to help me get started with a system. 

She experimented with different approaches and quickly hit on something that could be worked with. Not only is she quick with a syringe but she’s quick to read a horse and to work out what they need. I was also quick to realise that I could do this – it was obvious how I needed to train Yogi to accept his new twice daily routine. 

So why hadn’t I worked that out myself?  Why had I needed a friend to show me the way? Because I’d forgotten that I knew how to train. How strange is that?  If I think of where my horses started to where they are now – we spent years concentrating on the training with very little doing taking place. Once we progressed with the doing though, it was a fairly rapid switch of ratios until doing was all we … well … did! 

Five intense but short training sessions later and Yogi is only stepping back a couple of steps as I put the syringe near his mouth. He then politely opens his mouth for me – anticipating (calmly) what’s coming next … bless! I’m pretty sure if I didn’t have an urgent need to actually get the medicine in him twice a day (which tastes disgusting he says) I could have him standing perfectly still in no time at all. 

That, however, is small fry and a couple of backward steps is acceptable from a horse who’s natural stress reaction is to move his feet as fast as he can. I’ve enjoyed the challenge and the reward and I’m already considering what to teach him and Swift next.  Swift is also accepting a syringe now and my neighbour – although still appreciated – is now redundant.  If we can’t do what we normally do due to illness, well let’s do something new! 

The vets who treated both Swift and Yogi when they have been unwell recently are astounded that I’m having success with the syringing and want me to teach them to accept needles next 🤣  That might be some way off but I will spend some time thinking of a trail skill that needs work or maybe a few tricks just for fun. 

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