My Sweet Sugary Shortcake

Sep
21

Shortcake had her first farrier visit here yesterday afternoon. Here she is in the crossties, awaiting her fate.

Getting ready for the farrier means:


1. Shut off the goats and sheep to the upper barn field.

2. Get Jack and Poky to the front barnyard.

3. Shut Jack and Poky in a stall in the barn.

4. Get the horses to the front barnyard.

5. Trick Shortcake into the alleyway.

6. Crosstie Shortcake.

7. Tie Zip to the hitching post.

Then you do all of this in reverse when it’s over, which works better if you actually do it in reverse. Yesterday, I let the goats and sheep out before getting Jack and Poky situated, which caused all kinds of trouble, but eventually I got everyone sorted to their proper fields. It was just a little more trouble than necessary. Then I came home last night after some master gardener volunteer work and found THE ENTIRE GANG (goats and sheep and even Chloe) on my back porch. That’s another story, but they were all back where they belonged before I went to bed.

I actually never tie anybody to the hitching post, by the way. I just wrap the end of a lead rope around the hitching post and they think they’re tied. Ha. Yes, SOMETIMES I GET ONE OVER ON THEM INSTEAD OF ALWAYS THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

Shortcake was perfectly behaved.

She’s such a little doll!! She was so wonderful at the party. She gave pony rides for about an hour and a half, longer than scheduled, but there was always someone waiting to ride her. She was perfectly patient and calm throughout the rides. She was led in circles around the front barnyard with a different rider on her back every few minutes, sometimes walking through a crowd of people.

Shortcake, with little–and big–riders at the party.


It would be interesting to know more about her background, but I know nothing other than that she was picked up off a horse trader. She’s possibly a mix of Paso Fino/Quarter/Halflinger. She’s short, but stout. (Morgan likes to call her Sausage.) She wasn’t a serious neglect case–she wasn’t starved or abused. She doesn’t trust people–thus her “catching” problem. Most likely, she’s been through a long series of owners and may have never been truly loved, or perhaps she was a long time ago then entered the horse trading circuit and lost her trust. There’s no way to know. What is clear is that she has been ridden, quite a bit. Once she’s caught, her behavior is near perfection. I say near perfection because my one complaint with her (when riding), if you can call it that, is that she has a lot of get up and go. That’s not a bad thing, really, except that all I want her to do is walk. I’m content to simply amble around the farm on her back, looking at stuff, going to visit the cows, or just meandering up the road and back. She’s a relatively young horse (maybe about 7) and she’s energetic. On the upside, she’s very obedient. If she starts up with her get-up-and-go stuff, I just remind her that we’re only walking and she slows right back down. She’ll get used to how boring I am eventually! Between how short she is and how obedient she is, I feel so safe and comfortable riding her. The other evening, I rode her up the road along my farm, out to where the road turns to a gravel road, and down to the neighbor’s house, and back. All by myself!

You can see her size a little better when she’s next to Zip. Shortcake is 13.3 hands, and Zip is 15 hands.

She’s going to need a lot of work on the “catching” thing, but she’s worth it. Here’s what she does–if you walk toward her (with or without a halter), she’s off. Off, I tell you, off! She does not want to be caught. She runs away. Now if you’ve got an hour and a half or maybe two hours (I speak from experience), you can wear her down. But by then, you don’t really feel like riding. She is not swayed by directly offering her any kind of food/treat that I’ve found so far. Best bet is to get Zip and take her to the barn, because Shortcake will follow. Once you get Shortcake in the alleyway, you can walk right up to her and put a halter on her and from that magical moment on she transforms into the most wonderful horse on Earth. Of course, she’s figured out this alleyway trick and is more often loathe to enter the alleyway each time. Yesterday, I tricked her in there with a bale of hay at the back of the alleyway. Offering food indirectly without my presence does work. I went back to the house and waited for her to be sucked in by the bale of hay. Then I sneaked back into the barnyard, crept along the front of the barn like a cat, and shut the gate to the front of the alleyway before she knew I was coming. If she’d known I was coming, she’d have been out of there like a rocket. But she didn’t, so she stood there like a little dream doll while I got her haltered and crosstied, and charmed the farrier with her sweet compliance while her hooves were worked. He said when he goes to work with a new horse, he can tell most of what he needs to know by looking in their eyes and that she was a good one, kind and smart. Every knowledgeable horse person who’s been around her says the same.

After I get my book in, I’ll have more free time this fall to work with her. Everyone I talk to has an idea on how to solve this problem, but maybe there’s an idea I haven’t heard yet. Feel free to throw yours in if you’ve got one! Remember that 1) directly offering food doesn’t work, and 2) I’ve tried the walking, walking, walking her down thing. (Not chasing or running after her, just walking her down. I read about that method on some natural horsemanship site, can’t remember which one, and let me tell you, after several days of doing that, it took longer and longer each time–instead of shorter and shorter–until I was too tired to keep it up.)

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on September 21, 2012  

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17 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 9-21
    8:00
    am

    I know very little about horses…but she sure was a doll at the Party on the Farm. There were a lot of happy little people after she gave them rides.

  2. 9-21
    8:23
    am

    Look at ‘approach and retreat’, which really does work with catching problems. Rather than just walking at her, you go just until she shows signs she’s going to move off, then stop and walk away from her. Wait, see if she’s stopped, then repeat. She’ll get curious as to just what you are doing! Basically you will mirror her behaviour and that will build her confidence. Make sure the halter you are holding is in full view, you aren’t trying to trick her, as that would lose her confidence in you. Don’t actually halter her when you reach her every time, praise her and then walk away. It’s explained better on quite a few natural horsemanship courses, but it really does work, just takes as long as it takes with each individual horse!
    Just to add, I’m really loving hearing about your progress with Shortcake, she’s a doll!

  3. 9-21
    8:38
    am

    The method mentioned above of mirroring her behavior sounds like a good idea. I don’t have experience with horses but it seems that if she is willing to follow Zip to the barn I would continue with that, but keep taking her there, leaving food to entice her into the alley, but then just pet her, let her enjoy the small treat you left there, and then let her go. Do this repeatedly, more times without the intent to ride than with it, maybe even to the point where she will come in without any treat awaiting her, but give her a small one from your hand after she is there. She needs to associate you with good things, not the halter. She seems to associate being caught with a bad result. You need to change that in her mind, so that it is usually something really good. I think she will come around eventually anyway, just because nothing bad ever does happen after she is caught. It seems like at some time in her life she didn’t like what happened after her owner caught her and developed this mis trust and bad habit. Patience will pay off. Don’t force it, or she will never trust you.

  4. 9-21
    8:49
    am

    Play a flute – didn’t that work for the Pied Piper?
    Only other thing I can think of is barrels of patience.

  5. 9-21
    8:58
    am

    :fairy: I hate to say it but the sneaky thing is not gonna do
    anything to build her confidence in you. Everytime you resort to that it destroys any progress you’ve made…even if you feel you haven’t made progress you probably have. It will be a hard won battle but one i’m sure is worth it. Has Zip been ridden too? You don’t talk about your daughter riding him much…….

  6. 9-21
    9:07
    am

    Morgan has not been riding Zip since volleyball started, so she will have to work hard with Zip when that’s over!

  7. 9-21
    10:14
    am

    I know you say offering food directly doesn’t work, but I’ve had a couple of horses with similar issues. What worked for us was just going out to do chores while eating apples. Do your chores while eating the apple. Loud crunches are good to get their attention. Toss the core towards her when you’re done. Walk away like you don’t care whether she goes after it. Once she starts eating the apple cores and gets used to the routine, she’ll start expecting them. (A few weeks). She’ll be waiting and watching as you go out to do chores. Keep tossing the cores, but not as far away from you.

    Eventually (it may take a few months) she’ll see you head out and start coming to you for the apple. When she gets brave enough to take it from your hand, spend the next couple of weeks just loving her, petting her, talking to her. Don’t try to catch her yet.

    After a few weeks, then take her and halter her and ask her to work sometimes, but not every day. You don’t want her to associate the apple with work all the time yet.

    If you keep at it you will eventually have a pest who tries to molest you at the gate to get that apple.

    Good luck.

  8. 9-21
    10:30
    am

    Maybe you just need to strap on your red super hero cape and that will do the trick! Sorry that’s all I could come up with. I don’t have any farm animals, just dogs.

  9. 9-21
    12:37
    pm

    This is definitely fixable and should be pretty easy. Talk to your trainer about the Anderson method for this. She should come to you and follow you in without a halter. Also maybe look into Chris Cox method. It’s about getting and holding their eye, so you’re the leader.

  10. 9-21
    12:59
    pm

    She looks so much like my daughter’s former pony. Cinnamon is/was a Kentucky Mountain pony, who was also 13.3. It is helpful when attempting to catch a hard-to-catch horse to keep your energy low… If you are frustrated and thinking “Man, I need to catch this horse because i need to do this and this and I don’t have that much time.. etc etc etc.. They can feel that and react accordingly.. When you have time, just go out in the pasture (with treats, of course) and just SIT. Walk to where their comfort zone ends and sit down and doodle, or read, or look around at your pasture, etc.. They will usually get curious and come over. When they do, offer treats and pets.. don’t attempt to catch or hold them just pet them everywhere they will let you. You can even stay seated and pet her from the ground. Tell her what a good girl she is.. Then, when you are out of treats or time,… leave.. Soon she’ll realize that interaction doesn’t always mean work.. When you do work her, be sure to end it on a good note. When you take off her halter to turn her loose, or unsnap the lead rope to turn her loose, keep the rope looped around her neck (but other wise free) and pet her and give her treats before letting her run off to join her buddies. She is certainly a pretty little thing and seems to be a good little horse otherwise.. With patience i know you can work through her catch issue.

  11. 9-21
    3:37
    pm

    I suggest that you confine the horses to a smaller space and put a close fitting breakaway halter on her. I don’t advocate turning horses out with halters on normally but in this case it stacks the deck in your favor. If you don’t have a paddock you could slice up the pasture with hot tape and t-posts and pretend you’re rotational grazing but however you accomplish it I really recommend a smaller area, if she doesn’t have the whole pasture to run around in you won’t get nearly as winded so she will be less likely to “win.”

    I also suggest that you choose an area that sees heavy human traffic, or that you make sure to traffic their area heavily, and that you completely ignore her and call Zip to you and then fuss over and treat Zip every time a you go in there. Since Morgan is otherwise occupied you might consider taking a few minutes every day to work with Zip in their enclosure with Miss Shortycake right in there with you, watching you (or ignoring you, but remember they can see in a 360 degree panorama) and then give Zip her lovin’s and treats and still ignore Miss Shortycake. You may decide to only curry her or lead Zip around in a circle a few times but hey, as long as you make sure that she is being respectful and following the rules then that’s working with her.

    I used to have a treat can that I made by tossing a small handful of dry corn into one can then hot gluing a second can into that so that when I shook it no matter what I had in it the sexy grain rattle was there. I did that because most horses and ponies know the sound of feed and find it as enticing as I do chocolate, but I’d rather not use feed as a treat for horses and ponies that aren’t getting regular workouts. Unfortunately the sound of apple peels and carrot ends just isn’t as appealing. I’m also mean enough that I’d walk Zip over nearish to Miss Shortycake and give Zip the treats right there where she can see, smell, and hear Zip munching away. If she shows tentative interest you can offer her one but she has to come get it, if she barges on in then either chase her away or at the very least abruptly turn and exit, you don’t want to reward bad behavior. It may take a while, but eventually she’ll come around. Even if you choose not to follow the training advice, do confine her as it will make catching her easier. If you have to catch her before she’s come around, you might try having a helper or two with a rope stretched between them herd her into a corner. If you only have one helper once she’s in the corner tie the rope to the fence and step in to get her.

    I had a pony that was cantankerous and full of tricks but once we came to an arrangement he was every bit as sweet (although he was still full of tricks) as Miss Shortycake is. Up until the day he passed away Cat would still take to the hills every once in a while just to keep me on my toes. He was the same height as Miss Shortycake, was 13 years old when I bought him, I was his 15th owner in the 11 years since he left his breeder, and he was so incredibly totally over the people thing that he’d taken to threatening to rear when you tried to catch him just to get people to leave him alone. Really, he made a great big show of it but if his feet actually left the ground it was a red letter day LOL. Once he understood I wasn’t buying it he pulled out his extensive bag of tricks and the challenge was on. I love a challenge. BTW I called him shortycakes all the time, I hope you can overlook my taking the liberty with Shortcakes’ name.

  12. 9-22
    12:12
    am

    I gentle ‘wild’ horses by reading to them. A pasture is big enough for them to ignore me, so I usually keep them by themselves in a small corral or paddock for a week or two. They get lonely without their buddies.

    I have a carrot or oatmeal cookie in my pocket but I go into their space, sit down and read out loud several times a day. They get used to me sharing their space, even though I want nothing. Then they relax and sniff me, which is when I offer some casual treat before going back to reading. I always end up with a horsey friend.

    Shortcake is smart enough to know the difference between work and casual. I think when she realizes that her time with you is always pleasant, she will change her ways. Someone was unpleasant to her and she is still reacting. Patience and she will follow you like a dog :)

  13. 9-22
    3:49
    am

    I have trained and ridden horses for years. You have to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. You need to keep Shortcake in a smaller area for at least a little while (makes it easier to make her work). If she refuses to come to you when you come into her pasture, ask her to canter around you, using a buggy whip or even the leadrope itself. When you stop making her move, see if she turns to you. If she turns away, make her run again. Every time she turns away, she has to work. Horses are intrinsically lazy, and they want to rest. She will learn that the best place to be is close to you. Keep her moving unless she turns to you. I’m sorry – it’s so much easier to demonstrate than explain.

  14. 9-22
    6:35
    am

    I’ve watched a few episodes of the Horse Whisperer. What he does is turns his back to the horse. They’re just too curious and eventually Shortcake will wonder what you’re doing.

  15. 9-23
    4:58
    am

    Taryn, with respect, that method will work for a single horse in a small space such as a round pen, but less intensive ways, like sitting around with a book and an apple in the pasture, and approach and retreat will work just fine in a bigger space especially with another horse in there.

  16. 9-27
    3:27
    pm

    I completely agree with Taryn. You do not want to use the treat method of catching a horse because there will come a time when you dont have a treat for them, you dont want to have to treat them for coming to you, and most importantly it will not work for long (which I think you said you are already experiencing with her now only stretching her neck out to get her peppermint). You need to gain her respect and you do that in horsey language. The high horse can always move the lower horses feet.

    Put her in a smaller area (a round pen would be idea, but you can use hot wire to make a small round area). Keep her there for a few days, maybe a week and work with her every day even if just for a few minutes. Like someone else said, when you go into the round pen approach her if she doesn’t face you then you make her “work” or run around the round pen by driving by staying behind her driveline and keep your body in a more agressive stance. When she licks her lips or puts the inside ear toward (that means she is accepting you as boss and thinking about whats going on… not just running away) you let her stop by taking a step back and if she faces you. You take a step toward her and see if she stays or leaves. If she stays take another step or so slowly, keeping your body small and unthreatening. If she moves away, thats fine but she has to work and make her run again. She will rather quickly realize that facing you and letting you approach is much easier than running. You could in theory do the same thing in a big field if you could move as fast as them but the purpose of a round pen is to let them continue to run from you without ever getting too far away.

    There are lots of videos on YouTube about round penning horses. It really is the best answer, not treats. The treats only hurt because its a temp solution and eventually it undermines any confidence in you she gets because when she trusts you to come close enough for the treat you catch her and make her work. Make her coming close to you the EASY SOLUTION because avoiding you is harder because you’ll make her run which is more work.

    Good Luck!

  17. 9-29
    3:25
    pm

    Most of these ideas will bring about success but each horse is different and responds differently to each idea. I have a very sweet paso fino mare who couldn’t care less about treats and ran away whenever I came to catch her ~ of course it was ALWAYS with lead rope in hand and to ride her. What worked for her was just going over and hanging with her. I even took a chair to her paddock and sat there reading in the afternoon a few times. I also spent time just loving on her and giving belly scratches (She LOVES that). It only took about 2 weeks and the running completely stopped! Hope that helps.

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