Moses came in yesterday for 30 days of training. The owner says he's dominant and she is not always comfortable in his space. He has kicked her and intimidates her. So when he got here yesterday, I let him investigate the space at liberty for awhile. He displayed his dominance to my herd from across the fence as I observed. That looked like posturing, tossing his head and rolling repeatedly. After awhile I took him with halter and long line to the field where I hoped he would stay during his time here. I showed him around and simply claimed the space around me and my projected path. We stopped at every fleck of hay and I shared food with him. Calmly with controlled energy and excitement, we explored the space.
While Mo's attention was on everything, he had an ear cocked on me the whole time. When he got fixated on something in the distance, I thoroughly got invested in whatever it was as well, then decided, like a leader, that nothing was wrong and we should move on to the important work of investigating the new space. When his head was below his withers, and he was blowing and looking for grass to chew on, we went into the round pen and I removed all strings. He was very connected to me, following me wherever I went feeling like a herd of two. So we picked up the pace trotting together. Without looking at him I could feel his head come up above his withers, so I came down to the walk making my circle much smaller so as to keep the walk and continue to slow down. As soon as he looked at me, I invited him in. Rinsed and repeated until he was able to trot with me without his head coming up. That happened through walk, trot, stop transitions. It took about 20 minutes and I opened the gate and we went out. I was hoping he wanted to go to the water trough to drink; instead he went to the water trough with me and got interested in where the girls are. Then he went to the creek and was very interested in crossing.
Now if he had gone down the bank and crossed the creek, he would have been out in the general population with my herd and on the track of my paddock paradise. I did not want this to happen. So I observed for the better part of an hour and made the determination that he would cross the creek if caught up in enough excitement and given the dominant tendencies I have already witnessed, I was sure he wanted to go cavort with the big girls. So I put up an electric barrier where I thought he would cross, thinking it was done.
He went back into the round pen and rolled repeatedly, violently, I suspected he had some discomfort and he began to paw at the ground. I've seen this horse show signs of colic in a situation where he was worried. So I put his rope on him and took him; keeping the belly of the rope on the ground, once again, to the water. He checked it out but did not drink, so we went to see if he wanted to stand on the tires. When he got focused on the task at hand he did lots of licking and chewing. It was a nice connection, so while he was still on the tire, I took off all strings and left him alone. He showed no signs of discomfort. I went to get him some hay. When I arrived in the field with the hay, I was immediately accosted for the food, he ripped it right out of my hands. Hmmmmmm another sign of dominant behavior, claiming the food.
With no fuss, just noticing, I walked away to get my stick. Now prepared, I was very clear about claiming the hay. I did not touch him, just claimed the hay, like I have seen other horses do countless times. When he looked at me longingly, questioning, I picked up the fleck of hay walked it over to him and I walked away. I did that a few more times, all the while being clear, fair, friendly and unwaivering in my intention to claim the food. He responded with more and more respect each time.
With only one more short session online for the day, just asking him to lower his head in motion and relax, I considered the day a success. Then came the first night.
Earlier in the day I noticed that Mo and Summer seemed to like one another. So as the light of the day waned, I had a thought that I did not listen to. I should leave Summer in the field with Moses. It may not be enough that the whole herd is just on the other side of the fence on the track, eating hay next to him. So, at 2AM I am woke to the sound of rolling thunder. It sounded like it was just rolling around the house. I went out and found the whole herd in the front lawn including Moses! I have no idea how he got out of the field and onto the track with everyone. So by the time I got out back to see if anyone was left (only Sterling - Yelling for the herd) the thunder rolled right up to me! Lots of energy and I'm pretty sure there was not a bit of moonlight. I got a rope and went in and put it on Moses, then took him out to the space just behind the barn, Summer happily came with us. There they were quietly together for the rest of the night.........
All in all a very interesting first 24 hours!