A SPECIAL POST BY ADIVA MURPHY
Question: I am hoping that you can give us some suggestions on how to handle our three foals from this year. We are totally baffled and so have come to the expert looking for advice.
Fancee, Magpie and Missy are great once you get a halter on them. They will lead, back up, allow you to pick up their feet and yesterday they got their first official trimming and were as quiet as they could be. The problem arises when the halters come off. They will not come anywhere near either Jack or I. When I put their feed in their buckets they run from me like I am the devil. Never has this happened before. When we finally corral them and get halters on them, they will nuzzle up to me like I am their best friend in the world. Magpie scares me when we try and get a halter on her because she tries to go over the fence that is taller than I am. Again, once the halter is on she is just fine, in fact she is the smartest one of the bunch this year.
Normally by this time the foals are in my space and fighting to be the first one to get scratches from me. I am at a loss as to why these foals are acting this way. The only thing different that happened this year was that the foals were out on the hills in a herd situation but they saw me as much as any of the previous foals have.
Answer: First thing I would do is put some time aside for a few days to ‘spend undemanding time’ – grab a bucket to sit on and sit in the middle of their pen for about 30min. don’t do anything, after about 10 min they will get curious as to why you are there…let them smell you, nibble on the jacket etc. Try not to pet them until they have checked you out. Day 2 – when they come up to you sitting on your bucket – pet them in their favorite places…etc etc.
This is a very passive way of building the confidence up…a faster way – or in addition to the above don’t feed the grain unless they come to you holding the bucket – then not only can’t they eat alone – they have to let
you pet them while they eat.
Even better if the facility can – separate them – sounds like they are a tight herd and don’t need people for companionship. So separate them for a week or so and then do all of the above. They will come around fast when they are lonely.
Graining them separate for a week can help too…so that you catch them individually and feed them, rub them and turn them out again. This method will be more time consuming as you need to force them to be caught first…I would sit in the pen and let them check me out first…then if there was a particular horse that needed more – they would get brought out to feed.
The bottom line is these guys don’t see the point in being your friend – so give them a reason.
Adiva Murphy is a great communicator and talented horseman and clinician, who seamlessly blends both English and Western disciplines. She brings clarity and structure to her students, taking the complicated concepts of Natural Horsemanship and breaking them down into clear, simple, straight forward steps that anyone can follow.