Neither horse has had much handling, although both accept being touched. Gatsby, a dark red sorrel gelding, really enjoys being scratched and rubbed, especially on his neck. Daisy, a lanky chestnut mare, is a bit more shy–she seems to like getting scratched, but she will move off if she gets a bit worried. I started off by just hanging out with the two of them in the large run-in shed. I alternated letting them sniff me and follow me around with scratching and brushing them. Both tolerated a metal curry comb, which was great.After that, I played a bit with each of them with a soft rope. I practiced rubbing the rope on them, putting it over the horse’s neck and looping it around their face and nose. This way, before they even felt a halter, they had some idea what the rope felt like and what a bit of pressure felt like. Daisy put up with all of this fairly well in exchange for peppermint treats, but Gatsby was incredibly skeptical of the rope. You know, it could have been a horse eating rope!
Then, I went and got a couple of handfuls of grain to practice with the actual halters. Well, Gatsby was an eager beaver then! The little guy is definitely motivated by his stomach. He was very willing to work for a bit of grain, and acclimated to the halter and rope pretty quickly. Of course, we did go in baby steps, first getting him to let me put my hand over his neck. Then having him let me rub all over the top of his neck and poll with the halter. After that I let it dangle and swing around off the far side of his face. Finally, it was pretty easy to pull up the nose band and fasten the halter.
I repeated putting the halter on and off about half a dozen times. He’s nowhere near perfect, of course, but by the end he was standing quietly for me to put the halter on, without having to go through all the intermediate steps. Daisy was a tad more skeptical at first, but after a bit of repetition she was also allowing me to put a halter on and off.Next, I worked just a bit teaching each of them to move forward off the pressure of the halter. Without using a lead rope, I held on to the bottom of the halter and added just a bit of pressure. As soon as the horse would move forward, I would release the pressure and give them a bit of grain. The both caught on really fast.
Gatsby was doing great, so I hooked on a lead rope and we left the shed to wander around the pasture. It was a mixture of leading combined with him following me since he knew I had food. However, for a horse who had never worn a halter before, he was doing great! So, we even left the pasture (and all his buddies) and took just a short little walk around the property up to the feed room to say hi to Dawn. He got nervous and unsure about walking on the concrete, but all in all, he did excellently.
Overall, it was a very successful day! Gatsby and Daisy are both smart and sweet little horses and should be fun to work with. They have the potential to be great riding horses for whoever ends up adopting them. As you can see in the photo below, they are both quite curious and friendly. It was hard taking photos because they wanted to stay with me the whole time!