Tootie and the Terrible Twos? (video)

Tootie looks over the fenceWe recently brought Tootie back to the ranch. He’s growing up fast, I think he’s double the size he was at the end of last summer! He’s also getting a lot darker. He should be a lovely dapple gray when he sheds out this spring.

Tootie has been handled since birth and he loves people–sometimes almost too much! He is very much a pocket pony, all he wants to do in the pasture is follow me around, sniff me, nuzzle me, bite me…

Since he didn’t get worked with much at all this fall or winter, he needs a review of some of the basics. Tootie will be two in March. We want to make sure this coming year will be the terrific twos, not the terrible twos!

The biggest thing he needs work on is basic manners–personal space and biting/nipping. This can be challenging with a young horse as many times this is attention seeking behavior. So, punishing the horse, shaking your hands at them or even driving them away can make it even worse–it just becomes a fun game for the horse.

One good solution is to teach the horse an alternative behavior. (or several alternative behaviors!) This gives the horse something positive and productive that they can do to earn attention and reinforcement. It also shifts the trainer’s focus to what they want the horse to do, instead of what they don’t want the horse to do to. If the horse has his head down, is backing up, or any other number of behaviors, you have a way to ask him politely to stay out of your space.

tootie2Tootie and I did some basic free shaping today. I worked on shaping him to turn his head away from me, which is a great way to start practicing self control!

He’s horrible about mugging so I started shaping this behavior from the other side of the fence. If you have a horse who enjoys crowding or nipping, it’s a great idea to start teaching the horse from the opposite side of a stall or fence. This keeps you safe and often makes it easier for the horse to be successful.

Once he was starting to get the hang of it, I went in with him and continued shaping the behavior. Considering that it’s been months since he’s had any training or work, he did really well today. Although we just started this, you can see in the short clip below that he’s a pretty quick learner. He knows exactly what he has to do to get that treat!

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