Have you ever heard the phrase “You can’t teach an old dog a new trick?” Many people assume that once an animal gets to a certain age or practices an unwanted behavior a certain number of times, that it will be hopeless to try to train the animal a new behavior pattern. However, nothing could be farther from the truth!!
Stella is a little bay quarter mare who came to our rescue at the beginning of June. She turned 20 this year. Stella had been a brood mare most of her life and was never trained for riding. She did not know how to load into a trailer or pick up her back feet. (We were told not to even try to trim her back feet. She had kicked at several farriers and injured one.) As well, we were told that she had to wear a halter in the pasture and, even then, she would be impossible to catch.
In the past month, she has learned how to load into our trailer and pick up her back feet. As well, she is now easy to catch and even our high school volunteers can catch her without any problem. She has quickly turned into quite a friendly little mare and learned that she does not have to be shy and skeptical around us.
We’ve also started working on some basic ground work with Stella. She has been playing on our new obstacle course and has learned how to walk over the bridge and over the cavalettis. We also recently introduced Stella to an English saddle and she looked pretty sharp all saddled up!! The short video below shows Stella’s progress with trailer loading.
Watch on YouTube: Clicker Training a Horse to Trailer Load using Shaping
We plan to start riding Stella this summer after we do a bit more ground work with her. Since she’s a pretty mellow, laid back mare, we think she will make an awesome horse for trail riding or light riding. We’ve had a few people laugh, since we are starting a 20 year old mare under saddle. However, it’s never too late for training! Since she is older, she probably won’t be able to do competitions or strenuous riding. However, she is a healthy little mare who will make someone a fun little riding horse for at least a handful of years.