I write a monthly column for a wonderful online magazine called Going Gaited. This month, although, Raleigh is not gaited, we have been having problems with what he thinks is his gate, which is actually my gate. The gate in question is the source of much attention by Raleigh’s giant hooves. In month’s column I show a fun attraction-based solution to improving the health of a very important gate, the one the keeps my horses in their pasture. You can read the article and see a photo of the solution here.
You don’t worry about the bones in his feet after striking the paver?
Thanks. It works really well.
I hope I didn’t give the impression that he strikes the paver with his hooves! Shoot, that might be a great way to extend time between hoof trimming. I could glue rasps on the pavers and he could self trim.
All kidding aside, Instead of striking the gate with one hoof, he steps calmly onto the paver with his two front feet. The paver is the object for his hooves to target, showing him where to stand. I think because the texture of the paver is so different from the sand, it acts as a very definite target allowing him to ‘feel’ like he’s ‘doing’ something. The pavers act as a type of station for each horse to stand on. This also makes a great way for me to groom all four horses at the same time without having them tied. They learn to stand on their marks and wait their turn.
This has also been a handy tool for teaching Raleigh to stand completely still while he’s fitted with his harness or tacked up for riding. I also use these pavers at the base of my mounting blocks, so it’s very clear what is required of them while I climb aboard.
Well, well well. Now you know my biggest character flaw. Speaking (in this case typing) with my brain shut off. Of course you wouldn’t have him pop the gate with his feet!
Thanks for elaborating on the texture difference, etc. It’s cool how you use them in multiple places–a moving target!
The brains of the larger horses give us so much more “hang time” to work with, don’t they?
I like the term ‘redirecting’ or providing an alternative behavior to what he thought he ‘had to do’ in order to acquire food. It’s a classic example of what we’d collectively term bad behavior, (hoof on gate), when I truly believe in that large brain of his, he was only doing what he thought brought him food, and brought it there as fast as possible.
Now my job is to reinforce like crazy every time I hear his giant hooves step onto the paver, to make the alternate behavior have more pay off and give him incentive to repeat it. After all, I’m sure it makes him feel like he’s doing something productive each time he can use his hoof to make a loud clanging sound. The sound alone is probably a fun reinforcer to him. To me, this really shows how horses have distinct goals and make deductions on how to accomplish them.
Targeting objects makes such a clear and easy way to show the horse what you want it to do before it gets creative and takes matters into its own hooves.
You have experience with large horses and their brains don’t you? Raleigh is my first draft and I’m smitten. I have to qualify, I don’t think I’ve found a horse that I haven’t fallen in love with, but, these drafts are serious heart stealers. The ‘hang time’, perfect description, especially when I’m used to the staccato movement of the Paso Finos.
I can’t speak for other drafts, but Raleigh has this, “all is well with the world’ attitude that is really unique. I swear he wakes up and says, “What great thing is going to happen to me next?” This is a nice feature in a horse with such mass!