Thursday, February 4, 2010

Horse Training: The Donut Man Horse

One of my favorite commercials is the one of Fred the Baker, the face of Dunkin' Donuts for many years, trudging around saying,

"It's time to make the donuts, it's time to make the donuts ..."

I know a horse who is just like the donut man because he needs to do the same thing day in and day out. In fact, he went lame and had to be taken out of training. During his period of prolonged stall rest, he got so agitated that he couldn't "make the donuts," or do his daily routine, that he developed an ulcer and become seriously ill.

Once he healed up from his illness, ulcer, and lameness, all his humans needed to do to keep him from getting sick again was to let him "make the donuts" everyday. As long as this horse got to do some kind of routine every day, he was healthy and happy.

Sound familiar? If you have a horse like this, who craves routine like a drug, then you have a Metal horse personality type. (Read more about horse personality types here.)

Horse Training and the Metal Horse Personality Type
The Metal horse is the reliable ranch horse who does his job as consistently as the Dunkin' Donuts man makes donuts. In fact, the Metal horse so craves consistency and routine that he can actually become ill if he doesn't get. The mental and emotional stress of "something different every day" can literally cause a Metal horse physical illness, especially when they first begin training.

Now this might sound arduous and more than a little crazy, since many people don't have time to train their horses every single day of the week. However, horse training with a Metal horse is not as difficult as you might think.

The key to horse training with a Metal type is to pick one thing and do it consistently. The Metal horse just needs one factor of reliability in his life. It might be as simple as a feeding schedule that functions like clockwork. If you horse lives at home with you, perhaps all you have to do is go out and brush your horse once a day. You can keep the routine simple. You just have to follow it very carefully.

A Horse Training Example
When I first began training my mustang mare Reyacita, she would develop COPD or heave-like symptoms whenever we did something different or new. She would also buck. These were all signals she was trying to send me that the varied training schedule, which worked so well on my playful Wood mare Valentine, was much too stressful for her Metal horse personality type.

I called a friend who had dealt with several Metal horses and asked what I should do. Her answer was simple. She told me that I had to do one consistent "thing" with Reyacita every day, and that would form the bulk of my horse training with her, at least until she came to trust me fully. Mustangs are notoriously wary of humans, and Metal horses in particular have difficulty giving their trust.

She suggested that I pull Reyacita out of pasture every day and simply tie her to the trailer for an hour. That seemed simple enough, so I just that for 14 days in a row. This simple training exercise satisfied Reyacita's craving for routine, and she learned, after 14 days, that she could trust me not to hurt her, and to provide the a consistently safe environment for her.

At the time, I was also feeding the mare 2 capsules of Eleviv per day, which helped her stay out of her "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system, and stay in her parasympathetic nervous system, which is a horse's normal, relaxed state of being.

Today, when I want to introduce something new to Reyacita's horse training program, I try to follow the same principle of routine. I do the same exercise over and over for several days in a row and give her 2 Eleviv during those days. This principle has worked well with our new roping training.

However, if she ever starts to get panicked, as evidenced by her COPD symptoms, I simply go back to the trailer-tying exercise and give her 2 capsules of Eleviv. By doing this for several days in a row, Reyacita relaxes and "realizes" that all is well again.

If you have a young Metal horse (and you can test your horse here for free online), you may want to employ some deliberately routine exercises to help them stay calm and focused during their horse training regimen. It's a case where going slow helps you go fast later.

Older Metal horses who know their job don't need nearly as much consistency as younger Metal horses just learning their job. Older Metal horses are the ones you can leave in the pasture for months at a time, then pull them up for a weekend penning or roping. So long as they know their job, they don't need any extra help with routine or consistency.

Metal horses are wonderful, tough, hard-working horses, and as long as you treat young Metal horses with careful consistency, they will repay your efforts with a long career of hard work and consistent performance.

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