The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chloe is Quite Clear in Her Own Mind

Today I had Chloe and Bridget in the barn paddock.  Chloe went to stand by the gate into the barn while Bridget wandered about.  After a little while, Chloe walked up to me, tugged gently on my shirt with her teeth, and went back to the gate.  A very clear instruction! So I put the rope loop round her neck and lead her through the gate; this time she turned back with me to shut it. Bridget soon rushed over and demanded to come out too, so after setting Chloe at liberty, I put a halter on Bridget and brought her out. We went for our grazing walk.

Later, when I was putting Bridget back in the pasture, Chloe declined to come, opting instead to stay in the barn.  She stood by her stall door, which was closed, until I came and let her in.  I don't blame her - it was nice and cool inside the barn and still hot outside, and perhaps dinner had not yet been fed. I couldn't persuade her to come out again.

I hung out in Chloe's stall with her, working on this and that.  She's long-backed, and is getting a bit sway-backed.  So I picked up her hind leg and pushed it under her toward her tummy, stretching her lower back. She must have liked it, because when I asked if she wanted me to do it again, she lifted her leg up right away. I also encouraged her to lengthen her back by releasing her neck, and asked her for some lengthening turns. In between each maneuver, I left her and walked to the other side of the stall, leaving her alone until she came over to me again.  She volunteered to play at shaking hands, which she hasn't done for a while.

It was getting past time to leave, so I asked her again to come out.  She thought about it, then started licking and chewing and stepped out of the stall.  She followed me through the gate to the barn paddock, and then refused to go any further.

I was able to "herd" her hind legs sideways - but could induce no forward movement at all. Not knowing whether the horses had been fed yet (they come in for dinner and then go out again), I didn't want to let  her go back and stay inside - if they had already been fed, she'd be stuck inside alone until next morning.

So, I resorted to a most undignified pulling and tugging.  I didn't actually have to haul her all the way - once she realized I wasn't going to quit pulling, she reluctantly agreed to proceed.  But .... aargh! .... what to do in that situation?  I felt really bad, too, because she'd been so nice to come out of her stall with me when she didn't want to.

I guess it's ok that she learns that it's not an option to refuse to go back into her pasture.  I hope it was obvious to her that I understood what she wanted but that I just couldn't grant it this time.


  1. Could you use treats in cases like this? I do that, when it's not an option to let Olga decide. She seems happy with changing her mind when carrots come to picture and I don't feel that bribery is wrong in these situations :)

  2. I didn't in this case - it might have worked, although Chloe is very aware that moving forward for the treat represents a compromise of her desired position. I didn't have any treats in my pocket at that point - I probably should have gone back into the barn and fetched some. I don't know why I didn't think of it!

  3. I don't even use treats to kindof "lure" horses anywhere, I just give some and say that I'm sorry but we have to do this my way, then I ask again and give some on the way and when we get there. Olga doesn't seem to mind this.

  4. Yes - I see - that's the right way to look at it. It's not bribery, it's kind of sympathy and compensation.