Winter arrived on the farm this year the same time Beluga did. The forecast called for below zero temperatures and several inches of snow in the morning. The haulers were late, and for once the weatherman was right. First they had trouble loading the little black filly, and then again when we spent the next hour coaxing her out of the trailer. Beluga’s papers say Thoroughbred but I know I have just bought myself a mule! The haulers wasted no time in getting back on the road since they still had a mare and foal to deliver, and I was stuck shivering in the cold with the yearling filly fifty yards from the paddock that would be her new home. Another half an hour. Literally one step back for every step forward. All of this would have been easier if she was halter broke.
Learning to lead properly is the most basic training a horse will ever receive in his or her lifetime but when it comes to their safety, health and well being it is the most important. Standard horse care is made easier when your horse is respectful of your space and responsive when you ask them to move backwards, forwards, left and right. We spend more time handling our horses (bringing them in from the field, grooming, holding them for the farrier or vet etc.) than we do riding, so it’s a good idea to get some lessons right from the beginning.
The haltering process with Beluga was initially very slow because she was people and head shy. It was days of sending her away around the paddock, if she did not stand while I rubbed her neck and shoulders, before she learned to accept my touch. By giving her two options: stand for cheek rubs and shoulder scratches or don’t stand – but have to canter around until I let her stop, training was made simple and Beluga would always eventually choose the easier option. Her laziness always won out and she even started to enjoy being brushed and fussed over. We progressed like this until I could touch her everywhere and put the halter on without her reacting. It has taken a lot of repetition and patience, but my little black filly is proving to be a willing learner and not so stubborn after all. The next step will be to practice proper leading manners around the paddock. Stay tuned!