HOW DO YOU TRAIN A WEANLING?
First Day at the New Home
At five months old, how do you train a weanling.
JR arrived knowing how to lead. He was imprinted at birth and can be touched in most places on his body. OK, I didn’t try all of them the 1st day. I left some excitement for later.
I used our first day together to walk around the pasture, so he would know the boundaries. During our walk, he got to learn respect for my personal space. I used the walk as an excuse to play "the games" with him. We did lots of friendly games with my hands though out the entire day. I tried to find all the spots where he enjoyed being scratched and I rubbed most of his body with by hands. I put my fingers in his nostrils…pretending to clean some muck. I put my fingers inside his mouth. I got his upper lip and then his lower lip between thumb and finger and circled his lip. I tapped on his tongue.
We moved hindquarter and forequarter using pressure from my fingers. My goal was one step underneath with the rear turn and one step across with the front leg. After I got what I wanted, I instantly released the pressure and rubbed the spot.
When JR wanted to run or walk through my space, we took this as an opportunity for a driving game. I drove his forequarters around or his hindquarters, depending on which body part was pushing against me. To drive his rear around, I swung the tail of my rope and he had to move out of the way of the swinging rope. To move his forequarters around, I used my hands…starting out with flicking my fingers and ended up with palms out flat in and out at his head. If he didn’t move his head out of the way, eventually, he would run into the flat of my hands.
I discovered JR has the same habit as Velvet…rooting with the nose. Since this rooting has caused me a lot of problems with Velvet giving to the bit, I want it nipped in the bud for little JR. Every time he pushed me with his nose, I put my thumb and 1st finger against his nose and put pressure on his hair to move backwards. When no response was made backwards, the pressure was upped to skin, muscles and then bone. JR learned very quickly to move backwards when I touched the hair on his nose with my thumb/finger combo. I don’t think we are done with the rooting behavior, but it will be fixed the next time out.
We tried the circle game. JR’s initial "circle" was rubbing against my body. When he invaded my space, he got pushed away with my fingers, or he ran into my swinging rope. It didn’t take him long to realize comfort was at the end of the rope. We didn’t continue this but for a few minutes, as he’s too young for anything but walking around in a circle. He got the idea to go to the end of the rope, but the concept of a circle hasn’t yet hit.
We tried a little sidepassing, but since he doesn’t have a good idea of turning forequarters or hindquarters, we didn’t make much progress. I’ve found this to be the hardest exercise for the horse…both on the ground and while mounted.
We did the squeeze game too. I sent him over a few logs and between some tight spaces. He got the idea just fine. Later when we went through gates, I held the gate open and sent him through first. This is the pre-trailer loading exercise.
For another big part of the day, I sat in a lawn chair while he grazed. I didn’t rescue him when he got tied up in the rope until he was completely twice wrapped. He spent some time fighting the rope and learned how to get out of some snarls. This will come in handy if he ever gets his legs wrapped in wire. He shouldn’t panic. Plus, we spent some nice time together. He got to eat and relax. I got to watch him and relax.
I reflected on the far away time that I would be trusting him to carry me through some scary situations. I decided to be a nice as I possibly can to him now. When we took our afternoon walk, he didn’t invade my personal space and seemed to be content with following me.
I turned him out with the rest of the herd. They erupted into galloping snorty horses. JR ran over the pasture, changing leads when necessary. All the other horses had to drop to a trot and then change leads. JR looked like he was soaring across the pasture. They all got tired and decided to eat grass. Velvet tried to run him into the bonfire pile. She made a half-hearted attempt to scare him with her back foot. One of the little hackney ponies hates him. That little pony put his ears back and ran at him with teeth bared. When JR was fresh he could easily leap out of the way. He was tired after the long gallop and the pony was able to bite him a few times.
The transition was made. JR is now the low horse in the herd…but at least, he’s in the herd!