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Re: RC: Colts and Bridle Path Trimming


You wrote:
We recently bought a two yr old colt who is very gentle but an AYRAB for
sure. I've been able to do everything I need to from the ground except
trim his mane bridle path. My husband and I tried for an hour with no
success the other night. He does fine with me putting the trimmer on him
anywhere except on his neck topline. Once I get it up there..out of his
view he starts shaking his head like it tickles and walks in circles
around us. What can I do? Any suggestions...Please

I will attempt to give you an overview of what the John Lyons' method would 
be to deal with this problem.  First, never start with your goal (your goal 
being to clip the horse's bridle path).  Second, teach a cue to tell your 
horse to lower his head.  JL uses slight pressure on the poll and the instant 
the horse lowers its poll even a tiny bit release the pressure.  It will take 
MANY repetitions for the horse to understand that you are using a cue to tell 
him to lower his head and you must be very consistent about the release of 
pressure whenever he lowers the poll.  Even if the horse takes his head up 
initially, keep the pressure the same and when it comes downward (it doesn't 
have to come down to where it started but it needs to be in the downward 
direction) stop putting pressure on the poll.  When I say pressure I mean 
just laying your hand between his ears not pressing or poking.  The motivator 
is that the horse would like to get rid of even that light pressure and when 
it is removed because he lowers his head, he will figure out what caused it.  
Don't change anything if/when he raises his head just stay with him.  If he 
can raise his head higher than you can reach then you can use the halter 
(regular kind, not anything that puts extra pressure) to be the same kind of 
motivator.  You aren't out to punish bad behavior so don't jerk on the lead 
or get frustrated in any way.  Just keep repeating the above exercises until 
you are sure the horse understands the cue and will keep his head where you 
leave it. 

Then you can play the lesser than/greater than game.  Start with some object 
that is not likely to bother the horse when you put it between his ears such 
as a wash cloth.  (Line these objects up on the ground in the vicinity of the 
horse as you collect them.)  Then find another object that is greater in 
excitibility than the wash cloth but not as exciting as the clippers and put 
it in the line-up.  Keep finding objects in this fashion such as lead rope, 
plastic bag, paper, anything not sharp or breakable.  Arrange them in order 
with the clippers being last.  Bring the first item to the horse (no showing 
it to the horse or letting him sniff it; that doesn't convince any horse that 
the item is OK; nor trying to sneak something up there) and ask him to lower 
head.  Put the item on his poll, rub it around, touch his ears and take it 
down. Praise the horse with petting/kind word.  If the horse starts to raise 
head, use free hand to give cue to lower head just as he's learned.  Be sure 
to approach the horse's head from both front and behind just as you might do 
with the clippers eventually.  Keep increasing the intensity of the objects, 
taking the time necessary at any one item to be sure that the horse is OK 
with it.  That doesn't mean that the horse is not "alert" about what you are 
doing, only that he will drop his head and keep it there and allow you to 
touch his poll with the object.  (JL says you can't tell the horse NOT to be 
afraid but you can teach it what to do when it IS afraid...lower its head.)  
You don't need to spend a long time on each object, just enough to convince 
you that he is OK and then move to next in line.  The more objects you use 
the better the horse will be when you get to the clippers.  There will be at 
least one item that is scariest to horse that you will have to work on but 
when the horse understands that he can be calm and keep his head lowered, it 
is really cool!  Finally, the clippers.  Better if you can use cordless, 
quieter clippers but if you have done the game well it won't matter.  Bring 
the clippers, turned off, and treat them just as all the previous objects.  
Then turn the clippers on away from the horse and approach as before.  
Remember to treat them as just another object, using the head down cue in the 
same manner.  Lay the clippers along the mane and take away.  Turn off the 
clippers and step away.  Turn on the clippers and step back to horse and 
touch the clippers to the area you intend to clip.  Each time the horse must 
have his head at the height you ask him to leave it (below eye level for me) 
using your cue.  Treat each little step as though you were bringing new 
object.  Make sure he is OK with each little step before proceeding.  If the 
horse has been OK with all the items before the clippers you shouldn't have 
ANY trouble with the clippers.

This takes longer to explain (and for me to type!) than it may take you to 
do.  But by teaching a cue, breaking it down into little steps and having the 
horse gain confidence that it can get the right answer, you will be teaching 
your horse more than just how to be clipped.  You have a cue to ask the horse 
to lower his head to be bridled and unbridled easily, to not be head shy, to 
calm down in scary situation, to accept paste wormer/electrolytes, etc.

Don't get into a fight, don't punish...teach!  If you can think of more steps 
to add to the above scenario, do it!  When you start thinking about a lesson 
plan and adding steps then you are on the right path.  The more times a horse 
can get a "yes" answer to a question you've asked, the better.  Good luck, 
stay safe and if you want/need more info let me know.

Melanie in AZ

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