Miles & Minutes, 2


aIn this second installment of Mustang Miles & Minutes, Raechel Nelson reaches several noteworthy milestones. For starters, she’s finally named them. Meet Alita, the mother, and Zita, the filly.

Nelson can now halter and lead the filly, and has worked with getting closer (literally and figuratively) to Alita. And Nelson has removed the BLM rope necklace which was on the mare since she was first moved through the squeeze chute in Delta about six months ago.

What is Mustang Miles & Minutes?

Read Miles & Minutes, I

Watch video.

Miles & Minutes is generously sponsored by Redmond Equine.

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Check out the following Question & Answer session

BestHorsePractices: Can you tell me a bit about your strategy for approaching Alita?

Raechel Nelson: We were working on the idea that she has to work past a hand to get to the feed. She didn’t seem to be making a lot of progress. But I started feeding some alfalfa pellets (with psyllium as a sand colic preventative) and she got to liking those and was pretty keen on them.

I was able to get hands on and pet her while she was eating.

BHP: Did she snort at you first?

IMG_8539RN: With the hay, yes. If I offer a hand, and if it comes off as too aggressive a gesture, she’ll still try to strike. She’ll strike out with her front leg.

BHP: What do you do to discourage her from doing that?

RN: I’d run her off. I drive her away from the feed and I don’t let her come back for a minute. Then I offer her again and make her go through the same thing in order to get back to the feed, but with me being a little less intimidating.

BHP: Do you think she understands that being aggressive is not cool?

RN: Yes, she’s doing it a lot less. And she only seems to do it when she’s really bothered, really conflicted about what’s available and what she sees as pressure. It’s occurring a lot less.

I was watching Bryan Neubert on video and he said you don’t necessarily need to address the behavior so much, because if you get down the fundamentals that will go away. I don’t worry about them kicking, he said, it’s a behavior that goes away as their mindset changes.

BHP: So you’re not worried about her long-term potential to be aggressive.

RN: I’m a little worried. I think for a while, there will be a constant conversation about who’s in charge. I think there will always be some challenge to our pecking order until she feels comfortable, until she feels she can fully trust me.

IMG_8850BHP: How long do you think it will be before you can completely separate Mom from Baby, so that Zita will not be part of the equation at all?

RN: I think it’ll be spring before we wean Zita. I think that is the only healthy option. Until we have her completely out of the picture, we won’t be able to do too much with Mom.

BHP: And you’re cool with that?

RN: Hmm. I have to be. I would love to make more progress. But this is kind of the way it has to be.

BHP: Tell me about getting the BLM necklace off.

RN: That was just a matter of getting her used to my hand on her neck when she was reaching for alfalfa pellets and my working my hand up her neck. Then, I would touch the necklace and started to pull on it a little bit so she could feel the pressure behind her ears.

When she was distracted with the feed, I slipped in with one hand to get it tight and cut it with a knife with the other.   It startled her a little bit, but not enough to make her move away. Then, it just fell off.

IMG_1097BHP: That seems like a big milestone.

Watch the video to recall how wild this mare was a few months ago.

RN: Yeah. It was. It meant she was willing to let me keep my hand on her long enough to do something. She let me reach for her and she didn’t reject that.

BHP: From an outsider’s perspective, it might seem like the progress is small. But in reality, this is a horse that’s never been handled by anything but machines. You must be excited.

RN: Yes. I am. I’ll be excited to make more progress. But you can see the little things in her behavior that indicate more trust. For instance, for a long time, whenever I went in the pen, she felt she had to keep an eye on me, no matter where I was. Now, I can move around and she doesn’t feel she has to keep me in her line of vision.

Also, I can work with baby and if baby has a tantrum, she doesn’t feel like she needs to come to the rescue. She trusts me to work with Zita on the other side of the pen and she doesn’t have to get involved. That’s been progress, too.

Miles & Minutes is generously sponsored by Redmond Equine.

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