Magic Mustang Tamer

Task 09: Count-Down Petting

This task should make the horse feel good rather than for make the horse obedient. The social bonding that develops from pleasant physical contact is a relationship asset you can draw against later. My “petting” mimicks the lip rubbing and tooth scratching another horse would offer in allogrooming. Watch how horses groom each other to refine your skills at “petting”.

Alert: Do not pet below the forearm in the front, and the gaskin in the back. This can be done through a fence if the horse is unpredictable.

Task 9 Subtask1 Stand for countdown petting CDP(5) 5x *

Objective: It’s time that the horse becomes accustomed to the touch of the human.

The Set-Up: The size of the pen shouldn’t matter, but limited distractions are helpful.

Prerequisite Training: The animal should know targeting and should understand the duration countdown from 5.

Protocol: Start by touching the horse where it prefers. On many mustangs this is the face, but on a few horses it is the shoulder. Rarely the preferred place is the hip, which is more than a little nerve-racking for the trainer – but it can work if done through a panel.  Start on the side where the mustang is most comfortable. Set the animal up for success by starting as easy as you can. Touch and count down from five. If the horse moves away from your touch, stop counting, then when you touch again start over from five, even if it is just a second. Bridge and reward for staying still under your touch. Move your hand to a new position near where it was last, and do it again. Your goal is to touch EVERYWHERE but the legs. You can add rubbing or scratching if the horse enjoys it, but simple hand contact is enough. If the horse is tense don’t move very far. Get the horse to relax. Spend at least two sessions on this exercise and make sure the ventral side of the neck and the chest (both in blind spots) are no problem.

QC: The animal will allow you to touch him anywhere with your hand for a count-down(5).

What ifs:

  • What if my horse won’t let me on one side? Review Task 3. Reach over the neck and back so you make some contact with that side, then work at the face and start moving locations by inches or centimeters in the direction you want to go. Make the food bites very small and try to keep your rate of reinforcement very high (always a good idea!).
  • What if my horse is tense? You may want to work through a fence panel and extend this training for more days until the animal is NOT TENSE. This is important to get right.