Getting respect from "babies"
Has anyone ever used John Lyons' "Turn and Face Me" method of their foals even before they are weanlings like they are in his: Bringing Up Baby book? I adopted two orphaned foals a month ago and though they are good when they are caught and haltered, it's the catching them that takes a while, esp. for the older foal. Sometimes he stands, but most of the time he walks off, ignoring with blatant disregard and his actions are rubbing off on the younger foal. So, I was just wondering if they have used John Lyons "Turn and face me" method and if so, has it worked? If you haven't used it, what natural, un-stressful way have you gotten your foal(s) to respect you, see that you call the shots, but not fear you?
Don't know about John Lyons. I teach my horses(inc babies) to come when called by pressure/release and positive reinforcement when they come. I'd start in a yard/paddock that is large enough for them to be able to move around/away & not feel claustrophobic, but not too large that they get too far away for you to be effective.
I would start out by setting it up so they're likely to come to you of their own accord & that they learn you're a Good Thing in life. Eg. pottering in the paddock & when they come to check you out, they get a scratch, a rub, a slice of carrot, whatever's Good for them. Eg. if they're not yet confident near you then giving them a rub is likely to be more like punishment than reward, assuming they get that close anyway, so starting off with chucking a bit of carrot towards them when they approach may be where you build it from.
Once they have some trust in you & realise that you're a Good Thing, then I start the 'catching games'. I call or signal for them to come & if/when they don't, I focus some energy at their hind end, usually with a rope or stick. Enough for them to feel uncomfortable just standing there, but not enough to frighten them. This usually gets them moving away from you when they haven't yet learned. I just keep up that pressure calmly, while watching their bodylanguage for the slightest sign that they are about to stop, turn, even just hesitate. The instant I get the slightest 'try' I drop my energy completely & turn away. That usually gets them to stop & face you. Give it a minute, reward whatever you get towards your goal if at all possible & then start again. After a number of repetitions they will get the idea that to 'turn off' your annoying behaviour they need to turn & face you. Once that's reliable, up the ante a little & ask for them to take a step towards you before you quit the pressure.
I am not assuming, but think it's worth mentioning that if you've taken on a couple of orphan foals - who can turn out to be difficult even with experienced hands - and you're not an experienced horse trainer, I would strongly suggest finding someone who is, to help you with them, or possibly take them for now. I would also suggest that if they're not currently, to put them out with other horses, so they can learn horse manners & socialise appropriately. Learning these lessons from other horses will also make your job easier too.
Whether or not you do the above, it is very important to be consistent and teach boundaries. For eg. so many orphan foals are allowed or encouraged to get away with various antics, because they're such cute babies, but their handlers haven't considered how that behaviour is going to be when the horse is approaching 500kg!
I'll add my two cents on the babies. No idea how old they are but first, bless your heart for taking them in.
If they have no mentor models where you live that are safe enough for them at their ages to help them model appropriate behavior (no idea how old they are, at what age they were orphaned, you're it so I'll just assume they are pretty much wild babies and go from there).
I agree with loosie on letting them make the first approaches, and I think your best bet is to "unlearn them" about the haltering and start over to re-educate them on coming to you with no hesitation whatsoever, and that means making every approach on their part positive. Because they're orphans they'll need a bit of wide berth on what is and isn't appropriate for a little while, they aren't big enough to hurt you although you have to watch for baby antics LOL, and most of those self-correct once you have their trust and can do about anything with or to them without halters, lead ropes and whatnot.
They will naturally turn and face you when you have their trust and ask for their attention when it's needed and/or appropriate, as their mentor. It will come naturally as part of their instinct :)
You may need to separate them, possibly, either on a daily basis or for a period of time while getting them to fully engage with you. Great way to bond and help build their confidence and trust is to sit on the ground and be lower than they are, you aren't so frightening then. Be passive, let them sniff, taste, nibble gently on you, hang out with them and show them you aren't a predator LOL.
Bribes are good, making meal times and massage/scratching/bonding times fun and mixed in with very brief lessons such as using brushes, then lead ropes and halters to massage and rub on and around them to rid them of any fear of them, running hands down their legs and scratching, being careful not to tickle - babies' attention spans are quite short so keeping lessons not serious as well as short is always a good thing. You sort of have to be half horse and half human but it's tons of fun and so rewarding!
I'll share a funny story about a 5 month old orphaned, emaciated and very wormy little welsh shetland cross colt I took in some time ago. He had a lot of awesome equine mentors but as he regained his health he became quite full of himself LOL, and would test the waters on other horses occasionally and see what he could get away with. When he was 7 months old he decided to sneak up behind me one day and reared up, gently landing with one front leg on either side of my neck, and he was just being affectionate and playful (good thing he was a pony, though). I couldn't help but laugh seeing him draped over my shoulders and I tried to keep a straight face when I said NO and scolded him but I was laughing too hard! He was halter trained, led like a dream, and otherwise had beautiful manners but he just had a "moment!" Babies LOL!!
What I would watch for with the youngsters is if they try to nip at you, to keep alert and have your arm ready to block that nonsense and that is usually all it takes. Kicking out can be a momentary pissy fit about something or what I call a "joy spasm," neither are usually intended to have a go at you, but watch their butts just the same so you don't get nicked.
I've found its never too young to teach them ground manners, with the young ones its a lot easier to build the trust side of the relationship
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