Tuesday, 25 August 2015

All because Elvis left the field - problem solving...

In my last blog, I was talking about Tigger and his lamentable lack of social skills, more evident that usual when Elvis left the field and Tigger's social life was turned upside down. 

Not really relevant here, but this picture just sums
Tigger up for me - always a bit different!
Usually during the summer, Tigger either comes when you call, or you have to go and fetch him, and he is quite happy to come in once you’ve reached him.

A few days before Elvis and Paddy were due to return to the big field, Tigger didn’t want to come in any more. His attention was glued to the mare and foal, and he didn’t want to leave them.

What now? The first thought most of us would have is probably a training solution – carrot or stick – fairly literally in this case. But neither would be a great idea.

Treats for the wanted behaviour (leaving the foal) would most probably not work – as he gets further from the foal he becomes increasingly anxious, and treats would not be a sufficient incentive, nor would they really address the problem. Safety wise also not the best – Tigger might well move further from the foal than he is comfortable with in order to get his treat, which might the trigger an explosive dash back to his buddy.

So – maybe a schooling stick or his bridle? In this situation I’d say not. He is clearly worried about leaving the foal, and putting more pressure on him will not help matters. Firstly, safety wise it’s a really bad idea – the field is deep and muddy in places, and ‘picking an argument’ with a horse on bad footing is just daft J .  Secondly, particularly in the deep and muddy bits, you are likely to fail – Tigger will return to the foal leaving you stranded without your wellies, or worse! Finally – you might get him in from the field, but if it’s not an emergency what is the point really? You’ve risked your safety and the horse’s, done no good to your relationship, probably stressed both of you quite a bit….

Think again… another option would be to bring the mare and foal in. Tigger will doubtless follow, not get stressed, this will be safer and more likely to succeed. Nothing wrong with this solution, except than in this situation, the mare and foal aren’t mine, and I don’t have anywhere to put them once they are in! So an option in an emergency, with permission from the owner, but not ideal in this case.

And we think again… and find the lazy solution, which always suits me well J Does Tigger really need to come in at all? I can check him in the field, he doesn’t need fed, and I’m certainly not going to try and ride him while he’s so distracted. In a few days Paddy and Elvis will return to the field, and they will most likely fix the problem for me. Once field life is back to normal, Tigger should get back to normal too, and we won’t have done any damage in the meantime. If things don’t settle down, we can think (yet) again.

Sure enough, the ‘not coming in’ thing stopped a few days after Paddy and Elvis returned to the field, and we’re all back to normal now.

A good example of how each ‘behaviour problem’ is so individual – we need think before acting,  understand the causes and find a solution appropriate to that unique situation. 

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