Mojo and his feet

On the 3rd August Mojo decided that his hay was more interesting than me. so he refused to come out of his stable, I did his foot lifting in the stable. Then let hi eat but when I went ot put him back i  the field he would not follow me. so my daughter took him out – he followed her and was very good when my grand daughter had the lead rope – she is alsmots 3 years old and he just lowered his head so he could see her and then followed my daughter who was next to the child.

Update 5th August 2019
Mojo was in as the farrier was coming for the other 2. He eagerly put his head collar on and came out of his stable, lifted all 4 feet and did his stretching exercises. Walked following the target – stretching over his back and stood on his mat. He then went back in the stable whilst the others had their feet done.
When it was time to go back out he put his nose in the head collar and followed my hand target out and then to the field, no planting at all. The only thing I can think was that on Saturday he was hungry, today he had eaten his hay and had some pony nuts.

We must always be aware of competing motivations.

Update July 29th 2019

Update July 29th 2019
After my phone call with Jo Hughes I have started training foot lifting again. I took Mojo in to the school this morning.
After making sure he was standing square, I faced his tail, bent down and put my hand near his hoof, he picked it up – so the cue is visual rather than verbal, I didn’t use a verbal cue at all. I let the hoof rest on my hand and then lowered it to the ground. I C/T as the foot came up and delivered the treat as soon as I had put the foot down. I repeated 3 times, then did the same for the other feet, even the hinds were lifted without me saying anything or touching the foot before it had come off the ground. I did not clean his feet as I only had them off the ground for a second or 2.

This will need repeating as often a possible and duration added until he can lifte them and hold them for me to clean. Then introduce a 2nd person and hoof rasp and then the trimmer.
I have some Cortaflex for him to see if it is a physical problem with stiff hocks, but this morning he walked over poles and little cross poles and lifted his hind legs up well over them. Now we need to build up more strength and flexion so his hind limbs are stronger, as he seems to have balance problems.

Hoof Trimming

Mojo has never been good with lifting his feet and foot handling in general. I have been working in getting him ok for me to touch his legs, brush feathers and trim feathers. All these seem to be progressing positively but having them trimmed is a different matter.
So after 2 farriers refused to even try any more I found a new trimmer. He is patient and his wife also came and she reads horses emotional states extremely well.

Mojo was very apprehensive and didn’t want to come out of his stable. We waited and chatted and then he decided it was ok to come out. The trimmer was introduced and just talked to Mojo and gave him some scratches. Picked out his front feet and then started trimming. Mojo was ok with the nippers but it seems to be rasping that is a trigger. We had lots of breaks and went for a little walk, the trimmer then held the lead rope and led Mojo whilst I walked next to him. We managed to get both fronts correctly trimmed and balanced but not rasped. So Liz will do the final rasp another day just to tidy them. We left it there – the trimmer did lift the hinds but Mojo was going over threshold by then so he will come back next month and do the hinds.

I have it on video so will review and send a snippet to Jo Hughes who helps with online coaching. We still have work to do and it is extremely slow progress.
Equi-libre Academy of Positive Horsemanship/

I do wonder what happened in his past to make him so anxious. He didn’t fight just tried to run away, which is when I just took him for a little walk to calm down.




Mojo Ridden

A couple of snippets from our 2nd lesson with Sally Ede. Mojo was calm and relaxed and focused. I used my body and a slight open rein to turn. We used scratches as reinforcement and he was forward going so only a slight touch with the leg to indicate ‘yes” that is what I want.

I now want to add verbal cues to the rein cues but that will come after I get more confident riding. At the moment Mojo doesn’t seem bothered by my riding and as long as he is under his emotional threshold all is well.

I did feel a little guilty as I wanted to use more positive reinforcement in our ridden sessions but I also need to know he can be ridden  by anyone, as he will most probably out live me.

April 2018

I took Mojo into the school this afternoon, he did get a bit over excited as I haven’t done much with him recently. He was watching this morning when Liz whilst rode Smoke and saddled Indi and sat on him, I thought at the time Mojo looked as if he wanted his turn. So after lunch he got his wish.
He followed me over the poles and then I threw his frisbee for him to target.
He lined up at the mounting block and targeted on the off side. Did his ‘carrot’ stretches and then I got out my little trimmers and did some SD and CC with them. He wasn’t bothered about them until I walked around a bit, but the reaction was just a slight elevation of his head and neck.
He did target them fine when off and after a few minutes he targeted my hand with the trimmers running. I stopped there and gave him a big jackpot and lots of praise. Lots of scratches too as he is shedding like mad and I have just bought some lovely grooming mitts.
Then I left him eating and went to put some hay in his stable. He then didn’t want to come out of the school, so I just stood and held his head collar at arms length – he soon came and but his nose in and went back in his stable – he was going to have his tea before going out again.


Mojo up date – he had been in all night as he asked the yard owner to come in last night. Apparently he looks directly at her kitchen window and stamps his foot when he wants to come in to his stable. It was obviously too wet for him last night as at 5pm he was happy out and at 7ish he was at the gate asking to come in.

He was a very muddy beast and quite hot, with all his hair, this morning, I brushed as much as I could and got lots of hair out. Then we went in the school to walk over the poles that were nicely laid out in a fan shape. Mojo was very good at this but did knock a few out of place. Then did his “carrot” stretches using a target and then giving the food. I left him in the school after the end of session signal and he went to look in the mirrors at the end of the school, he seemed quite intrigued at his reflection.

We just need some dry weather for a prolonged period so the fields are not so waterlogged. Is this really Spring?

Mojo Up Date

It has been a while since I wrote anything on this blog, winter is always a difficult time of year for horse owners. Our fields are muddy and Mojo is a mud monster. He is still out unrugged, he does come in if the weather is particularly foul or the fields get too poached.
Consequently I have only done basic care with him, a little bit of target training on the yard so he remembers, and some standing still on the yard too. He has a stationary target and stands there and eats hay whilst I groom him or pick out his feet. I am revisiting foot lifting as his fronts are perfect now but he still struggles a bit with the hinds, some times more than others. One of the liveries said when she got him in from the field he seemed a little stiff – probably slipped in all the mud. I checked him and did his stretching exercises – I do these with a target stick and he was very supple laterally. He is not so good at stretching down between his front legs but that was more that he was unsure of where the target was at first. He stretched his near hind but was a little stiffer on the off side, this is always the side the physios pick up on.

We have regular physio visits and/or massage therapy. Plus saddle checks – not the I sit on him very often but it is important that he is comfortable.

I do hope the wet weather stops soon and the fields can recover, we are fortunate to have a good school that doesn’t freeze or flood, so I can take him in there to do pole work or long lining – I must get on and do these again but can’t rustle up the enthusiasm in the wind and rain. Horses like just to be horses and as long as they are cared for and happy they will be OK. Plenty of forage in the field and friends to groom and hang out with, some shelter by the trees and a stable to come in to occasionally to dry out and have a sleep.

I will make a list of things we need to revisit and reintroduce tack in the school before riding him, I don’t want him always to associate the arena with being ridden. The arena needs to be a place where fun things happen and I wont ride unless I know he is OK with everything to do with being ridden.

Gone are the days when I just got on a horse, even when they are fidgeting or moving away from the mounting block – yes I have done that in the past but I know better now. This equestrian journey is never ending – as it should be for everyone. We never know everything and learn all the time – if we don’t we get stuck in the past and never progress in our horsemanship.

Animal Emotions

I have just completed a course with Karolina Westlund –

It looked at the 7 core emotions as described by Jaak Panksepp and how these affect our animals.

These are:

1. SEEKING – can be a positive or a negative emotion depending on whether the horse is seeking something they want or seeking to avoid something they don’t like.
2. PLAY- this is something we can tap into when training.
3 CARE – the mutual grooming and nurturing side of horses.
4. FEAR – can be as little as mild anxiety or a full flight response.
5. RAGE – fear can escalate into aggression or frustration if the horse can’t escape or get what he wants.
6. GRIEF or PANIC system may be seen in separation anxiety.
7. LUST – fairly self-explanatory

I would recommend this course to anyone interested in looking into emotions in more depth.

We often over look how our animals feel and many horses suppress their emotions and behaviour due to the way they are trained.  Horses are an affiliative species and prefer to live in harmony with their friends. We often unwittingly suppress natural behaviour because we don’t understand the function and/or because we are afraid of losing control.

Animal emotions course completion banner

Being positive

Take a look at my new site for more musings about equine training and behaviour. I hope to keep this one as my personal training diary.

Positively Equine

I haven’t done much with Mojo recently but he did get a bit cross the other day when I took him out of the field whilst the others horses had been fed, he thought he wasn’t getting anything. So the RAGE system kicked in and he was a bit tense, of course he got his food when got to the yard and I left him in his stable eating hay for a while until he settled down. Mojo’s emotions are often very subtle and I may have missed them a few years ago – before I studied equine behaviour and neuroscience.

So it does pay to learn as much as we can about our individual horses and learn to observe those, often very subtle signs, of discomfort.

Take a look at the Positively Equine site as it has articles on learning theory and the core emotional systems all mammals share.