Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Luna: The Long Walk

Monday February 11 2013

Back in my teens, I worked on the King Ranch in south Texas. One of their methods of halter breaking weanlings was simple and took a minimum of human hours, which was a good thing, because they had a big crop of babies every year. Once the humans got a halter on the baby the first time (which wasn't always simple), they tied the weanling's halter to a donkey's halter and turned them out in a pasture.

From then on, wherever the donkey went, so did the weanling. If the donkey wanted to get a drink, the little horse went to get a drink with him. If the little horse wanted a drink later, it was too bad if the donkey wasn't thirsty. If the donkey wanted to trot to the far end of the pasture, the little horse trotted to the far end of the pasture with him. If the donkey turned his head to the right, the little horse turned his head to the right with him. Didn't take long to halter break those babies, because donkeys don't take no for an answer. They don't even realize the little horse is saying no. Those weanlings came off those donkeys right proper halter broke.

Right now, 8-month-old baby Luna is at that age… think Terrible Twos. Smart-ass. Little Miss Attitude. Thinks she knows everything. Thinks she's in charge.

She has no qualms about badgering the older horses in the pasture,

and a couple of times she's come at me with ears pinned, until I acted like a irritated dominant horse and charged her and scared her.

It was a good time to remind Luna about her earlier halter breaking and respect lessons; and short of borrowing a donkey, I got out the halter and lead rope, and enticed her and mom Perry and another horse in the front pen with some hay.

Day 1: Luna politely let me put her halter on. I clipped the lead rope to the halter and let it drag on the ground. After walking around and stepping on the rope a couple of times, Luna remembered to stop when she felt the pull on her head. She doesn't panic like some horses do when they feel sudden head pressure. After a couple of hours, I used the lead rope to lead and turn her - follow the pressure of the rope, turning left, turning right, backing up. 

Day 2: This time Little Miss Smart-Ass Pants had a little halter tantrum. Luna stood there while I slipped the halter over her nose, but then suddenly decided she did not want to wear the halter today. She backed up and wheeled away before I could tie it. I had no shot in holding onto her, and it would have been dangerous to try, as she kicks with her hind legs when she's feeling saucy. She's only 8 months old, but she could still inflict some damage.

So, she got the Big Naughty Horse treatment: You want to run away from me? OK, you're going to run away from me, and you're going to keep running until I say stop, and it's going to be long, long, far, far beyond your naughtiest, wildest running imaginations.

Luna thought she was Boss for the first 3 minutes, racing around me with her nose up in the air, tail up in the air, giving me the horse finger.

I began following the little monster around. At first she thought it was the You Can Chase Me But You Can't Catch Me game, but it was really the I'm Driving You game. Around and around she ran as I walked steadily after her, only running at her if she tried to stop, or if she dropped her head trying to get a bite of hay when she passed it.

Luna's running quickly disintegrated to a trot after she decided it wasn't so fun anymore, then a walk, then, as it went on, a weary walk. I simply kept putting pressure on her to move forward by walking steadily towards her, and tossing the rope at her if she tried to stop. At first Mom ran around too with Luna, but then she quickly realized I was not after her, so she went to eating hay and ignoring me and her naughty child, while Luna walked and walked and walked. Batman totally ignored everything but the hay. He even pinned his ears and snapped at Luna when she got too close to him. He wasn't going to help her out!

I kept giving Luna chances to stop walking and face me, or stop and let me get closer, by changing my language: saying "Whoa" and stopping the pressure I was putting on her by standing still. But nope, she wouldn't do it; and so she kept walking, around and around and around, almost unto (she thought) exhaustion. Think Stephen King's The Long Walk.

Luna was so tired she tried to lay down in the middle of walking, and once her eyes closed while walking, but no, I did not feel sorry for the little sh*t, and no, she was not going to win this battle. I had all day to walk. It was her choice to keep walking, or to stop when i asked.

After about 45 minutes, finally her armor cracked. When I asked her once again to stop, Luna stopped walking and faced me, stood there huffing and puffing, and let me walk up to her. I rewarded her by letting her stand and catch her breath while I scratched her itchy sweaty neck and body and belly. Then I put the halter on while she continued to stand there quietly, and then I scratched her some more.

I walked away and then approached her again, and Luna started walking, then trotting away, so I drove her around a couple more rounds, then she was like - OK, I give, I think I learned my lesson, turning to face me when I asked her to, and waiting quietly while I walked up and petted her.

The next time I walked away and approached, she stood there.

Day 3: I put Luna and mom Perry and Batman in the pen, and I approached Luna with her halter and lead rope. She started backing away, but stopped when I started rubbing her back. I raised the halter and she stepped away… but stopped when I scratched her neck. I slipped the halter over her nose while continuing to scratch her, and she stood there. I scratched her some more then immediately walked away and let her alone. I approached her several times during the day and she didn't step away; I turned her around with her lead rope both directions each time, then walked away and left her alone.

At the end of the day's lesson, when I took off her halter and she remained standing quietly, I scratched her all over and gave her a horse treat.

Day 4: In the pen, Luna stood quietly for her haltering, even reaching over to put her nose in it, and she did everything I asked when I moved her around with the lead rope.

She got a treat at the end of the day's lesson.

Every day now, she sticks her nose in the halter, and waits to see what I'm going to ask her to do. I think she's got it all again.

However. I do entertain a fantasy of tying Luna to big old Krusty, and watching the old man drag her around everywhere. Is that bad?


  1. Ha, Luna has met her match! Excellent adventure, love the reference to The Long Walk, one of my favorite stories. I think tying her to Krusty would make HIM suffer, he deserves better.

  2. I laughed and laughed at her naughty horse antic s-and your name s!
    Great training....funny thought with the last, but feat she'd break her naughty, beautiful neck!

    Amazing how your snow is gone

  3. I guess she finally learned her lesson. Stubborn little thing. I don't think your fantasy is bad but I don't think Krysty deserves her and her antics.

  4. I think Luna deserves a donkey, since she acted like one---not a nice one, at that. *G* The long walk is a great way to teach them the catching lesson, provided you are in a smallish area so you don't get too exhausted yourself. Hopefully your naughty girl has learned her lesson.

  5. I've had horses almost wear me out a couple of times doing that, but there was no way I was giving in. What a relief when they finally give up.

  6. Yeah it's tough when you have to keep up that walking... 45 minutes, that's about three miles, hope you didn't get dizzy.

    One of my older horses used to teach the youngsters about leading by grabbing their head-collars and pulling them around. They quickly learned to yield to pressure and were no trouble when it was a human tugging on a leadrope instead of a playful old gelding

  7. Good job! They sure do have a little attitude don't they. Rio gave us some attitude yesterday, but he got over it. These are the best teaching times, even if it does wear on our patience.

  8. Luna is seriously gorgeous! I adore the top photo! All of them are great. Luna reminds me a bit of Zoe, my dog. At first Zoe hated wearing a sweater. She would pull it off and chew it up. Now she actually puts her paws up and sticks her head in the right place because she's figured out that she is warmer with it on. It only took a year and about 15 chewed up sweaters.

  9. she sounds like a little monster. but you worked her down. :) a horse place in my area uses a donkey to halter break their young ones. i always feel SO sorry for the donkey!

  10. LUNA.......what a good girl! I remember the worst things my baby did was giving me some flinging, rearing behavior after I got the halter on her. She has always been easy to halter, but walking with me when she wanted to go somewhere else has been more exciting. It occurred to me reading this is she's been so easy to deal with I forgot what a little shit she used to be. Love the second photo of Luna! Cuteness abounds!!