JUNE 2020 THE RIDER /29 Lyra and Grayson On Teaching Your Horse Not To Paw

head. Large for his kind, his beautiful

By Ellen Schoeman. A hawk flew over- red-feathered

wings moved up and down as he searched the world be- neath him. In Lyra’s world, flying

was the main objective. Her red hair flew back

with the summer wind as she watched the young man gallop the shore atop a silver creature. The animal’s black hooves pulled back and forth. Her silver mane and tail flowed. Her arched head stoic and majestic. At her sides were generous, grace- ful wings, glided effort- lessly.

Many times Lyra had

witnessed Grayson taking flight, had witnessed him soaring through the sky atop his beautiful Skybred horses. It was something she would never tire of. Espe- cially because it was some- thing

Lyra seldom

experienced for herself. She was a colt rider and colts had to earn their wings, un- like fillies who were born with them. When Grayson no-

ticed Lyra watching him, he

slowed the Skybred mare and walked over to her. “Where’s the colt?” he asked her. “Magnus is at the pa-

tience pole,” Lyra admitted. “He’s pawing while

tied again?” Lyra nodded. “Have you thought

about ignoring the behav- iour? When he begins to paw on the cross ties, walk away until he stops. When he stops, reward him with your return and repeat if necessary.” “Technically, I am ig-

noring him,” Lyra ex- plained. “I’m not with him right now. “I can see that. I don’t

know that tying him to a pole and leaving him alone is the best form of treatment for this particular problem.” “Questioning my

training methods?” Lyra raised her eyebrows. “I agree with you, Grayson. We have the same frame-of- mind. He wouldn’t stop pawing, so I walked away. My presence is reinforcing his behaviour, so I moved him from the ties to the pad- dock where the patience pole is. It’s in a fenced-in

paddock. The top of the ce- mented-in pole has a swivel to tie onto, so he can move around if he wants without hurting himself. There are mats so he can’t dig himself to China. But he will have to learn to be patient, for half an hour at least, because I’m not coming back until then.” “I don’t agree with

your leaving him entirely alone as you have done. Tell me, are you hand feeding him on the cross ties? If so, this could be a learned be- haviour in association and expectation of treats. Does he paw at mealtimes when he is expecting grain? Lyra shook her head.

“Only on the ties.” “He is still being

turned out with other colts, correct? Perhaps it is impa- tience to return to his friends in the field?” “Perhaps.” “Or boredom? Are

you boring the colt, Miss Lyra?” “You’re not funny,

Grayson. If it was boredom, tell me, please, how I can make standing on the ties more stimulating for the colt?”

“My goodness, aren’t

Horses and Skybred Horses aren’t stupid. He’ll figure out

that pawing means

you supposed to be the colt’s trainer, Miss Lyra?” “He’s just young and

immature. Half an hour tied to a pole is not going to hurt him. It’s in a fenced in pad- dock and there’s people around, although they know not to bother him because he’s on the patience pole. So he can’t get himself into too much trouble. If he is still upset and pawing when I get back, I will either take him back to the barn and put him away without a treat and try again tomorrow, even in- creasing the time by half an hour intervals until he learns. Or, if he is still paw-

ing and upset when I get back, I will leave him there until he calms down. I’ll give him some hay and water and wait.” “Seems a bit ex-

treme.” “We have a patience

pole for this reason. He just needs some time to figure it out.”

“And if the patience

pole doesn’t work?” “Then, perhaps, I’ll

lung him, take him back to the ties and if he starts to paw I will take him back into the arena and work him again. And do this on repeat until he figures it out.

going back to work. And think about it. In the field, if the herd-boss wants some- thing done, they make the other horses (or the horse bothering them) move. If they can make the other horses move and have that respect, then they are the herd-boss. He just needs to figure out that when I am handling him, I am the herd- boss, and if necessary, I will make him move. Pawing can be dangerous. He could hit someone or damage his hooves or the property.” “A horse trying to

strike is very dangerous. Just be careful, won’t you?” “I’ve dealt with paw-

ing horses before. And the patience pole usually works. Although, I don’t usually get so much grief about leaving them alone for half an hour.” “Won’t he start paw-

ing again when you return to him? He will get excited to see you and start to paw. It might be better to stay with him where he can see you. If you get up to see him, and he starts to paw, then retreat.

Wait and repeat.” “I’ll keep that


mind.” “And don’t give him

treats if he’s presenting neg- ative behaviour. The reward method only works if you only reward positive behav- iour.”

“I don’t over-treat.” “Then have you

stressed the horse? Is he pawing because he has an ulcer?” “He’s two!” “Does he paw when

you’re grooming him?” “No. He paws when I

take the tack back to the tack room or when I leave his side for any reason. And then he won’t stop pawing.” “That sounds behav-

ioural, not medical.” “Yes it does.” “Which means some-

one is teaching him to paw.” “Oh, look, it’s been

half an hour,” Lyra said as she got to her feet and started back to the colt. “Thanks, Grayson. Bye, Grayson.” “Bye, Lyra. And stop

hand feeding that colt on the cross ties!” “I’m not!”

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