Merry Christmas everyone!!! Hope you've had as lovely a Christmas as we have!
Totally unrelated but as I was bringing the horses in for the night on Friday we had a really rough rain storm with gale force winds. The horses were all very spooked and it occurred to me, not for the first time, how much easier it would make life if all horses were taught about head lowering.
I had to bring in a couple of other people's horses who had grown at least two hands, wild eyed and heads in the air as they pranced about, snorting.
Jack, who was at least as spooked as any of the others, let me put his head collar on and then deliberately dropped his nose to the ground and kept it there while I haltered his field mate. He has learned, through a lot of repetition, that he can calm himself down and control his own adrenalin levels by keeping his head down. By the time I had put his friend's head collar on and opened the gate he was as cool as a cucumber and walked alongside me in a relaxed and sensible manner.
I was really proud of him, especially considering that the thing he really couldn't cope with in the past was high winds, as he relies on his hearing even more than most horses, with his eyesight being limited.
I don't believe that most horses can enjoy feeling frightened and jumpy, anymore than most of us do, and in my experience most horses will voluntarily use head lowering to calm themselves down, at least in the presence of a human friend whose judgement they trust, once they've been taught the value of the exercise.
Head lowering has to be the single most useful things I have ever taught Jack and it's now one of the first things I teach any horse I work with, especially young or nervous horses. The difference it can make in the long term to the horse's temperament and attitude, and it's use on command, as a rapid 'calm down' cue, is unique and invaluable.
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