And other muzzling things.
We are back in the spring season, when the grass grows lush and sweet, the dandelions provide sprinkles, and the horses put on weight. For some this is amazing, and a great time to run around, find good nutrients and pick up some weight after the winter. Timmy (Thoroughbred) and Neige (Appaloosa) do wonderfully at this time of year.
The ponies do not, and neither does Risada (Lusitana). Laminitis is their bug bear for different reasons. Now is the time for restrictions and muzzles.
Muzzles are funny things. We think about them as either something to help, or a necessary evil…the two statements are very different in the way they feel. I used to be the necessary evil type and I struggled at this time of year with co-operation from the horses, for coming in to restricted areas, or having muzzles put on.
Now I am very much moving into the ‘this is as it should be for now’. In the yard at night off the grass completely, and muzzled during the day on the track, with pasture for a few hours in the afternoon. And this year it is working so well. Co-operation is improving, as long as I make sure I am always present and following my intuition.
The other thing with muzzles is that ‘one type isn’t right for all’. I have spent quite a lot of time ( and money) finding the right muzzle for each horse. I have two out of three now, and am working on Queridas next try out. Currently Chocolate is in a Greenguard (because she eats the holes bigger and bigger in anything else!). Querida has a bucket muzzle with a small hole but I have been trying to find her something that is easier for her breathing. She tried the Greenguard, but it was too clumsy and heavy for her and she just stopped eating as soon as I put it on and stood in the shelter all day. We are going to try a ThinLine for her as Risada now uses one of these and is happier than I have ever seen her with a muzzle, despite the hole being the smallest she has had to eat through. Both the bucket muzzle and the Greenguard rubbed her badly under the chin, but the Thinline she is loving so far this year, and there are no signs of rubbing.
We have been working on co-operative muzzling and the video shows one of our learning mornings. Each morning is improving.
I collect all the muzzles and then go and stand with them over my shoulders and go still in my mind and body. Then I wait until they have all accepted the peaceful feeling of the muzzling process. You will see Querida yawning and releasing any anticipation feelings she may have had.
Then I use gratitude and reward techniques, keeping thinking levels at a learning level. If the horses start getting argumentative or anxious I just back off and wait, staying present and peaceful. Right now I have all day. If it takes all day today, it will only take half a day tomorrow, and then an hour, and then a few minutes. The result is happy horses in muzzles, rather than horses that feel their boundaries have been completely disregarded, or feel that the muzzle is stressful because of the stressed feeling bought to them by a person anticipating that the process will be stressful.
If it is necessary, make it enjoyable. It is not about control. It is about co-operation.