Muzzling using the Trust Technique

Session 1 with the ponies

I don’t know about you but I have spent many hours wandering around after ponies who know it is time to have the muzzle on.

For a long time I didn’t like muzzles. I did not feel they were fair on the ponies. I had a good talk with myself a year ago and we now use muzzles constantly. Although they would obviously prefer to be without the muzzle, they also would prefer to be on the fields with their herd mates.

For those who don’t know my herd well, I have three of the five that are prone to laminitis. My Lusitano, Risada, who is prone to weight gain (and no wonder as she just loves to graze around herself while laying down in the field. My older pony Chocolate who has been prone to laminitis most of her life. My farrier has helped me significantly with Chocolate, managing her feet and showing me the signs to look for over the years. She has not been overweight now for two years, although she is still sensitive to the sugars in the grass. And then there is Querida. She loves her grass and her hay. She will quite happily work out how to get through any fence. I adopted Querida from a centre whose main concern was that she have a forever home. She had changed homes several times as owners found they couldn’t cope with her. She has had rotation in her front feet and they are mis-shapen as you can see in the video, and she is very sensitive to the grasses at this time of year. (They are also due for their trims this week!).

So how did I change things this year. (I am always changing things). Firstly I let the herd graze all the fields over winter instead of shutting the fields and I limited their hay intake to less than what I would normally have used. They all came out of winter not too bad. Risada and Querida were still holding a little weight from the hay bales but not as bad as I have seen in previous springs. Then we went straight into muzzles being put on before sunset for the entire night, when I would open a field for grazing. This allows my two other horses to eat as much grass as they want, and the other three also get to have fun in the field over night. but the muzzles limit their grazing. The muzzles are taken off well after sunrise and then the herd have a little bit of hay and access to the track. So far so good.

I did a little bit if working with the muzzles using the Trust Technique to take them off, and now they are all really good at allowing me to take them off slowly without head snatching.

Now it is time to tackle the difficult bit. Getting the muzzles on every night – peacefully. It is a difficult one because they have to have them on, so I do this as best I can and keep it as peaceful as possible. But, in parallel I am going to do some sessions just putting the muzzle on and off, using the principles of the Trust Technique to create peace with the muzzle, to get a level of realisation learning (that is that the ponies realise that the muzzle isn’t so bad, and my intention is just to keep them healthy), and to find Trusted Co-operation (who wants to fight with muzzles every night – I don’t and they probably don’t either, so we need to change the way we look at things).

I do use treats and we are also learning as part of this process how to get treats for doing something for me. It is a thank you, not a bribe. They know there are treats in my pocket though, so you will see me moving away towards their tail if they come looking before doing. My reward? Not having to walk miles after ponies to get muzzles on in the evening.

The videos below are the first session with Querida, and then the first session with Chocolate. I haven’t done a session with Risada yet. She doesn’t mind putting the muzzle on for a treat but she will put her head up really high. I will do a few sessions with her soon

Querida – my learning point. I noticed that I didn’t wait until her head came down again as I was putting the muzzle on. Doh!

Chocolate – it is a little difficult to see but when the muzzle is going on she leans back. I waited until she wasn’t leaning away from the muzzle. Yeah!

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