RBEI MASTER COURSES: EQUINE MANAGEMENT: GROOMING 4
THE GROOMING ENVIRONMENT
Because horses are...horses, the place you choose to groom your horse makes all the difference to how calm and settled the horse will be.
The wrong environment can cause a normally placid and calm horse to turn into a raging, kicking, rearing lunatic in seconds and vice versa.
THERE ARE MANY FACTORS TO CONSIDER:
WHERE HIS FRIENDS ARE:
If you take a horse from his friends to groom him he will naturally fret.
WHAT HIS FRIENDS ARE DOING AT THE TIME:
Eg: If his friends are about to all go and roll and you go and take him out, he will naturally be upset.
IN RELATION TO FEED TIMES:
If it is feed time or close to feed time and you remove him from the paddock he will fret that he is going to miss out on feed.
IN RELATION TO NIGHT TIME:
If you take him out of his paddock to groom him close to nightfall horses generally fret a bit, because just before nightfall they like to organize themselves so everyone is together and safe for the night.
IN RELATION TO OTHER IMPORTANT ROUTINE TIMES:
Horses do have their routines, they normally nap round lunch time for example. You should be aware of these routines.
IF HE CAN SEE HIS FRIENDS:
If he can see his friends from the grooming area this will make a lot of positive difference.
IF HIS FRIENDS CAN LEAVE HIS SIGHT:
But if his friends can wander around a corner or out of sight when they were initially in sight this can make horses go bizerk.
IF IT IS A ZONE WHERE UNPLEASANT THINGS OFTEN TAKE PLACE:
For example if you groom in a hose bay and the horse is used to getting bombarded with freezing cold water in there.
IF IT IS VERY FAR FROM HIS HOME PADDOCK / FRIENDS:
If you walk far from his paddock to groom he will fret more than if it is in close proximity.
WHICH DIRECTION HE IS FACING TIED UP:
Horses will generally want to face the direction they can see their home paddock or friends. If you tie them the opposite direction they will fret and try to turn around.
WHETHER IT IS ENCLOSED OR OPEN:
Horses will feel nervous locked in a small dark zone, a semi open stable or area is ideal. Too open and they will tend to want to go away and be fidgety.
WHAT IS ON THE FLOOR:
If the floor is wet they can be suspicious and spooky on it, if it is thick dry straw it can make a scary noise as they walk onto it and move around on it.
WHAT IS BEHIND: Horses get nervous about what is behind them that they can't see so behind them ideally would be a wall or closed off space.
WHAT NOISES OR OTHER THINGS ARE HAPPENING BEHIND:
If however there are noises behind they can spook.
WHAT CAN SPRING UP BEHIND:
Be careful that they aren't placed so people, cars or dogs or anything can suddenly come into vision from behind, this will spook horses.
WHAT CAN SPRING UP IN FRONT OR BESIDE:
The same goes for things in front or beside. If a horse is tied up and suddenly a person, car or something appears right there in front of them or in their vision without warning, they can spook.
WHAT IS VISIBLE IN FRONT:
If what is in front of the horse, they are scared of, or there are things going on in front of them that spook them this will cause them to be unpredictable.
WHAT THE ZONE SMELLS LIKE:
Horses have a very sensitive sense of smell, they will analyze an area based a lot on smell and strong smells will spook them.
WHAT FOREIGN OBJECTS ARE PRESENT:
Horses can freak out at objects they don't recognize, be aware of this in your grooming area.
WHAT ELSE IS PRESENT:
Eg, pets, young children wandering around the area etc, can spook horses.
OTHER OVERALL FACTORS
Building a trusting and respectful relationship with your horse enables your horse to develop a belief that you will not allow him to be harmed or hurt. That you will give him fair warning before things different happen so they are never unexpected.
That you will provide environmental transitions that foster him remaining calm throughout so when he draws on past impressions to try to predict what will be happening to him in the present and future that he will know you will never make him unsettled or scared and so relax in the present tense when you do things.
How tense and unpredictable horses are in a foreign environment reflect on how well you have built your relationship with them over time. Another overriding and helpful factor is establishing a nice predictable routine so the horse can know and understand what is going to happen and therefore relax.
As a horse owner you will get used to mixing things around to suit horses and juggling things around so your horse can relax. It is important to always be interacting rather than just acting with your horse remaining in touch with how they are feeling and why at all times.
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