Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Trouble With Tucker

Lessons to Learn

I need to be always on guard with Tucker. Not that he intends to hurt me, but he has several issues I need to always deal with.

First, he's big. Sometimes, he doesn't realize just how big he is. Typical is his belief that he can actually fit comfortably in the feed room. I've blogged about this before. But it's a narrow place with no room to move and if I forget to put up the guard and he gets loose in the aisle, it's a disaster. He can squeeze in and then just can't get back out. There's a step up into the room and he's afraid to step back down and out so he has to turn around. There's no room unless I take everything out of the room to give him space.

Big also makes him occasionally forget how much room he needs to maneuver his body even in his stall. Sometimes, unless I am really quick to correct him, his body gets into my space when he tries to turn around. With another horse, I'd consider it crowding, but with him, it's more, "Gee, I forgot my buns were that far behind my head," kind of thing.

But there is also his attitude which is, "I'll see what I can get away with today." I was watching a training video today about teaching a horse to respect you. The exercises were great, demanding that the horse step back when you turned to face him. Just "move his feet," and you have control. Tucker's been there, done that. In fact I can almost guarantee if I or the clinician took him into a training session, he'd be a star pupil.

He's smart. Too smart for his own good. He'd pick up the point of the back up exercise after two goes. In fact, on the lead line, when I do work him---not in this sub frigid, icepack weather we're having now--he's a master of obedience.

I do intend to do some trick training with him when the weather improves and, like the obedience exercises, I'm sure he'll learn really fast.

The problem is, the lessons don't stick. Most horses I've had learn a good behavior and stick to it, with minimal need for correction as time goes on. Not Tucker. And it's not that he doesn't understand the lesson or know what he's "supposed" to do. He just decides to test the limit to see if he "has" to do it.

I mentioned his challenging me at Toby's door. We have reached the point where if I am in the barn, or at least within "shoutshot" of the barn, I can usually stop him from barging in to steal Toby's food. I've made that point often enough that he gets it.

But if I turn my back or go around the corner out of sight?  He's up to his old tricks.

Practically every bit of training I've don with him demands the same kind of vigilance and absolute consistency
on my part. Walk/trot transitions? Well, if he feels like it just perfect from the get go. But there's always the day I'll get a snarl instead. Leg yields, half passes, canter departs, reinbacks? You name it. No guarantee.
Some days, he just "has to think about it first."  Oh, yes, and I have to ask politely. Otherwise, I'm being "rude." (So he said to the animal communicator.)
Tucker eating from the bird feeder. Hey, it's food!
On the other hand, he was quite delighted to learn how to roll the big soccer ball around by pushing it with his nose. He'd to that 100% of the time. Why? He got a treat. There was something in it for him. 

So, that's the key. I need to find the "something in it for Tucker" for each good behavior I demand.

A pocket full of carrots ought to do the trick.


  1. Tucker sounds much like Red. With Red, it's not that he doesn't learn - he's very smart - it's that he learns exactly what I teach him - every day. Unlike my others, who'll go along with the program I've taught them, every day every if I do nothing to reinforce, with Red I have to be absolutely consistent, and fair - if I don't ask for the same thing every day, he assumes I don't really mean it - I don't think of it as taking advantage but rather that he's smart enough to keep me accountable.

  2. Tucker sounds like a very smart horse who will always push the limits just for his own amusement. He sounds an awful lot like my daughter's horse Mellon. He's a Trakhener and smart as a whip and will do most things if asked politely. On the other hand he never minded picking a fight just for the fun of it. They sure keep it interesting.