An important part of our training program involves exposing horses to new obstacles and experiences. This helps in setting them up to be successful when they go out into the “real world.” In addition, it can be a great way to discover what they enjoy and are best suited to do. A few weeks ago, Jenko got some unusual exposure to something that is not always common in the Maine riding scene-- cows.
We took Jenko and one of our lifetime residents, Yuma, off property to Elijah Moore’s farm in Searsport to introduce them to a small herd of cows. Upon first seeing the cows, Jenko was quite nervous and would have been happy to high tail it back home. To help him work through his fear, we began by turning Jenko loose in an adjacent round pen to the cows and asking him to move around. Anytime he moved closer to the cows or even looked in their direction, we would reward him by stepping back and letting him stand quietly. As a result, Jenko progressively got closer to the herd on his own, and we were able to end by working him in hand next to the cows.
One of the fastest ways to build a horse’s confidence is to have an object they are scared of move away from them, and have them follow it. This peaks the horse’s natural curiosity, and the cows were a perfect example. Eventually we were able to bring one of the cows in the same pen with Jenko, and we led him behind the cow. When the cow would move away from him he started to get the idea to follow. Yuma also helped by confidently moving the cows and letting Jenko follow directly behind. An experienced horse can be an essential partner when working with a green or nervous horse. By the end of the session, while still a bit cautious, Jenko was feeling far more confident and curious and happily moved the cows all around the arena.
Working cows is such a fun way for horse and rider to work together on a clear task, while simultaneously practicing all of the skills we want to teach, such as lateral movements, transitions and changes of pace. With the goal of moving the cows, a horse can see the necessity of different movements while the rider gets to practice these skills in a natural and more challenging setting. Jenko is currently available for adoption. If interested please contact Horses With Hope or the MSSPA. Many thanks to Elijah Moore for taking the time to work with us.