Bint Al Bahr Arabians
Preservation Breeders of Straight Babson Egyptians
HOUSE BREAKING HORSES
|On a visit to the Fippen's
Dressage Stable at Hickory Ridge Farm in St Joseph Illinois, Betty Fippen
carried a five gallon bucket into Inshalla Imhotep's stall. I watched in
amazement as the stallion walked over and peed in the bucket! She praised
him lavishly (who wouldn't!) and took the bucket out. AWESOME!
This got me to thinking about a lot of things. Horses are a whole lot smarter than we give them credit for. I had just witnessed that they can be taught to do nearly anything. This got me to thinking about how to housebreak my own horses. Betty had shown me evidence that it was possible.
My first student was an older Babson stallion, Ahmed Fabah that had a very irritating dinner ritual. He would come in to the stall from his outside run as the hay was put in the stall feeder. He then took a bite and urinated where he stood in front of the feeder. His next move was to grab the hay flake and pull it from the feeder and drop it in the puddle. Then he'd look at me asking for fresh hay because his hay was spoiled. He was to be my first challenge.
I started his training by first cleaning his stall before he was fed, carrying each manure pile outside one at a time while carefully explaining the new rules. It was feeding time so I had his complete attention. I then took away the hay as soon as he started to pee. I then cleaned up the puddle with a lengthy explanation of why his dining room was not his bathroom. The shavings were taken outside to where I wanted him to pee and left there. Then the hay was given back and as long as no new puddle appeared he was allowed to keep it. The time consuming routine was repeated at every meal. He soon learned to relieve himself before coming in the stall for meals. He was happy as when his dinner was served, it did not leave soon after. Whooppee! My toughest horse was now housebroken! I knew now how it could be done. Thank you Betty! Now for the rest of the herd...
Although my horses are kept in pastures most of the time, they are brought up for irrigation or in bad weather. The stallions are stalled between taking turns in the pastures. The horses here are now housebroken. They still have a few "I forgot" moments but for the most part feeding goes fast and smooth with no stalls to clean up first. In order to housebreak your horses they must have an outside door into an outside run. If you allow them to have free access to the turnout in addition to the stall they will learn to "go" outside. (unless it is raining) If they are building a neat pile in the stall corner and she has access to the outside pen, you may just need to show her where you want it. Those are the easy ones, they are neat to begin with. I only train one or two at time, not the whole herd at once, as that would be too time consuming.
Patience AND consistency are the big keys to success. It won't happen overnight but usually they catch on after about a week or maybe two of lessons.
Usually a horsebreaking lesson goes like this... Enter her stall with hay in hand and EXCLAIM over the manure in a slightly disapproving voice. (What's this in your stall? Doesn't this belong outside? I'm sorry, but I can't feed you when your stall is dirty.) Take the hay back to the hay cart. Feed (and praise) ALL the clean stall horses first then do the "clean and then feed" horses. Go back to your "training horse" and move the manure outside to where you want her to put it, tell her why you want it outside (it is easier to clean up, you get fed immediately, your stall smells fresh, ect.) You want her to follow you outside and watch the process. Do not clean up the reminders of where you want the bathroom to be. You can clean up most of the pile later in the day, but not at meal time. You need to leave a reminder of where you prefer it to be for them to get the message. Tell her that her stall is her bedroom and dining room, not her bathroom. No feed for that horse until the stall is clean. They learn quickly a clean stall means a quickly served meal.
Don't forget to praise her for a nearly clean stall (Only one pile, you're almost there!) and lavishly praise for a clean stall. (What a GOOD girl, You get a gold star! You are our new President of the Clean Stall Club!) When you arrive and find a clean stall you give her a cookie, give praise and feed her right away, no waiting.
I once opened the alley doors at the back of my senior barn after a long and very vocal training session with two horses to find a group of the vet clinic's visitors standing and staring at me... the crazy woman!
But a crazy woman with clean dining stalls.....
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