Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How Gwen learned to stop worrying and love the flymask

Here were the quarters today in the pasture, don't they look snazzy in their flymasks?

As usual, the flymask was a complete non-issue for Coriander and a life-ending matter for Miss Gwenevere. She was pretty sure that flymask was going to kill her. I had two options for getting it on her: I could have put her halter on and wrestled that mask onto her face, hoping that she'd figure out it wouldn't hurt her; or I could use clicker training.

I knew that if I wrestled her for it she'd probably fear the flymask forever and I'd always have issues getting it on her head. Since this was not a viable option in my mind, I chose the clicker training route. It took three days of playing "can I touch you with this" before she'd let me put the mask on her and velcro it shut, but it was completely worth it. Now I can just walk in her stall and put the flymask on, lickety-split. Flymasks will (hopefully) never worry her again.

As I was working with Gwen on this, Grey Horse Matters put up a post called "Dusty Rides Again." She wrote about how she avoids fighting with her mare over fear issues because respect and trust are never earned through bullying and force. That post felt particularly timely for me, since I was using clicker training to gently work my girl through a fear issue. Head on over to her blog and check it out, it's worth the read.


  1. I get chided sometimes at my barn for being "too nice" to my guy. In my mind, I am not being a pushover, I am being gentle but firm when necessary. That may be too soft by some standards, but I would rather get a response that is willing and because he wants to work with me, not because it's forced and he is bullied into it. It may take me longer to accomplish things, but I have the time. I admire your patience. :-)

  2. Too many people mistake softness for indulgence. It's not the same thing. I try to be as soft as possible with my horses but that doesn't mean I let them walk all over me.

    So long as your horse is well mannered there really is no reason to use force. Gem seems to fall into that category. Tell them it's your horse and your methods.

  3. I'm glad to hear that you liked my post. I think it was a wonderful idea to take the time to alleviate Gwen's fears about the fly mask. You're right about not wanting to wrestle with her and force her on this issue. I'll bet she's thankful you took the time to show her the mask had no intention of eating her.

  4. Hi GHM, it was the perfect post to go along with what I was working on at the time, thanks for writing it! I hope that her getting over her fear of it let her realize that it keeps the bugs out of her eyes. She's smart enough to figure that out.

  5. Just catching up on the past month of your blog, but I really liked this post!

    That's awesome that Gwen has learned to like her fly mask. Fly masks can be REALLY scary, but if we go at the horse's pace, they don't have to be. Three of our two year old recently learned how to wear fly masks, I just published some photos of it on my blog. They are all happily wearing their masks as well now.