Pan (Black Panther) broke out of our round pen four times last Saturday. I was so frustrated with him. Our round pen is not particularly secure. Partly because it's temporary... until it's not. We don't know when that will be as the farm takes shape.
Well, we have the water obstacle settling now. But our plans for it to be spring fed died as the spring either dried up or only works part of the year. Or perhaps we broke it. Actually, I recommended my friend not divert the spring out of the pond. This was before we were sure that the old pond would become a water obstacle and diverting the water made a kind of sense at the time.
Hindsight is sometimes 2020 but not always. In the case of the pond we don't know a lot of things, except the old pond was too big and stagnant. At least our water obstacle has stayed about an inch full and we know it will fill up from spring rains. And we can always fill it for events if we ever have any.
So when Panther broke out of the round pen, he ran around the pond over to the pasture where I caught him easily and tried again. I finally solved the escape route by stacking apple crates by the gate and even though he could technically break out anywhere, he doesn't know that.
Also, to prevent him from learning that I had to rethink what I know about training a horse to turn in rather an away. Most trainers use a lot of pressure to teach the horse that turn away is wrong, but sometimes having less than perfect teaches you things you didn't know.
Now, one thing I've been doing a lot of lately is using the words, "good boy" and "good girl." Our horses know their names so they perk up when we say their names. These are things they had to learn though. Horses don't start out knowing their name and they don't know "good boy/girl" from all the other sounds we make. They have to learn what it means.
How do you teach them? The easiest way, and fastest way to teach a horse their name is to call it and either give them attention or a treat. We use a mixture of both and it's not a specific training but a day to day interaction. It's very useful to call one up to the barn by their name. Our horses also know the word "no."
This means a lot of our interactions are verbal. But still, most of my round pen work has been non-verbal. Yet, instead of applying pressure to Panther, I decided to try removing pressure and using "Good boy," so he could get what I wanted. Now, if he didn't already know "Good boy," the results would have been minimal to nonexistent.
Pan is also a "yes" man and in that he is unlike our other horses. Super says, "mayyyyybe." Thunder replies with an emphatic, "No." And Thor plays dumb.... "I'm confused and my feet are tangle." And since this is also often true-- he fell down about six times last year, once in the barn while being saddled, another time with me on him, and the rest were just as surprising --- I'm still learning how to when he's playing dumb to avoid exertion and really struggling to understand.
So, with Pan it takes almost no cue and he goes, "Yes!!!!!! Ma'am!!!!!" Thus I realized, both by his attitude when I caught him and his breaking out, that my pressure level was just too high. To be fair, all of our horses go off of light pressure. Still, with Pan, he really needs to learn to be less reactive and a lot of things don't mean anything ,which is what we're working on.