We`re always told that routine is good for horses and that they like it.
However, this last week I`ve found that it is very easy for routines to become habits, and that some horses don`t take kindly to someone breaking the routine.
Let me explain a bit further. Apollo is used to living out in a field all the time, so he had a big change of routine coming to me as he had to be stabled for the incubation period. Now, however, he is living out in the field all the time.
When I brought Apollo in on Friday he threw his toys out the pram, and had quite a strop. I got on with the work albeit it was a bit tricky, and then after I`d ridden I fed him then turned him out.
During the day I tried to work out what had triggered Apollo`s strop, and here is my conclusion: At Apollo`s previous home the owner got all the horses in at lunchtime and gave them all a hard feed on the floor in the yard so that they were ready to be ridden by the girls after school.
This has created two problems for me. The first is that Apollo doesn`t eat out of his bucket, preferring to tip it over and make a mess. I believe this will be solved over time, and he`s eating a bit more of his dinner each day before kicking it over. If it doesn`t stop soon then I will get a tyre and put his bucket in the tyre so he cannot tip it over.
The second problem I have is that Apollo comes in from the field and expects to have his hard feed immediately. This causes him to get agitated when it doesn`t arrive and to fidget and be generally uncooperative. So how are we going to solve this problem? Once I realised what the cause of his behaviour was I brought him in on Saturday before work and offered him haylage. After about ten minutes I gave him his feed. Then I could groom and pick out his feet without a problem. This doesn`t work for me everyday though, as I don`t always have the time to feed and then wait an hour to work Apollo.
The next day I had Apollo in, on Monday, he didn`t try to make a fuss about not having his feed. But I think this was influenced by the fact there was a horse in the next stable to distract him. When i brought him back from our hack he stood quietly with haylage for five minutes until I got his feed.
Today, I told my friend to bring him in and leave him with haylage for quarter of an hour so that he didn`t expect to be fed instantly, but also him eating would settle him down for her to handle him. Again, this approach seemed to work and he accepted his ration of haylage. Over the next few weeks I will just have to vary the amount of time he has to stand in before getting his dinner, so that he cannot anticipate it. He will need to acclimatise to working before dinner, and standing quietly for handling.
I`m sure it won`t take him long to adjust to my routine.