I adore my farrier. She is so great for me and Murray, and we blab and blab during our appointments. We very much share the same philosophy for shoeing — do as little as you need to — and she explains everything to me in great detail so that I really feel like if she told me I needed to do something for Murray, I would completely believe her (perhaps this is the long con?! kidding). Most importantly: Murray likes her, and she is GREAT with him. Oh, and my farrier is a LADY, which is not the most common thing in the world and I do believe in women being badasses so you know.
We are not in posession of the world’s greatest feet
However, Murray and I did not always have such a positive relationship with farriers. Doubtless the kid had all four feet shod at the track, but when he got to our barn he started out barefoot, just getting trims (from another lady farrier in the area, actually!). Eventually, he graduated to front shoes, and that’s where I picked up. After a couple of months of work, I noticed that Murray was wearing his hind toes down quite a bit, and asked my farrier if we could put hind shoes on to protect his feet while we worked on fixing the root of the problem. It got put off for two appointments, until I finally put my foot down and asked for them then and there, as I knew I would be starting to ask the kid to do some harder stuff in the coming weeks — running XC on harder ground, for example.
Farrier man was in a bit of a rush, and with some bribery and minimal hijinks we got on the left hind shoe. By the time we got around to the right hind though, Murray was done. D-O-N-E done. He kneed the farrier in the chest three times, and ripped his foot away while the shoe had a grand total of one nail in. He pulled back, I popped him with the stud chain, and he happily backed away from me, twisting the shoe in his foot as he did. He backed towards another horse in the barn aisle, shoe all askew and weaponized on his foot, and the farrier yelled at me to just get Murray away from that other horse. Fortunately, Lisa showed up at just this moment and managed to placate Murray into some kind of submission. At which point the farrier man uttered this very final statement:
“I’m not putting hind shoes on that horse. If you want hind shoes, call another farrier.”
I did find another farrier, of course. And I love her!
Anyway, along the lines of this farrier I adore, I’ve worked really hard to make sure that Murray and she get along well. This involved a lot of stuffing cookies in his face while lady farrier worked on his less-acclimated feet (hinds) and distracting him or reminding him to be a good boy during shoeing.
So with all this treating, I figured I would just clicker train Murray a bit to get him to be better while I was grooming him. So every day, I pre-masticated a few carrots (read: bit up into tiny, treat-sized pieces), stuffed them in my pockets, and would click and treat him as I curried, picked, and brushed, targeting good behavior. Murray, unfortunately, would be super mouthy whenever I was near his face, and would practically try to crawl into my pocket to get to the carrots he could smell and sometimes even see. So I trained a “head down” command, and clicked and treated specifically for him keeping his head down.
Yes you really must wear this baling twine
But instead of getting steadier and more reasonable, Murray got fussier. He started to wander all around the tie when I was grooming, and repeatedly picking up and slamming down his front right foot, a behavior I had been specifically trying to train out of him! He would put his head down, up, turn around to look at me, and then shuffle all around. I tried to click and treat only for the good behaviors but there were so many bad behaviors in there that I felt like I was really missing the point.
And then I realised what was happening. Murray, thinking that this was training time, was offering me every single behavior I had ever rewarded him for in an attempt to get treats. He knew the treats were there, and he was willing to work for them. Constantly. Forever. Always. Just to get more treats.
I mentioned this to lady farrier at our latest appointment, and told her how I’d had to back off the clicker training because of it (upside: Murray is much more well-behaved during grooming now). She laughed at me and said “Well, you know, that’s one of the goals of Parelli! To have your horse to the point where they understand the game and are offering you all these behaviors to participate in the game!”
I was like UMMM WUT?
So there. I accidentally Parellied my horse. No carrot stick or waving lead rope needed.