Horse training

Hot Topic: Potty Trained?

CAN YOU TRULY “POTTY TRAIN” A HORSE?

This is something that is a true argument between miniature horse owners. Before we start the conversation, we need to clarify a few details:

  1. The idea of potty training. When people hear potty training, they typically assume you are talking about a dog. Where: the dog itself is trained to stand by a door or bark until you, the owner, pays attention and lets the animal out to go potty. The animals are signaling to the owner that they need to relieve themselves. The owner doesn’t need to constantly be on watch for signs.

  2. With-holding food. For a horse to be healthy - they need to be eating 18-20 hours of the day. Otherwise, they develop ulcers and can have serious health problems. Certainly, if an animal isn’t given food - they won’t need any relief. But, for horses to be healthy… this is not an option.

  3. Horses enjoy routine. If they are used to doing the same thing - chances are, they will get used to that routine and stick with it. That routine is developed and they know to relieve themselves in the same spot over a period of time; such as a special place in the yard or in the trailer.

  4. Horses do not have the sense to “hold it” like a trained dog (and human) can do. They will just go. And handlers are always on guard to watch the animal for signs or signals.

Okay: so with these details… You can start to see why we believe:

Horses cannot be potty trained in the same sense that a dog can be potty trained.

 

Dog vs. Horse Potty Training

Dallas, Buddy, and Skye

When an animal is “potty trained” they are considered to know that relieving themselves inside is bad, and that they need to alert their owner that they need to go. The owner can be doing other things, and will be alerted by the animal itself; there is no constant-following or supervision to watch the animal to make sure they don’t go in the house - since they are trained. With that explained; horses do not give a sign to their owner, rather, the hander needs to be on constant lookout to watch their horse for signs.

Here’s an example: I know when Wendy starts to move around after an hour of standing still during a visit, that we need to go outside to let her relieve herself. She hasn’t announced through pawing or nudging (signs she is trained not to do during a visit anyways) that she needs to relieve herself, instead I am watching for a sign. AND I know we have been on a visit for about an hour - the typical timeframe a horse will need to relieve itself anyways. So we go outside to the trailer and she relieves herself.

 

With-holding Food

Now, I’ve already mentioned how often horses need to be eating. We never-ever keep food away from the horses before a visit. There is always hay in the trailer with water in a bucket, or at least in a sealed container since certain horses like knocking over the water 😏… and they will always be offered water before and after a visit. (I think I nailed this one on the head now.)

 

Routine

Denver.JPG

Herd animals enjoy doing the same thing over and over again. Have you ever noticed horses getting bent out of shape when you feed at a different time than “usual”? The nature of these animals is to follow the same routine. So naturally, if they are used to the routine of a visit they will automatically learn that after a certain task is performed they continue to the next. Our pre-visit routine is the same each time: a) bathe the horses, b) let them dry in the corral, c)load into the trainer {cue relieving themselves, also because they smell it}, d) make the visit, e) return to the trailer {again, a cue to relieve themselves} f) return home and roll in the dirt. See: although the visit location of the visit may differ, the routine is always the same. Notice with the more veteran therapy horses… take Denver for example. When we put on a BunBag, vest, clean his hooves and brush his mane and tail he seems to “get in the mood” for the visit. He understands this is the same as always and has very trusting relationship with us. His head drops and he is ready for visitors.

But wait: You still put on a BunBag?

YES! We will always put a BunBag on. When we were first doing training visits years ago, we were getting so caught up and nervous watching the horse for signs that we couldn’t focus on the patient/horse experience. The bags are a security for us as handlers. Then, we don’t have to keep watching and honestly, stressing, to watch and observe the horse for signs they may have to go. Remember, horses can hear your heartbeat - so when your anxiety increases your heart rate increases and the horses will notice that and become unsettled with you.

Fun Fact: Horses only pee 2 - 3 times a day; However, they will poop almost every hour.

Also consider: if you are doing a visit where your horses are eating in the grass while visitors pet them - they will more than like poop during that visit. What goes in always comes out.

Always Remember: Horse are unpredictable.

You could think your horse is doing well remembering the routine of a visit, but something can always happen. Even our more experienced horses have pooped in their bag during a visit. Some horses are coined as “double-poopers” and we keep note of that. These are horses that will stress poop for various reasons. You just never know. And instead of constantly watching our horse for signs, simply leaving the relieving to be relieved; we can have a fun enjoyable visit with a built-in safety net for the horse.

We never leave the farm without a bag on, that is our policy. I take everything we came with back to the farm.


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The Winds of Change are Coming

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Just like all programs, change is inevitable. Change can be difficult, challenging and full of stress but it frequently results in good things. We believe good things are happening for our program. Seven Oaks Farm is in the process of revamping all our seminars. The change comes not out of habit or just because its the thing to do, but out of our dedication. We are fully committed to bringing you the best program we can when it comes to training your miniature therapy horses or handling your miniature therapy horses. Time and experience are an excellent teacher and we have had both. We're growing our program so that you can receive the top quality training you want and expect. We will be adding many more seminars to our yearly schedule so we can specifically meet your needs. Now theres even more than outstanding book work, and lectures and videos but actual hand on training.

 

We are preparing to add several seminars to our calendar this coming year so you can train right here on our farm with our experienced trainers and handlers. All the course material will be conveniently offered with our written materials but also in video lectures. This will allow you to easily read the material and watch the lectures at a speed  and time that is convenient for you. Once the material is completed you can join our team at our farm and spend many beneficial hours training as a handler and a trainer under the close supervision of our staff. You will be guided thru the entire process of a visit and be able to use your newly gained knowledge immmediately. We truly believe our new format will give you the hands on experience you've been asking for, offer you our expertise and increase your confidence in your skills. Keep looking for updates to our seminars and consider joining us this year.