How do you coax a yearling colt to not be afraid of water buffalo?
Let them have dinner together!
I came up with the idea out of necessity. I’ve been taking Quill for walks every evening in order to spend a few minutes of training time with him away from his doting dam, Neela, who has finally stopped whinnying in protest when I lead him away.
In order for those two overly-joined-at-the-hip horses to be out of eyesight of each other (the colt is physically weaned, just not emotionally), I’m following the advice of Sus Kellogg of Free Horse Farm, who told me she takes her young horses on walks off property to get them used to being away from their dam.
So I’ve started leading Quill past the water buffalo paddock and around the corner of the barn to the front of the house where he and Neela can’t see each other, and I’ll have his evening feed waiting as a reward. My plan is to gradually increase the distance. Yet every time we would walk past the water buffalo, inevitably Lil Bit, the cow, would raise her head to get a good whiff of the colt and blow through her big nostrils, causing Quill to startle.
I’d walk him in circles in both directions so he could look at Lil Bit and Betty from each eye, but he never seemed to relax. And this is a colt who’s pretty confident, who handled the move like an old hand, and is used to everything from dogs to cats to kids.
Finally one evening I took his feed dish and set it on the other side of the fence from the water buffalo as they languidly ate their evening hay. Temptation! With a growth rate to match that of a baby dinosaur, that colt loves his feed. He’s also a ponderously slow eater, so much so that I often drop his lead rope and do something else nearby while he chews in slow motion and apparently contemplates life.
Would the colt be willing to eat near the snorty, horned beasts he regarded with such suspicion?
You betcha. He glanced at his dining companions and then calmly began to chew.
For the past three evenings, Quill has had dinner with Lil Bit and Betty, and they all seem to enjoy the arrangement. Now that he’s over his trepidation of the water buffalo, I will once again increase the distance on our walks.
Now to convince Neela…