His name is.....Rio!!
We had to weed through a lot of suggestions before Mom suggested Rio. Do you think it fits him? What would you have named him?
After we got home from the auction hall tonight I went out to work with Rio. He had gotten really skittish due to the fact that Lena wouldn't let us anywhere near him so between that and us being busy, he hadn't had a lot of handling.
I started by working with Lena to get her to let me by Rio. It took me a bit to get her halter on, then we did some basic groundwork to establish who was the boss.
After about ten minutes, I felt she was under control enough for me to approach Rio. She wasn't happy, but she didn't get after me either. I kept her on the lead just in case I needed some extra control.
After about fifteen minutes, I felt comfortable enough to take her off the lead. She was nervous, but let me handle him as much as I wanted. He wasn't happy about me holding on to him and fought me a lot. I held on until he calmed down, then released him. I did this several times, rubbing his chest, back and face and felt we had made some progress.
I stood in the corner watching them interact for a little while and thinking about what I could do to help him get over his fear of us.
Then I had an idea.
I remembered reading somewhere about teaching your horse(or mule in this case!) a verbal or physical cue to calm down. For Bannie and Smoke, I rub their withers, but I had already tried that with Rio and it had no affect. I decided to try something else.
When horses in a herd greet each other, they do it by touching noses and blowing softly. I greet our horses like this all the time...it brings you to the same level and creates a sense of security...you speak their language...therefore you must be safe.
I grabbed hold of Rio and held on until he stopped struggling. Then I made a soft cooing sound by blowing out gently.
His response was instant.
Immediately he leaned into me and began rubbing his head on me. I let go of him, but he didn't run off. Instead, he begged for attention. I reached out to touch him and he began clacking his teeth, a sign of submission.
From that moment on he followed me around like a dog, bumping me when I stopped petting him. I squatted down and he promptly knocked me over backwards. Levi, Lydia and Mom came in the pen and after they did the same greeting I had, he accepted them instantly.
So, my conclusion is this.
In the wild, a mare goes away from the herd to give birth and stays away for three days to bond with her newborn. After the three days she returns to the herd and the new baby is greeted by the other horses by touching noses and blowing. He clacks his teeth to show submission and basically to say "I'm little, don't hurt me"
When I touched my face to his nose and blew, he immediately accepted me as a member of his new herd.
I'm really glad I discovered this way of reassuring him I'm "safe".
I think we made a lot of progress tonight and I am so looking forward to teaching him everything. I'm really looking forward to halter breaking him. His hair is sooooo soft! The end of his nose just fits in my hand. Lena is a great mama and I'm Rio will thrive on all the attention he will be getting!