But can this play-based method stand up to the pressure of a deadline – a vet visit with the horse expected/needed to behave a certain way on-demand? And can a young colt who has only known play and intimacy with humans, be taught the skills necessary to be separated from his mother (he’s still nursing), led away from her to a prepared paddock (he’s never been haltered), punctured with a needle and positioned and held still, so that he descends to unconsciousness on the rubber mats laid out for him – IN ONLY 6 DAYS??
Let’s find out…
Note: I have left this video in real-time so those of you who are interested can read the nuances, the herd dynamics, the body language and communication, etc. Remember, I am not saying that anyone else should “train” their horses this way, or follow my example. I am simply showing how I do it and what works for me and my herd. Take anything that’s useful or helpful, and feel free to chuck the rest out!
The urgency behind the castration was because Juno started mounting my mare, Zorra, with his penis erect. This means he is fully capable of impregnating his own mother – despite the fact that he is still nursing frequently (about every 3 hours). Maggi Clark – who’s worked on breeding farms for 40 years – told me that colts mount both sexes as play, often with their penis descended. As long as their penis is not erect, there’s no danger of mating. Many stallions can be 2 years old before they need to be separated from mares, or castrated. On the other hand, she once had a 4-month-old colt impregnate his mother. It all depends on whether that penis is erect, or not.
Another thing: In retrospect, I absolutely should have used a flat halter with Juno, instead of a pressure-on-the-nerves rope halter! However, I did not have one anywhere near his size, all my other horses don’t even like wearing a flat halter, and that 6-day deadline had me quite panicked. I just didn’t think it through properly. Excuses, I know, but real nonetheless.
Of course, with the benefit of hindsight and from the comfy, non-stressed position of my swivel chair, I can pinpoint a dozen things I wish I’d done differently, or could have done better, or need to work on within myself. But thank god, at the end of the day, our horses seem to be most concerned with intention. If my heart’s in the right place, and I’m trying my best, all manner of cringe-worthy stuff is forgiven. And our relationship continues to grow in trust and love.