Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to Outsmart a Morgan

The problem: He doesn’t like having his booted feet messed with. He’s been tied in the aisle with his mash bucket the last few times it’s been done. He knows this. He’s not fooled and not inclined to stand still for it any more.

What’s a poor human to do? The left boot needs removal, reaming out, replacement, this fine evening. What’s to be done?

Use guile. Guile and trickery. Guile and misdirection and trickery. Not to mention flattery and shameless sucking up to.

So the mighty Morgan, with Ben safely back in his stall for moral support, is led out, tied in the aisle (single tie facing his stall; on cross-ties he’s too likely to surge forward toward the exit), and allowed to sniff the grooming box sitting on the upended shavings bag nearby him. The wily human scratches his neck – just SO – then picks up a brush and begins going over him – just SO – and the mighty Morgan relaxes.

The wily human asks him quietly to pick up his right front, touches the boot lightly when he complies, and puts it back down. The MM is praised. The WH brushes her way down his side to his hindquarters. She quietly asks him to pick up his right hind, touches the hoof, and puts it back down, praising the MM. Around to the left hind; repeat. Brushing, brushing, brushing up to the left front. The WH brushes down his leg, quickly but calmly undoes the Velcro, then asks the MM to pick up his foot.

Success! The foot comes up briefly; the boot’s stripped off; the mass accumulation of shavings gets shaken and scrubbed out; the pad gets a dusting of Gold Bond powder. Then it’s time to get it back on the much-praised MM.

The return does not go as smoothly as the removal; it appears the MM finds it insufficiently comfortable to stand on one forefoot for very long, and communicates this fact by snatching his foot free and snapping it back onto the floor. It takes several swift but calm and careful attempts until – voila! – the foot’s inserted exactly where it should be and the hoof’s back flat on the mat. Quickly, quickly: Close the two understraps; praise softly; close the two overstraps; praise softly and wait while the MM frets about a bit, just a bit; then pull into place the rubber-band-like keepers over the strap ends, and it’s done.

The MM gets bountiful praise, enjoys a thorough face-brushing, and is put back into his stall to enjoy his supper. The WH tidies up and goes home to enjoy her own.

The MM can’t be bullied. But he can be bamboozled.

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