If you can put salt on a bird's tail, you can catch it
I thought I was going insane because I was the only one who knew this old saying, “If you can put salt on a birds tail you can catch it.” But it turns out I wasn’t the only one. I asked my uncle Google and he had also heard it. Whew. I’m so happy I’m not alone.
It’s a myth of course. Putting salt on a bird's tail won’t render it flightless. But… if you can get close enough to put salt on a bird's tail, you can probably also just wrap your hands around it and catch it like a normal person would. That is, if you think catching birds is normal, LOL.
I use that old saying for a reason. The point is, horses have what I call, “king pin” problems. To use another analogy, in bowling, if you knock over the front pin or the “king pin” you have a greater chance of knocking over most the other pins and winning the round. Horses have issues relative to that king pin that if you tackle that one problem, lots of the other problems you know about will go away too. For instance, if you have a horse that bucks, but he also has a habit of pulling back when tied, if you fix the pulling back issues, the bucking issue might go away too without even working on it.
One of the king pin problems horses have is related to their tail. I don’t think most horse owners spend enough time back there. There are tiny muscles around the tail head that tighten and when they tighten, the whole horse tightens. You can feel them grab when you lift the tail and the horse resists or when you touch around there and the horse flinches. I often encourage people to groom their horses tails more, not only because it makes them look better, but because it will encourage more relaxation than perhaps any other activity. AND! That deeper relaxation will transfer to everything else including riding.
Horses are reactive to things they see and feel from behind. It’s mother nature’s way of saying don’t get yourself killed by a predator. Most horses run from danger, then get to a certain distance and face up. Have you noticed your horse would prefer to face you rather than let you stand at his tail? If you have, it’s because that’s mother nature dictating his experience. It’s just less comfortable having you back there where he can’t keep his eyes on you as well.
Now I know some horses want you back there scratching around. That’s great. I’m not talking about those horses. I’m talking about the ones that don’t want you back there.
It’s important to know how horses react instinctively so you can train their confidence and guide them to less instinctive behavior and more cognitive behavior. And it just so happens, grooming the tail, rubbing around the backside, and down the legs is one of the best ways to do that. When I get off my horses, instead of going to the front, I go to the back first, rub him down, then go to the front. It’s backwards I know, but almost every successful person does things backward from the normal. Learn to think different and get different experiences with your horse. Spend more time in your horses' blind spots building confidence. That’s the key. That’s why the work around the tail is so effective. Of course, it’s not the only thing you should do to build confidence, but it is one of those “king pin” ideas that help your horse get better about virtually everything else.
Go ahead and try it for a week or two. Spend more time around his tail and other vulnerable spots. Prove to your horse you are trustworthy and he or she can be brave.
“If you can put salt on your horses' tail, you can catch his heart, mind, and trust!”
A worthy game, wouldn’t you say?
I would love to hear from you! Your comments are always helpful and enriching. Ask your questions, post your thoughts and share this with your friends. I’ll see you soon.