"Kelly - reading your posts, I wonder if Little Man would let you touch his withers. I believe that is where his mother would have touched him to guide and reassure him?"
He kicks when you touch his withers. Ask me how I know! I have though, on several occasions, been able to stroke his withers without having him whirl and kick, but I haven't attempted it for some time. You just never know when it's okay and when it's not. Usually it's not.
From the way he moves and positions himself, I don't believe I have his permission yet. I have gotten to his shoulder now, though he is very wary and ready to bolt. I make it a point to click and release before he takes off. I can actually see him starting to tremble and gather himself. I also am having to reach out my hand instead of stepping up close to him. He doesn't like me to step close. I think he might like having me out where he can see me.
"I may be completely off , but I find that when I introduce myself to a horse I let them first smell my hand, and then if they turn their head slightly, it's like getting permission to touch the withers (you would touch with the hand that is closest to the animal when you're facing it - less threatening). Most horses, in my limited experience, actually prefer that to being touched on or around their head - at least in the beginning."
I'm not sure if mules differ from horses in this respect, but I don't really think Little Man's issue is that he is a mule. I am pretty sure when he was beaten that he was beaten from the side. He has determined that he will not be hurt again, and is on the defensive every moment. He insists that I approach him from the front, and if I move toward the side he will reposition himself so he is standing facing me straight on. He will approach me, however, towards my side or my back, and less so head-on. In fact, he usually circles so he comes at me from an angle. But I have to get in front of him before I can touch him.
Now that I am working on touching his shoulders, I am moving a bit to the side of his head. I can't step towards him though, just sideways but still in front of him. If I move towards his side he adjusts to keep me in front of him.
We have made some progress though. Tonight I was able to reach out and stroke his neck several times withOUT having to start at this forehead and move my hand along his cheek to his neck. I really think this is amazing progress! He actually stood and let me put my hand on his neck! He did move his head away a little, but at least he didn't leave.
Blessings on you,
Teaching a Horse to Talk
6 years ago