I know this seems pretty basic to most people but, halters are a useful tool!

Yes, it comes as a shock to me.

We almost always work at liberty. It works very well for us. We accomplish what we set out to, the horses are happy, we get quite a bit done.

Right now with the spring grass growing fresh and green though, I can’t compete. The horses have to wear halters. Saying no is one thing. Choosing to leave to go eat the grass they aren’t allowed to have anyway is completely different. That was the subject of another post though!

Using halters I have come to the shocking conclusion that they are very useful tools.

They help us give clear, precise information to our horses. They help in the same way that using any other sort of pressure helps us communicate with our horses.

They can help an energetic enthusiastic horse slow down. They can help a horse who wants to fetch everything know what you don’t want them to fetch. I suppose they would help with leading, who needs a halter for that though.

Like with the use of pressure a halter can be used badly. We can yank on the leadrope add nose chains and generally work hard to make our horses miserable, just like we can gouge with spurs and yank on reins. The difference is in the use of the tool, not that the tool was used.

Can people get the same job done without a halter? Without ever using pressure? Yes, it can  be done. There are people who can teach horses to do amazing things without ever touching them.

How many of us are truly capable of that though?

How many of us instead let our horses flounder about confused and trying desperately to figure out what we are asking?

What is worse? To use a bit of pressure, some negative reinforcement, in a calm clear way? Or to have a confused worried horse?

I am going to try to remember this lesson about the use of halters even after the grass isn’t so lush and tempting. Sometimes a bit of extra guidance isn’t a bad thing!


I am a firm believer in allowing my horses to have a choice in what we are doing, anything I work with actually, children, cattle, our dog, anything. When allowed the option to say no we feel more in control of our lives and generally happier to say yes. Being able to say no makes us much more likely to willingly say yes.


As with all things there are conditions and the answers must be considered carefully according to the individual situation.

Right now the horses are all being worked in halters. They have the option of saying no, the goal is to never actually pull on the leadrope. All options are not available to them though.

There is free choice and there is true choice.

We all have the option of staying in bed all day, deciding not to go to work. There are consequences though. When making choices we are always aware of what each choice means.

Few horses would choose to turn down the first hints of spring grass. How can any treat begin to compare with that? Going out to graze freely whenever they want isn’t a true choice though, any more than staying home and giving up work is for us. No matter how fun that would be.

By putting on a halter I am taking away that option that is not truly a choice. If they weren’t working with me they wouldn’t be out grazing in  the yard, they would be in their pen  hanging out with friends and eating free choice hay. That is their other option. They are fat little ponies, all of a breed prone to founder. The grass is young and tender, grazing now isn’t good for it either. Working with me or going out and causing damage to them and the future grazing is not true choice. That is not the other option.

Choice is very important but that doesn’t necessarily mean a choice between working or anything else in the world. We can offer actual, practical, choices. A choice between doing two different behaviors, a choice between different treat, the option of not wanting to work just now. The other options should be good ones. A choice between doing what you want them to or doing something they don’t like is no real choice.

We need to find that sweet spot in the middle. True choice.

That doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy any of that yummy green grass. What better way to end a session than by rewarding with some hand grazing!


Or not. Almost though, in  name if nothing else.

We went out to check the cows. One of our cows had a calf. It was up and standing next to her trying to nurse. We left them alone to do their thing with out getting any closer and bothering them. I would come out later and give the calf his ear tag so we wouldn’t confuse him with any of the other solid black calves.

When we came back the cow was no where near a calf and had no interest in looking for a calf. We went searching for her if she wouldn’t do it.

We found a calf who was hungry and searching for a mom. He hadn’t eaten in so long both sides of his belly were nearly touching in the middle. I thought this must be the one! Was she not letting him nurse? Had she not claimed him? Better get them brought in.

First though, the oven  needed shut off. Not having anticipated being out here this long I had started supper before leaving the house. It would be getting pretty crispy by now.

My husband had gotten home by then and came back out with me. We started pushing them both towards the gate. Both of them were willing to move, willing to move together even  but she still had no interest in him. My husband stopped and shut off his fourwheeler. Do you think that’s her calf he asked?

I shut mine off too and sat pondering the question. She showed none of the usual signs of having given birth recently, she was fat still, had no cleanings, and her tail was shiny clean. The only reason I had to think there had ever been a calf was seeing her with it earlier. I began to doubt what we had seen. Had we really seen a cw with her own new calf or had we seen a cow standing in the pasture next to some random calf?

We decided to leave her and him and see what was going on in the morning. Maybe he would have found his own errant mom by then, finally beginning to miss her calf as her udder got full and sore.

The next morning as I drove by with feed I thought I saw him laying there and was sad he hadn’t found his mom. When I came back for a closer look though all I saw was a cow with one calf nursing while she licked another.


How exciting. Unlike horses cattle can easily carry and deliver a healthy set of twins. They can’t usually raise them well by themselves but it gives us an extra calf. If another cow looses her baby we can take one of the twins and give it to her. The mother of twins wont miss one and the other cow will be thrilled to have a calf again not caring too much that it isn’t hers.

Looking around for the calf without a mom though, I couldn’t find him. I looked closer at the ‘twins’ and realized that although the calf she was licking was brand new the one nursing was not. One of our twins was the motherless calf from  yesterday.

She was letting him nurse though so even if we would have to bring him in at least he was getting one good meal. I locked the gate to keep other cows out and her in with her pair of calves and left them.

All  day and that evening, as I checked them carefully to make sure her new baby was getting his fair share of milk and the older one was still able to eat, she was keeping a close eye on both of them, mooing softly when I got near. Apparently she was claiming both calves as her own!

Often cows will walk away and leave one of her own twins. This cow had adopted a calf that wasn’t hers and was keeping a close eye on him. To help her out with that job though it would be good to keep them separated from the rest of the herd. Luckily we had an empty pen with hay already in it where I could also feed her a little extra with two mouths to feed. I moved her across the alley way to her pen and there she and her babies sit. All the food she can eat, lots of room for them all to roam and a mom just perfect for the abandoned calf.

We will never know for sure where the calf came from. He could well be the calf of my cow and she just isnt interested in raising him this year. We’ll know for sure if she has a calf for real.

He was very tiny with weak curvy hind legs. Half the size of his slightly younger adopted brother. It’s very likely that he was actually a twin but his mother abandoned him. They are hard wired to keep track of one calf, two is often more than a cow can keep track of on her own.

Wherever he came from he has a mother who is doing her best to raise him now. There may come a time when we take him away and give him to another cow to raise. One cow has a hard time providing enough milk for two calves to grow big and healthy, he would be better off with one mom all to himself. Until or unless that happens though this is the best possible thing that could have happened to him.

What a great cow 💜

The Rest Of The Story

I’ve been sharing stories of mad cows and dying calves. Those are the exceptions, the odd ones out that make for a good story. I feel like I should tell about the norm too. The way life goes on that isn’t exciting or sad.

Yes, a few of the cows will get upset and want to fight, some calves will die, it’s guaranteed every year, there will be storms, there will be heart break. Mostly though the cows spend the winter out on  the small home pasture. It is similar to a sacrifice area people have for horses. A small place to confine them to protect the larger pastures. Only a small portion f it is actually ‘sacrificed’ though, up around the corrals and behind the windbreak. The places where we feed in storms or when it’s really muddy. The rest gets grazed hard in the spring, during calving, but is otherwise a healthy native grass pasture.

At a quarter section, 160 acres, the cows have plenty of room to roam and hang out with the other cows. We also open up the fields at different times for them to graze the cornstalks or winter wheat. They don’t ever have the full section to graze at once because we rotate but there is lots of room.

We try to stay out of their way as much as possible. Ideally the cow will have her calf and raise it completely on her own with no interference from us. In late spring we bring them in for shots and to be branded. then they get shipped out to pasture for the summer.

Beef cattle are very different from dairy cattle. We breed for a strong maternal instinct, we want the cow to fight off predators and to claim her calf. That is part of the reason they will fight sometimes when  we try to bring them in. Yes there are ways to avoid this, more selective breeding and handling or training. It’s not usually a problem though. Dairy cattle have been bred for a very long time not to have the strong maternal instinct. They don’t care about their calves. Isn’t it amazing what can be bred for?

Sometimes even with all the careful breeding a beef cow will still walk away and leave her calf or kill it outright. Between that and watching for any that have problems calving or calves born in bad places, we check the every few hours through calving.

Some may wonder why, when I have so many horses that need ridden, I am so often mounted on a fourwheeler, quad, whatever you want to call them, it’s all in the vernacular 😉

As I mentioned, the pasture is fairly big. It takes awhile to ride over, I can’t carry small children on a horse, when it’s miserable outside a fourwheeler can go faster, when I’m already out there with the fourwheeler feeding its harder to go back to the house, saddle up, then get back out there. It’s all about speed and convenience. And children. I ride out when I can. With the children home, when the weather gets decent again, I’ll start trying to ride out with one of them along.

Now for updates. The cow that was mad about coming in that I left in the lane with the feed bunks. I came out later with my father in law and he went head to head with her all the way down the lane. We got her into the other corral with the other cows and calves and they weathered out not blizzard very well. Lots of hay and straw to bed down in and a barn for the calves.

The cow with the frozen calf that also didn’t want to come in. The calf was in really bad shape when we brought him in, we have to try though. It was hopeless from the beginning but we always do everything in our power to keep them alive. Not for money, anyone in agriculture can tell you that even though the stores can’t keep our products on the shelves we are going broke because neither cattle nor crops are worth enough for us to break even.

The calf was dead by morning. He died with his mom by his side, warm and dry. There was nothing else we could do for him. There is such thing as a good death and a bad death. A baby dying before it has a chance to live is a bad death. Living a full and happy life then dying to provide food, medicine, clothing, every part of a cow is used, nothing wasted. That is a good death.



The Good Fight

At least it wasn’t snowing. Much. That was something.

It was cold though, bitterly so.

I was finishing my lap through the cows. Nothing was going on. The one calf who had been  born after we brought in the others was up bouncing around. The cold wouldn’t bother him any. The cow who had lost her calf as a preemie wasn’t looking good. There’s some infection in there by the looks of it. She’ll need brought in and doctored. As soon as it warms up a bit.  At this point waiting one day wont hurt her any worse.

As I turned to glance one last time behind me I spotted her. Somehow missed as I went by earlier she was easy to see now. Marked by the bright red cleaning trailing behind her. There was a cow with a new calf back there. I turned the fourwheeler around and went back to find it.

At fist I thought he was dead. Tiny and immobile, he lay in a dip in the frozen rutted ground. She stood over him. She may have been licking him to clean and warm him but stuck in that hole, sides worn slick from his struggles, it was hopeless.

Then I saw a movement. However slight it meant hope.

Pulling up to the calf I got off to see if I could pick it up. Mama said no. I hurried back on the fourwheeler.

I could try to drive home and get help then come back. He was nearly dead though. I didn’t want to wait that long. I drove between him and mama, she came around to the other side of the fourwheeer.

I put it in reverse, for a quick escape, and reached down to grab a leg. That put me and mama eye to eye as she screamed in my face. I sat back up. The calf had to be gotten up if he was going to have any chance though so with a deep breath I reached down again.

Ignoring her face next to mine I grabbed a leg and yanked with all my might. He slid messily across my lap. I floored it backwards. The mom followed bellowing.


Now to get them both to the warm dry barn. For now though I could feel the embriotic fluid combined with the mud he had been born into soakinng into the entire front of me. This was going to be a wet trip.

There was a close gate with a straight shot to the barn. I had no way to open  it though. Or I could go clear around the corrals and maybe be able to get the electric fence gate from off the fourwheeler. And maybe catch my husbands attention too. He had been giving the calves some extra feed in the cold weather while I checked cows. Cresting the hill I started waving at him where I could see him waiting for me way down at the quanset.

He turned and walked inside. Good. There was hope he had seen me.

Pulling alongside the electric fence gate I tried to unhook it. The wire was too tight. Fortunately there was a  fourwheeler coming down the drive. He had seen me.

He opened the gate and I drove through hoping the cow would follow like she had been. She turned back.

He went around and tried to push her. She said no. We left without her. The calf needed to get to somewhere warm. We’d come back.

Speeding down the driveway towards the barn the cold air blowing over my soaking wet knees I pondered the likelihood of frost bite and whether it would be better for the calf if I went slower. I decided a short amount of colder time was better than a longer time of not quite so cold.

At the barn we drug him inside. I started rubbing him down with dry hay as my husband ran for the heater. Then we put him in a big barrel and turned the heater into it full blast, something to hold the heat and concentrate it around the calf.

I ran to find colostrum. Apparently we were out.

Back at the barn my husband ran up to his parents house to see if they had any. They were better supplied! He came back and said that his sister was getting it mixed and would be down in a minute.

It was quickly getting dark out. Impatient with the waiting I said I’d go start getting gates open, or closed, to create a clear path to bring the cow up. By the time I started searching through the herd for her the headlights of a fourwheeler were coming through the gloaming.

We searched he found her. She and two other cows ran for the gate. There was no turning just the extra two. Better too many and the right one than to lose them all. We followed them down  the dark lane towards the barn.

They were off and running. In the bigger corrals just before the barn my husband turned one back, then at the last second going into the barn corral he got the other sorted. We slammed the gate shut behind the one we were after. The others could wait there.

Fully dark  now the pen was lit by a light in the barn and one outside light on the far side of the corral. The gate was open but it was a small area since the gate into the barn was closed. She was going the right way despite the difficulties. I followed her, easing her in  the right direction. She was going straight into the gate. My husband pulled alongside me on the other fourwheeler, ready to shut the gate behind her.

She hesitated, but we had her. The she turned and jumped. Right into the edge of the gate. She penned herself for a moment between my trusty mount and the gate the leapt. Over the front rack of my husbands fourwheeler! It was the only way out and she was determind to take it. With a crash and banging she smashed fourwheelers and gate and was gone.

Guess that didn’t work.

We sat a moment gathering our scattered wits.

My husband supposed she had broken his headlight and reached up to check it. Sure enough the headlight, set between the handlebars, well up on top of the fourwheeler was smashed. I was thankful it wasn’t anything important. He disagreed about the importance of it. I was just happy it hadn’t been him. Working cows in  tight quarters on a fourwheeler is dangerous. They are unweildly to maneuver and a cow can  flip one or go over the top of one easily enough.

He took mine, still in possession of its light and went to put the extra cows back. I went to get the calf his colostrum. The cow could sit and maybe cool down a bit.

My sister in law was rubbing the calf frantically trying to get circulation going. I poured the colostrum into the tuber and began work on getting food into him.

Calves in really bad shape like this wont just nurse. Trying to feed them with a bottle is hopeless. Putting a tube very carefully down their throat and putting the milk directly into their stomach is often the only way to help them. It is tricky work though. The slightest mistake and you are pouring the fluid into their lungs instead. Killing them instantly or leading to pneumonia and a slower death.

He was still breathing and began uttering soft moos as we worked though. We hadn’t messed up.

After the bottle was empty we moved him to the other side of the barn on a soft warm pile of hay  and went after mom. He was mooing loudly now, hopefully that would help lead her into the barn.

The three of us went out to try again. She still wasn’t happy to see us.

We stayed next to fences, spending most of our time on them as she came near. Again and again  she’d get close to the gate only to say no. There was no way she would go in.

My brilliant husband decided that maybe it would work better if we tried a different rout and opened another gate. She ran right through that one. Yay!

Going around that way we could run her through the chute that we brought calves in to work them. She went easy as could be. In the gate, through the alleyway, it was going perfect.

Until it wasn’t.

Last fall we had narrowed it up as much as possible to keep the calves from turning around and getting backwards as we ran them in for fall shots. Now she was stuck, hung up by her hips in the narrow place. The last thing we wanted or needed after all the trouble leading up to this point.

She was stuck so we opened the big gate out the side, freeing her front half but not the hips, and went  to work. The pressure of her width against the panel wedged the bottom pen in place preventing it from being pulled to make it wider no matter how hard we hammered on it. The top one could be pulled though letting the top open up. Now if she would just stand back up. No  one was willing to stand next to her and encourage her to do the thing that would set her free right next to them.

We shut the big side gate and I tapped her on  the nose with my paddle. She got mad again and fought but didn’t quite stand up. I tapped her again. She bellowed and fought and was free.

She ran out around the corner to her calf.

We left them in peace. There was nothing else we could do to help. It was up to her now to lick him and get him going. Only morning would tell us the outcome.



The calf lay alone on the hillside. Still and quiet he hid as baby calves do. Never moving except his eyes as they followed me around. I needed his mom though.

Stopping the fourwheeler I stood over him, trying to get him to stand up on his own. He was too well trained though and flopped right back down despite any attempt I made. Giving up I stood, stretching my back sore from the bending.

“Here cow, come here cow! I’m eating your baby!” I yelled towards the cows grazing in the distance.

Like deer, cows will hide their babies and leave them for hours on end as they wander about grazing. They know where the babies are though and are keeping an eye and an ear out for trouble.

Sure enough a head soon topped the skyline. Ears up and eyes wide, the expression of a cow that’s not happy.

I hopped back on the fourwheeler.

Backing away I gave her time to get him up herself. He leapt to his feet at a slight urging from  her and went looking for milk. It was time to ask them to move.

A calf will follow its mom beautifully when wanting a drink and I needed to get them into the corrals, to better shelter, before the storm blew in. I edged the fourwheeler slightly forward.

Her head shot in the air again with that I’m going to eat you look in her eyes. Then head dropping to the ground she started pawing. This wasn’t going to be an easy move.

Trying to keep her calm, a lost call from the beginning, I edged a little farther forward. She charged. Grabbing for the break I hit the gas instead. We collided head on.


It was enough to get her to move though.

As soon  as she started walking I quit moving. Moving cattle is all about negative reinforcement. We apply pressure. When they move away the pressure is released rewarding the behavior. I was thinking hard about that and trying to remove all pressure, reward her the best I could for walking instead of eating me. Only when she stopped would I apply more pressure, move closer. She would shake her head at me and paw a little but moved herself and her calf through the gate into the corrals very nicely.

I go the gate shut behind her. Into one section of corrals, it was the first step done but quite a ways to go still. Then she found the feed bunks full of ground hay and corn for the calves. She didn’t see any need to go farther.

I was willing to play with her a bit out in the open space of the pasture. In the tight closed area of the lane not so much. With no where to get away to I wasn’t going to risk her rolling the fourwheeler or coming over the top of it. I have nothing to prove and no fear of being called chicken. I am chicken. Nothing to hide there.

I sat behind her hoping to bother her enough that she would walk away from me. No luck. She would look up from her feast once in awhile, give me a dirty look and go back to it.

Getting bored waiting I stared into the distance beyond her.

A movement caught my eye. Something was crossing the wheat field clear across, a good half mile away. Something smaller than a deer. And black? As I watched it went quickly down the hill. Nothing slow and meandering about it. What could it be? A coyote? Pretty dark for that but possible. A skunk? A badger? It was driving me crazy wondering. It  was halfway across the field now and still going quickly along.

Not getting anywhere with the cow anyway I decided to leave her where she was. Maybe she’d go down the lane on her own. Gates were open, and closed depending on need, to get her to where she needed to be if she would just go. I zipped arund her and went to see what was going down the hill.

Flying as fast as I dared across the field I came to the place I was sure I had seen it last. Nothing was there.

Stopping the fourwheeler I looked closely about me. There, out inn the alfalfa was a black spot!

This close it looked the same size it had from way back where I had been. From here though I could tell that it was

A cat!

A big black cat crouched out there in the alfalfa hiding from me the same way the calf had. Not a muscle twitched. Nothing moved except the eyes following me about.

Curious I walked over to it.

As I approached it leapt up and took off running across the field and was gone.

Riding With The Goblin

We went for a ride this weekend!

First time I’ve been able to get The Goblin Child on a horse in a very long time. Honestly she didn’t want to get on this time. I think I lost my positive reinforcement training cred by forcing her to get on. With her on I left her to sit by the swing set and got Rusty ready to go.

By the time I  got done she was perfectly happy and ready to go ride.

We walked around the arena and she was happy with it. I started out a little ways, giving her time to say no, she was good with it so we kept going. Around the yard and she was still happy so we kept going. I asked if she wanted to go back, she said no so we kept going. We had to circle back eventually, at the house I asked if she was ready to get off, she said no, so we kept going. Up the driveway, down the driveway, we kept going.

Back in the arena she asked when she got to get off.

Whenever you want! I jumped off immediately and helped her down. I didn’t give up nn positive reinforcement completely after all!

Sometimes it can be better to face fears than to let them fester. She loved our ride, hopefully we can do it again  this weekend.

After taking off Rusty’s saddle he wandered off. I heard some banging and looked around the corner. Rusty had gone to visit our refrigerator. Apparently he likes that trick.


Calm and Confidence

I can’t be the only one who loves those long solitary training sessions with their horse?
Without interruptions we can focus on exactly what we a re doing. We talk to each other clearly with perfect understanding.
This wasn’t one of those.
As hard as this type of training session can be, on me and Rusty, they are so important.
While we get more done with just the two of us, in silence, it conditions us to work under those perfect conditions. How often is life not perfect?
By letting training sessions be unruly, loud, confused, and difficult it helps us get ready for those times when life is unruly, loud, confusing, and difficult . How much better to be prepared, to have practiced ahead of time, than to be caught completely off guard when the emergency happens? How much better to be used to noise and commotion when you have to go to the vet or when you decide to go to town, on a trail ride, to visit friends, than to get there and have your horse not be able to handle it?
Fear and difficulty is best faced before it is needed. In order for our horses to get used to scary things we should let them be part of our normal training protocol. Instead of blocking out the world so our horses can learn better we need to invite it in and make sure our horses can learn despite the world continuing to go on around us.
Embrace the commotion!
I still prefer the quiet 😉 This is good for us though.

Saying No

I said I was going to start working on a ‘no’ cue with Rusty. Things don’t always work out as planned.

Heildorf has been offering a kiss when things get rough for him. When I’m  asking more than he is comfortable with. When  I’m pushing too hard and not breaking things down enough. I interpreted it as him  saying no. To test my theory and because we were working on something hard for him I decided to go with it.

To clarify I should add, one of the articles I read not long ago talking about letting animals have a cue to tell us no had a whale who was not interested in working any more. They gave her a target she could touch any time she wanted and would get rewarded for it the same as she did for the work they were asking her to do. They gave her a way to say no that wasn’t punished in any way.

In our training we have settled on letting Heildorf offer a ‘kiss’, he bumps my face with his nose. There are benefits and draw backs to this. My face is always there. He can give his cue without leaving what we are working on. Makes it easier to continue without interruption. But, it could get dangerous. His teeth grazed my cheek once and he nips at my hat brim once in awhile. I’m willing to take those risks and for us the benefits outweigh the danger.

Like with many horses who have been started traditionally, Heildorf is uncomfortable with the getting on part of riding. I tried to work with him on stepping over to the mounting block, gate, but he is terrified of us above him on the side. The people he came from are great but the lady they sent him to for training was a bit rough around the edges. He isn’t thrilled about riding.

I really want him not to be scared of riding and to be comfortable with mounting blocks.

On the right side, the side that hasn’t been messed with much, he’s ok with me on the mounting block/rotting straw bale. The straw bale is great for this because it’s such a tiny step up. Letting him get comfortable with this in small steps before we move up to something bigger.

Once we move to the left side though watch how quick he throws his head up there to tell me ‘no’. We stand there for the next ten minutes letting him say no.

I am not clicking him for the ‘no’. I want to make sure it is kept separate from my ‘yes’ cue. He can use it to stop me and get rewarded but it’s not the same as me telling him it is what I want.

As soon as I am able I take the opportunity to find something I can  tell him yes about. We work  on other things away from the mounting block and come back to it. I find a chance to tell him ‘yes’ for standing by the mounting block without telling me ‘no’. He lets me touch his neck without saying ‘no’ and we quit.

The video is a bit long but I wanted to show what he was doing exactly. I left out the extra ten fifteen minutes of standing there letting him say no. Kiss feed, kiss feed. over and over and over 😉

It is fascinating to me how a horse is willing to work with us even though they can get the same reward for free and how he clearly understands that he can stop me from doing things that make him uncomfortable by telling me ‘no’.  It will be interesting to see if he becomes more comfortable with the mounting block and where we go from here!

Reinforcing Fear

Calm and Confidence

This doesn’t look like a very calm ad confident sort of video does it 🤣

Heildorf has been terrified of the chickens lately. They jump out of the chicken coup we’re working by and he can’t handle it.

Instead of fighting him and making him stay or holding on tighter, I let him go.

Not that I could hold him since we never have a halter on anyway.

I love the way he goes a little ways. Stops and thinks about things, then comes back.

I know everyone can’t let their horses have that sort of freedom. In a crowded barn a loose horse running until he was able to think again would cause all sorts of trouble. What about a long lead though? We can let them go as far as we are able.

We can take them away far enough away that they are able to think and check things out.  We can work just on the edge of our horses comfort zones. That point where they are starting  to notice the scary thing but are not yet pushed above threshold. Recognizing that point is the trick for us.

By doing fun things, like tricks! in close proximity to something that worries our horse we can help them to associate the scary thing with things they enjoy and make the scary thing a sign of good things to come instead.