Random Rant #21 – Be a Tame Horse: Patient Handling Tips

Handling Tips

Support their feet, and patiently wait until they choose to give you all four feet of their own free will (when convenient anyway, and feel free to help them unstick their nails).

Gliders commonly employ the “Safety Foot” strategy, where one back foot stays gripping giving them an easy way to back out. Either wait them out, or pressure them by nudging your finger under the safety foot to take their weight.

If you pull or stretch their limbs to get them to release a grip, they will instinctively grip tighter for stability.

Let them sit on your outer arm, shoulders, or back instead of holding them in your hands.

Lead them with lures whenever possible.

Offer the back of your hand or wrist about an inch in front of them, below their nose level is usually better. Don’t pull or flinch until all feet are on you.

When gliders are sitting your shoulders and head down to your elbow, lift your arm to give them a flatter surface. This is not necessary unless they just had a nail trim, but it’s a good instinct to develop.

Before assuming bad behavior, address their needs. A glider’s priority of needs looks something along the lines of:

Potty time, thirst, security, stability, control over their own body, dim light, warmth, hunger, scent stress.

If you provide access to treats and a water bottle at the start of playtime, then ignore them for 20 minutes they will take care of most of those needs themselves before approaching you.

Trust the gliders, even if they are not trustworthy yet. They will slowly conform to expectations, so expect the best.

Don’t take it personal. If you are convinced they hate you, just accept that and consider what you can offer to change that opinion.

Be useful to them. Be their traveling horse, safe snuggle tree, or the treat fairy.

Be the path of least resistance between them and a goal.

Warm them under your shirt on chilly days.

Be their accomplice in mischief, not their police.

Stay standing if possible. Gliders prefer the tallest person in a room and quickly roam away when you sit down.

Practice glider recovery. Stand near an object the glider wants to explore, let the glider jump and explore for 30 seconds, then coax them to return to you. Do this repeatedly for 10 minutes or until the glider loses interest.

If a glider is difficult to remove from a pouch, rather than reaching in and pulling out, you can push the pouch bottom up through the pouch opening to flip them out onto a stable, flat surface.

Once kicked out of a pouch, many crabby gliders will seem to calm down immediately, don’t be fooled though, they are anxiously taking stock of the situation. Be slow and calm, give every impression that the situation is boring and nonthreatening, and the glider will relax in about 3 minutes. Don’t put things near their face during this.

The more you handle gliders, the better your instincts and reflexes will get.

Be a Tame Horse

I can’t ride a horse, never even sat a pony. My moms farming family could have probably tamed a wild horse in a week back in their heyday. Imagine me visiting the family farm and being given the option of learning to ride one of two horses.

One horse is tamed, happily accustomed to her riding routine, eager for attention but patient with my nervousness. The tame horse might affectionately nudge my hand with her nose, but won’t try to trample me to give me a hug. She bends a little to help me through my awkward mounting. She responds readily to my clumsy commands to go left or right, but knows when to ignore my inexperienced weight shifts. I slowly relax, confident that the horse will do most of the work, and that she cares about our combined well-being as a riding team.

The other horse is wild, untamed and skittish. When I approach, she recoils and stomps her feet in agitation. When I try to touch her, she instinctively flinches and moves her massive body in ways that make me feel unsafe to be so close. I am terrified, and now desperate to stay off the back of this dangerous animal. When I am forced to mount her anyway, she tries to walk away while one of my feet are still on the ground supporting my weight. I’m being dragged along and I feel insecure and very scared. I have lost all control of the situation, and am now screaming and desperate to hang on or regain my footing. The whole time the horse is interpreting my shifting weight, pulling hair, and terrified screams as personal attacks against it. The horse reacts to my panic by bucking me off. Neither me nor the horse is eager to repeat the terrifying experience and we each learn that the other is dangerous.

With that thought fresh in mind, be a tame horse for your new gliders.

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