Hmm.. feeling a little unsure about that horse training thing today. Let me explain. Yesterday Dandy got quite upset about his new surroundings and I chose to get pretty “big” to bring him to me mentally. Feet and body followed, and today he was almost a different horse about the new place. Still looking at a few things, but overall WAY more relaxed. Obviously, I had chosen to do the right thing, and done it well. No question on that front.
Today getting prepped up and saddled was a breeze
Still thinking about his difficulty to focus in the new arena, due to the proximity of various unfamiliar and fascinating species (sheep, geese, deer, etc), I chose to give him something else to focus on, so today I brought my correction bit and one ear headstall. He had a hard time putting it in his mouth, and equally hard to spit it out, so I think he may be a bit reluctant next time, but nothing a sugar cube won’t take care of 😉 The goal was to disrupt his thinking and make him forget the sheep, deer, geese, etc, and it worked even better than expected. That bit sure gave him a lot to think about, though. He chewed and chomped and raised his head a few times, experimenting with the new thing in his mouth, but pretty soon he realized getting soft and the poll and relaxing his jaw was the immediate way to comfort, and worked accordingly.
At some point I ran out to fetch my spurs I’d left at the barn, and found him back *exactly* where I’d left him ! Good boy, lol
Once the bit was somewhat familiar and with my spurs on, we were ready for some serious work. And good work we did. Steering, bending, picking up the lope, stops, spins, we went at it like our life depending on it, and we did some pretty good work. But boy, what a workout, and I don’t only mean for the horse ! I realize than those Western maneuvers aren’t delivered on a silver plate, you have to train and train to get the proper response, and also give a little more “incentive” than I comfortable doing. I mean by that I always hoped I could reach a willingness in my horse that would mean very little to no constraint, but such is not the case. He’s not spinning for giggles, he knows the exercise but I often need to put my spur there stronger than I’d like to. Truth is, I have so much empathy for the horse that I just *hate* to apply any serious pressure at all. Weirdly enough, I have absolutely zero issue crashing a flag on his butt to get him to disengage on foot, or bumping his halter pretty hard to bring his nose in, because I feel those a pretty mild forms of pressure for a worried horse (you sometimes wonder if they even feel it all when they are focused on something “scarier”). But pushing a spur hard in my soft horse’s flank for the mere purpose of turning around, that just seems cruel and uncalled for, to me. Yeah, call me a whimp. Same for the bit. Never in a million years would I even consider “jacking” him in the mouth, no matter the goal I might be pursueing. Would horses not perform closely to what they do, if more riders were like me ? Probably. Would the world be full of much happier horses ? Yeah, that’s nearly a certainty. I guess to me, the end just doesn’t justify most of the means that are mainstream in the horse world.
Dandy taking a breather at the end of our session
Does that mean we’re both gonna go on vacation and give up our ranch riding goals ? Certainly not ! It just means I have to kick myself in the butt and develop tougher work ethics and just face the fact that horses would naturally rather stay grazing in their pasture, and than getting their cooperation means pushing them at times.
And once he’s worked well…
He just goes back to his grass and his buddies. Next episode on Wednesday, after the naturel trimmer has come !