The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Today we had a family outing to the barn - me, my husband, my oldest daughter, my youngest daughter, her best friend, and three dogs.

Under such circumstances, the best thing to do is for everyone to go for a walk together. The two 13-year olds took themselves off on an expedition, while the rest of us went to see if Chloe and Bridget were up for a hike. I lead Bridget out of the pasture, Chloe following eagerly. I'd hoped Chloe would continue to follow us, and she did for a hundred yards or so, before deciding she'd rather go back and hang out near the barn. We went back and retrieved her, put her halter on, and she agreed that it would be ok to come along for the walk.

My daughter had to be in charge of Susie (who's her dog anyway) because her shortsightedness makes it necessary to swoop in and rescue her from under horses' feet at frequent intervals. So I gave Chloe's leadrope to my non-horsey husband. I told him he should think of it as taking a toddler for a walk - he should let her have as much fun as possible and interfere with her freedom as little as possible. In no time the two of them were getting along famously, especially because he handed out treats from his pocket every couple of hundred yards.

I think Chloe looks like she's enjoying her outing.

You can see who's the leader in these photos! You can let Chloe "get away with that" (to use outmoded parlance), because she is always very aware of who is attached to the leadrope behind her, even if she's dragging them along! She'll only drag so far, and then she'll wait for you. But today, I think because of the way we've been trying to treat her recently, she didn't do any dragging but was much more willing to mosey along at the pace of the group. This is her first excursion on a leadrope since the New Regime.

Meanwhile, Bridget and I were walking along together, and I had cause to reflect some more on the dominance issue. So far from the barn, out among strange sights and sounds, I felt it was important for our safety that Bridget stay somewhat tuned to me. She's only two and is high-spirited, although level-headed. She kept getting ahead of me (not pulling, but very much focussed on what was in front of us), and I felt (perhaps mistakenly) that she wasn't maintaining an awareness of my presence. So every so often I asked her to do something to remind her that I was on the other end of the leadrope.

The vision of Hempfling kept dancing before me - a picture of the way he leads Naranjero in the Youtube video. The stallion does not try to barge ahead of him at all.

However, I think we got along pretty well - it was her first time so far from the barn, and she did "come back" to me whenever I asked her to do something for me.

When we got back to the barn, we found one little girl on her horse having jumping lessons, and another girl and boy playing polocrosse. Normal people, doing normal activities - you know. And I wondered, "Am I quite mad?"


  1. OMG that first photo could so well be taken here, it looks just like our walks with Olga! She leads just like Chloe here, with her head high up, and I come full 3,5 meters behind her on the other end of leadrope :D

    You write: "I felt (perhaps mistakenly) that she wasn't maintaining an awareness of my presence. "

    I have a counter-question: where you maintaining an awareness of Bridget's presence? ;)

    Also a thought about full awareness in general: the awareness is as different as our sight; horses are aware of all things going on around them, people (with their 'tunnel vision', comparing to horses!) tend to focus all their attention in only one thing at a time. So when our attention is pointed away, horses tend to feel they have to take care of themselves as we are busy doing something else.

  2. Well, yes, I was being aware of her, but I think you have a point in that my awareness was of her, while her awareness (being so far from familiar territory for the first time) was of her surroundings. Perhaps she felt it wasn't very helpful to have my awareness tuned into her, and maybe she would have preferred me to be concerned about what was lurking up ahead in the bushes!

    It's interesting that Olga leads the same way as Chloe. Hempfling talks about the "Origin" - especially the Icelandic - as not having the usual fight/flight response due to developing as a breed in a relatively predator-free environment.
    I feel strongly about Chloe that she never goes into panic/flight mode, that she always maintains her cool and her ability to be logical. And I think that's why I feel safe letting her lead - if she comes across something scary, she's not going to flip out. Another horse might turn around and run you over. I spent years (underlined) working on getting her to walk "politely," until I finally wised up and let her have her way.

  3. I have got to read again what Hempfling writes about "Origin"! Olga however is quite alert when we go for a walk, and she gets jumpy too if too many things happen at the same time.

  4. Yes, Chloe can be very alert and head-up too. And she is certainly capable of running away. But with her, it is a conscious decision - she won't go into panic mode first. The other day she took me into the tractor barn and was astonished to see some horses peeking over their stall doors at her from the far end of the barn. She looked at them for a moment, came to the conclusion "Time to leave!" and hustled out pronto, but she stopped and looked at me to make sure I was still in tow once we got outside.

  5. Haha <3 Olga does also seem to be looking for adventures and excuses to jump around, she tries to get herself in really odd places and then gets frightened (or acts like it, anyway..)

    Drama queens <3