After a while, they set out on a Grazing Mission. They leave their area by the gate and take off on a wide loop of the pasture, heads down, doing some serious eating. At this time, they are usually not too interested in interacting, especially Gus. However, Gus's front toes needed a little trimming, and I decided to follow him with the rasp and ask him to give me his foot every so often, when it was convenient for him. He was very nice about it, and whenever that foot was free, he would voluntarily pick it up for a moment or two and let me work on it. I felt as if I were a hairdresser, cutting the hair of an important tycoon on a conference call - most of the time I had to back off while he shuffled papers or talked - but whenever there was a lull he would beckon me over to take another snip. At one point, when I was just standing by myself, Gus even came up to me, very gently nosed my rasp hand, and kindof sortof drew my attention to his right forefoot. I bent down, he lifted his foot for me, and let me work on it for a moment.
After a while, they returned to their hangout area by the gate, where I was able to work for a longer period of time on the outside of Gus's feet. Before I left, he expressed a little interest in the halter, but when I put it on, he didn't want to come - so I took it off again.
I think Gus, rather than having no bubble, has a rather thin one. And that he kind of has to let you slide under and into it. And that, today, he let me do that.
It's interesting to me that Gus, who is Mr. Dominant in the pasture, hangs out in Skipper's shadow the way George hangs out by the more dominant gelding's side. It's almost like they both want a mom, but Gus says, "Hey you, I'm making you my mom, ok, but you still have to do what I say." And George says, "You must be my mom cos you're taking care of things."
Even the Prince likes to shelter under
the kindly wing of the Friend.
Feeling happy about Gus and Skipper, I headed down to the boarding barn to find George, alone in the pasture without his buddies, hovering by the pasture gate. Fetching a long stick, I went in to reprise my territory-staking exercise. George tried a couple of times to come up to me, looking innocent. But I wasn't buying it. I have been told on several occasions that George lacks respect. I believe, however, that the issue is not respect but trust. I don't have to concern myself about whether Gus respects me, because he seems to trust me, and he knows that I cannot be pushed around. And George doesn't respect me because he doesn't trust me.
George seems to be, as I may have said before, a mixture of Sergeant and Dandy. The Sergeant wants clear boundaries, wants to know who's in charge, and especially wants to know that the person in charge is reliable - and will feel isolated, alienated and, eventually, angry if he can't count on that person. The Dandy is sweet, amiable, childlike and somewhat vulnerable. It is the Dandy in George that makes so many people - women especially - say, "Oh George, he's so sweet, he's so cute." I think he sometimes uses that facade - like today when he was trying to slide past me. I think one reason he and my daughter get along well is that her bossiness satisfies the Sergeant, and her 13-year old girliness satisfies the Dandy.
George's former owner astutely remarked to me one day that she didn't feel it was a good idea to sweet-talk George when working with him. Today, whenever I would drive him out of my territory, I would congratulate him in a sweet tone for having done what I asked. Then it hit me that this was a bad idea, that I am not going to win his trust by being sweet. I decided I had a bubble, as big as the area I was defending - that it was cold and dangerous outside my bubble, a place where there was no sweet talk, and only by entering in and accepting the terms of my bubble would he ever hear any kind words. Well, that didn't happen today, because after about - oh, maybe 20 minutes of this game, he headed off to the other end of his pasture because he saw his buddy going by on the other side of the fence. Well ... more another day, I guess.
Then it was time to take Chloe and Bridget, who had been waiting for me, for their grazing walk.
As we were coming back into the pasture from the barn paddock, Chloe hung back. I took Bridget's halter off, closed the gate, and went to see what Chloe wanted. First we did some of those knee bends that she likes, and some of the neck relaxing that she likes. Then she went to graze a little. I went over with the rope loop to offer it to her - when she glimpsed me, she startled. I wonder if she doesn't see well out of that eye, because after she'd turned around and saw what it was, she came up to have me put the rope on.
She walked to the gate into the barn and waited. I waited. When she rattled the gate with her nose, I opened it, and we went through into the barn. I thought for sure she just wanted to go into her nice cool stall, but no -- she led us out of the barn, out into the open. She set off purposefully down the side of the equipment barn (pictured above with the overhanging roof), turned right and went straight to the arena gate. I opened it. She walked to the far end of the arena, stopped and started grazing. After about ten minutes, she decided it was time to leave - headed back to the gate, back to the barn, back to the pasture. And this time she didn't scurry back but strode calmly all the way.
Chloe is awesome.
If someone had been watching me today, it probably would have been about as exciting as watching paint dry. But it was a really good day.