Today, I took him out for a walk. After he'd grazed for a while, I set off to lead him around the fields and back home. Widdicombe talks about working with a young horse named Alf, whom he teaches to lead nicely:
For those three days I walked about 20 miles with that horse, asking for his attention whenever he wandered off. I provided a nice soft place for him just behind me and to the side ... On the second day, as we were on our way home I suddenly realized that things had gone very quiet. Yes, Alf had found the soft spot and, blow me, he had relaxed right into it. (p. 167)I decided I was going to ask George to walk in the "nice soft place just behind me and to the side." Whenever he got ahead of me, it was easy to do a circle, or a little turn and return, to bring him back into the "soft spot." After a while, it was obvious that he knew what I was up to. I needed less movement and less pressure to bring him back. He started to relax, and as he grew more comfortable and confident in knowing what I was talking about, he offered a little suggestion - How about we go side by side? Sure, no problem - because in that side-by-side position, he also felt nice and relaxed and soft and attentive.
Now, I tried this approach, which worked for George in about three minutes, with Chloe for hmm, let's see, about six years. She was having none of it. She will settle for nothing less than leading the way. But of course the difference is that when Chloe leads the way, she still knows where I am and will wait up for me if she gets too far ahead. Which of course I only discovered when I gave up and let her take charge. But, you know, maybe she might have changed her mind a little too if I ask her.
I took Bridget out for a walk too. Her default position seems to be side-by-side; and I feel as if we're tuned in to each other without having to ask her. As far as I remember, she didn't start out exactly like this, but that's how it is at the moment.
When I took Bridget out of the field, George was very cross. Bridget was clearly afraid of him (an indication that all is not peaceful in Georgeland). He backed up to let us get by, but was closer than we felt comfortable with. He kept giving Bridget evil looks and was putting the pressure on. I felt rather threatened and so resorted to shouting at him, flapping my arms and looking stern. Exit was accomplished.
The only time Bridget and George have direct contact (which I think they both crave) is when there's a fence or gate between them. When I brought Bridget back, the two of them exchanged some nuzzling over the top of the gate. Then suddenly, without apparent warning (and seemingly taking Bridget quite by surprise), George lunged at her, baring his teeth. What is wrong with you, George?
But then he was quite cooperative about me bringing Bridget through the gate, and when I took her halter off, instead of getting the heck away from George as she usually does, she just stood there, and on the other side of me, George just stood quietly, and for a few minutes peace and harmony reigned.