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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bridget's New Game

Bridget has devised a novel entertainment for us.

When she gives me her right foreleg, she still likes for me either to stretch it out (she gives a little grunt), or to scratch it (I think).

But she's been experimenting with some freestyling when she gives me her left foreleg. Sometimes, she'll brace against me with her knee and lift her other foreleg off the ground too. Or, she likes to have me hold her left foreleg while she hops along on the other three for a step or two.

I was thinking again of something Sandra said about her two mares.  She realized that each mare approaches her differently, and that this personal style reflects the way that each mare would like to be approached herself.

Bridget just loves physical contact. If you vigorously rumple her ears and face with both hands, she laps it up. When she positions herself to have her hindquarters scratched, she plonks herself into position beside me with a big ker-thump. But for her, that isn't rudeness, because she herself likes to be ker-thumped. (Funnily enough, I have a daughter like that - if you want to make her smile, you start punching her!)

George, on the other hand, for all his tough-guy persona, is very careful not to bump me at all when he maneuvers me into position beside him. And he in turn prefers to be approached delicately.

I've also been working with Bridget on a couple of things out in the field - backing up towards me, backing up away from me, moving hindquarters towards me, coming towards me and stopping in front of me. Those things work pretty well. Moving shoulders towards me sometimes happens. Not so smooth is moving hindquarters away from me. I don't want to accomplish that by physically pushing - I want to use energy. On the lead rope, we're also working on halting when I lift one arm in the air and say "ho."

I read with interest Kris McCormack's latest blog entry about Thunder the wonder horse. Although Thunder knows what's being asked, and remains engaged and cooperative, he still might choose to say no to a request. With Bridget, most of the time (there are exceptions involving her or my safety, for example) I want to work in such a way that she is free to say no. Often, my explanations are not clear, and a refusal amounts to saying - "Could you re-word that, please?" Nothing I'm "training" her to do can be enforced. If she refuses, or doesn't understand, we'll just try again, either right away or another time.

Bridget and Rose appeared both to be in heat this morning. George was acting uncharacteristically subdued. He let first Chloe, then Bridget, then Rose come up to me, without asking for attention himself.  He claimed the first pile of hay as usual, but didn't bother to also claim the others before finally settling down to just one.

Sometimes when food first appears, Rose will try coming at Bridget with a fierce snaky neck, flashing eyes, and bared teeth. Bridget has discovered exactly what to do about that. She wastes no time on rancor, but simply turns around and starts backing up toward Rose. And she can deliver a very precisely-aimed kick. Rose has not found a way to counter this threat - Bridget's back legs trump Rose's teeth.

Most of the time, though, the two of them get along just fine -


  1. I like the way you're "training" Bridget. It's important for a horse to be able to say "no", so that you can keep a dialogue going. I think the moment you start to enforce things you're in danger of breaking the bond of trust. Young horses especially need time to process a request and like you say, trying again later is often all that is needed. Sometimes a "no" is a lesson. I find with Cassie that if she doesn't move when I ask her by upping my energy, it turns out I haven't really upped my energy at all, or am using the wrong "frequency".

  2. When I was trimming Bridget yesterday, I found she moved her hindquarters over by me practically only just thinking about it - I guess because my intention in my own mind was very clear. Whereas when I'm "training," my intention is probably often quite woolly.

  3. I like your notion of "frequency." I think that's really apt.