This afternoon found me out in the horse field with a halter and leadrope. When George presented himself, I put it on him and decided to do a tiny bit of "work."
Having been turned out recently into a new pasture, the horses have been happily grazing for a few days. So they're not so obsessed with getting out to eat. (Alas, we're getting near the end of the new pasture too.) I stayed in the field with George, and so he had no expectation that this was all about going to greener pastures. Also, having the halter on gave a signal, I think, that we were doing a little work, and it helped to keep a connection going between us. Liberty work is nice, and probably ideal, but I think sometimes both horse and human can find the halter and leadrope reassuring.
We only worked for a very few minutes, but I discovered that George doesn't mind backing up in the least if you stay shoulder-to-shoulder with him, facing the same way, and walk backwards beside him. Also, in this way, I found that I could ask him to soften his head to the left while moving his shoulder over to the right as we backed up. This is something I could never get him to do before.
After I took the halter off, he wanted me to stand beside him. So I did. For about an hour. I was determined not to go away as long as he wanted me to stay there.
Little Bridget really wanted attention, and she crept as close as she could without arousing the George stink eye, a distance of about two horse lengths. She stood there for ages, waiting for him to go away, but finally gave up and went off to graze with Rose and Chloe.
As time went by, I gradually moved up closer to George's head. He likes having his ears rubbed. He is so peaceful and gentle and soft at times like these that I realize how important, and how difficult, it is to allow action and movement to arise naturally and softly out of this peace. At one point, his head was drooping almost to the ground; he flicked an ear and gave my shin a tiny nudge with his nose. I took that as a request to rub his ears some more. Who knows if I was right or not, but he was happy with the resumed ear rubbing anyway.
After we'd been standing there for about an hour, he started nibbling some grass, then caught sight of one of the dogs lying on the ground and went over to check him out. The dog is not so brave without a fence in between them and didn't stick around to be inspected. Then George went over to the water trough. I stayed put, but thought that he was ready to go off and do something else. However, after having a drink, he returned directly to my side. We stood for several more minutes, and then George moved off a little to graze.
But it was apparent that we were now in a different configuration - namely the mares were one group over on one side of the field, and George and I made up another little group in our corner. We stuck together for a while until I left the field, the better to pick the longer grass on the other side of the fence and hand it to him. But once I was out of the field, he quickly lost interest and rejoined the mares.
All this goes to show that despite George's reputation as a ladies' man and patriarchal oppressor, what he really wants is a buddy, which is, I suppose, how he came by his original name.
More importantly, this time with George made me re-remember that it's not all about making the horse do what you want. I could read Resnick and Hempfling and Rashid and still be in the mindset of trying new and ever more subtle ways to get the horse to do my bidding. Yes, I do want the horse to do things I ask him to do. I think that would be fun and useful. But I have to remember that this cannot be the only, or even the primary, motivation behind my desire to have a relationship with this creature.