Today, I took George out to graze again.
He is once more giving off an aura of raw vulnerability. I really don't feel I can approach and touch him except on his head. His defensiveness has returned, brought on, I believe, by the onset of winter weather and a fear of starvation.
My husband was out with us, chatting with me. At one point he was heading towards George's hindquarters, about eight feet off - not actually intending to go towards George, but going in that direction by happenstance. George stiffened and pinned his ears. Oh my!
As I did yesterday, I practiced occasionally asking George to stop eating, raise his head, and be quiet beside me. The first couple of times he was pissed off. He really wanted to nip me. Then he turned his head away and tried to walk into me with his shoulder. I avoided getting annoyed, and persisted. He quieted fairly quickly.
The third time, I thought I would really just ask and not tell. I kissed to him as usual, and tugged gently on the lead rope, but waited for him to respond when he chose. It took a few moments, but he did stop grazing, and quite kindly brought his head towards me.
The fourth time took longer and was a little grudging, but he didn't get angry, and he stood quietly in a resigned sort of a way for a moment, until I invited him to eat again.
I don't understand what's going on with the horses' eating habits. The grass is down to bare bones, but they're not finishing their hay. It's the same hay they've been getting all along, and they start out eating enthusiastically when it first appears, but they soon lose interest and wander off to pick at the meagre grass. A couple of weeks ago, they were inhaling three bales a day between them. I wonder if the new feed I'm giving them is actually filling them up quite well. I've gone from giving pelleted feed to a much larger portion of non-molasses beet pulp and chopped forage. We switched a couple of weeks ago at least, but I wonder if it's taken this long for the extra nutrition to really make itself felt ... ?
With George in this don't-touch-me mood, I was happy to hear that while I was out, my daughter had taken him out, saddled him up, put one of her friends on him for a walk around the fields, and that he had comported himself in a gentlemanly manner throughout. Go figure.