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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nice George

Today was a lovely day - proto-Spring! Just the weather to take a horse out for an excursion.

I decided Bridget should come out, as she tends to receive short shrift compared to Mr. Squeaky Wheel, who gets oiled more than the others. I put the halter on her without a rope and invited her (a la Spilker) to follow me. She did follow, and then she hesitated. I felt she almost needed the leadrope to give her permission to keep coming, especially given George's proximity. So I clipped on the rope, and we headed to the gate, where George was blocking the way.

Now, coming in is one thing, but exiting is another. Exiting means Someone Else is getting to do what George wants. However, I knew he would let us out eventually and was determined to wait it out. Bridget patiently bided her time in the safe zone behind me, every now and then amusing herself by tugging on my clothing.

It was a long wait, during which George gnawed the gate, pawed the ground, and bit himself. But our patience paid off - he finally walked away, and through we went. I turned around to thank George (who was back looking over the fence) for his kind cooperation. I hope he knew I appreciated it, although I imagine he may have been thinking something along the lines of "Talk is cheap - show me the money!"

Bridget was all kinds of up: the air was filled with noises - on Sunday everyone is home, firing off guns, riding dirt bikes, shouting in the distance.

A little muddy.
She settled down to graze, and after a while I decided today was the day for Bridget and I do a little work or whatever you call it. So I asked her to practice coming to me and allowing us to just stand quietly for a few moments, a technique which has been helpful with George. Her reaction? "What? You're kidding, right? There's grass here!" But I persisted through some dramatic ground-pawing  and incredulous head tossing, as I think we need to establish this zone of quiet attentiveness.

Bridget's return to the field was a faster procedure than her departure. George moved over, a look of disdain on his face, and allowed Bridget to walk in. George stayed put, not bothering Bridget during halter removal. The halter then went on George.

We ran a little, grazed, and engaged in a spot of work too. I was struck by the difference between Bridget's and George's reaction to the let's-just-stand-here-quietly exercise. Whereas Bridget had thought it a novel and bad idea, George seemed to have the attitude: "Yes, dear, I remember your little game, we can play it if you like."

After he'd had a good spell of grazing, I took him over to the grass-free driveway and practiced some other stuff. It's my belief that a lot of "bad use" in horses pops up the very moment they take the first step from standing. They shorten their necks, stiffen their back, and leave their hind legs trailing behind. They even do this when they're out in the pasture. When riding (what? when?), I used to practice stopping and then starting again with a loose neck and back - it's a good exercise, and a walk picked up in this manner is a better walk.*

Practicing this in-hand involved asking George to relax his head and neck before walking forward, while turning his head slightly toward me and releasing his shoulder away. Now, in the past George has been very picky about suggestions regarding his shoulder. Today, though, I had a whole new feel from him, and for the first time, I had the impression we were on the same page. He didn't seem threatened and didn't look crabby. He projected an air of recognition and understanding - although not unmixed with a little impatience!

Later there was a commotion - the dogs barking at a man walking along the far edge of our property. George decided he needed to return to his pasture in order to get closer to the scene of action and check it out. I let him go and he ran half way over to the far side of the field, looking vigilantly into the distance. Brave defender.

Ready for supper.

*Try setting off into a walk from a standstill. Then stop and drop loosely forward from your waist, your neck, head and arms drooping down. Thusly posed, start walking again. You'll feel a whole different sensation in your legs - much more engagement, and greater lengthening down the back of the leg.


  1. George is such a handsome guy. What kind of of horse is he?

  2. He's an Appendix Quarter Horse.

  3. He's my favorite color! - dapple grey with darker mane and tail