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

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Operation Bridget

The good news is that Bridget is flat-backed and so Kelsey's (R.I.P.) old saddle fits her. The bad news is that Bridget is flat-backed and so, no matter how tight you fasten the girth, when you put your weight in the stirrup, the saddle is guaranteed to slip.

I've been looking over my journal from last year, and I realized I was spending a lot more time doing things with the horses last September. Having the horses loose in the yard on a regular basis means I can pop out for a minute or two here and there to say hello; I can sit on the porch and have a cordial chat with whomever happens to stick their head over the rail, or hand a carrot out the kitchen door. However, I think this interaction has meant I haven't felt the need to devote more time just to the horses.

So I decided Bridget and I have to get going with whatever it is we're going to get going with.

Today, I got out the clicker, filled a pocket with tiny carrot pieces, and fetched a saddle and bridle from the barn.

The first trick was learning to wait for the click, as of course once Bridget got wind of the pocketful of carrots, she was intent on getting as many as possible as quickly as possible. Anyway, she got the hang of that, and then we tried backing and turning. Maybe I shouldn't do so many things all at once, but Bridget's smart, and I'm impatient!

I'll need more time to work with the clicker to decide what I think of it. Having read on Song of the Black Horse that using the clicker creates a fast track in the learning process, I decided it was worth a second look.

Then I tied Bridget to the gate and put on the saddle. Hopefully one day we'll have a small space where we can tack up at liberty. I put on the bitless bridle, and it fits Bridget better than Rose, as Bridget's head is deeper, which means the cheek pieces are well away from her eyes.

We went for a walk. I was just determined we were actually going to go for a walk. Bridget stopped a few times, but she resumed walking each time, as I was clearly on a mission. I got fed up with being pushed off the dirt lane and onto the grass so she could eat, so I pushed her back and kept going.

I promised her a grazing break when we got to some shade trees at the bottom of the hill. She grazed for a while and then saw the COWS. She marched further down the lane to get closer to them, and they came scurrying over to the fence check her out. (Fence = 1 strand of wire, not electrified.)

Bridget was breathing fire and levitating, but happily she kept in touch with me and showed no signs of taking off. In fact she reallyreally wanted to say hello to the cows, but it was all a bit too scary. They were two-year old Holstein heifers. I know this, as their DOBs were on their ear tags, as were their names. Some of them had normal names, like Cayla and Caren. Others had weird ones, like Portage and Vision.

After the exciting cow interlude, we headed home. I asked Bridget to walk next to me without forging ahead. Whenever she got out in front of me, I stopped and waited for her to put herself back in position. And we practiced going real slow and then picking up the pace. I figure that if we're going to go out riding together, we'll need to have a sense of doing things together, listening to each other, being a unit. Walking together is a good way to start.

We stopped for Bridget to eat some particularly yummy grass.

At this point, Bridget was standing in a conveniently located ditch - hmm, good opportunity .... so I stuck my foot in the stirrup and hoisted myself up so all my weight was in the stirrup and I was leaning over her back. And - yes! - I clicked, then doled out a treat. We did this two or three times (putting the saddle back into position each time), and Bridget remained largely uninterested due to the profusion of herbage at her feet.

So, well, we're getting there.

Later, I went out for a dusk social call to the pasture. First Bridget came over for a visit, then George, then Bridget again. When George came over for a second time, he carefully placed himself into position behind me and proceeded to nudge me over to the gate. So I put the halter on, took him out, and let him graze all the way down the driveway and back up again before I turned in for the night. I thought it was very clever and cute of him to figure out how to tell me what to do.

George enjoying the fruits of his maneuvering.


  1. I will be interested in how you get on with the clicker. I have had mixed results and have abandoned it for Ben, although I think Rosie enjoys it.

  2. I thought Bridget might have fun with it, as she loves activities and interaction. But I've a feeling it may end up being too automated for her. The few times I worked with Chloe with the clicker, it was quite successful, so I think I'll try again with her too.
    I don't see it being a big hit with George, but I guess I shouldn't be closed-minded.
    Rose ... I don't know.

  3. I'd be interested if you felt like writing more about your clicker experiences on your blog, Maire. And you've had first-hand training from an expert, haven't you?

  4. June, I do have a post nearly assembled in my head. I think it is all about dominance. I will write about it, if only to record my experience for myself.

  5. I'll look forward to reading it, Maire!