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

Monday, October 10, 2011

The View from on Rose

When I emerged from the barn today carrying saddles, Bridget and Rose both clustered around - "Me! Me!" they seemed to say, and Bridget nuzzled the saddles.

Rose was first. I plonked the tack on a gate outside their field and went back in with the halter and rope. Rose was hovering expectantly by the gate, waiting to be caught. Despite a little interference from Sir George, we extricated ourselves pretty smartly, and I gave Rose a quick brush before tacking up. She now has no initial reluctance to accept the bridle, as she knows that there is no bit involved.

I mounted from the picnic table (Rose is so nice to mount - so patient and solid), and waited to see what we had today.

Rose's first notion was to walk around the yard a little and check things out.

She headed back to check on the the other horses, stopped about 20 feet away, and then walked off again in the opposite direction.

All told, she returned about five times to check on the others. The third time, she and George had to have some nose-to-nose reassurance.

The fifth time, Rose also went up to the fence to smooch, only this time George started pulling on her bridle. At which point, I put a stop to the interaction.

In between each return to make sure the others were still there, Rose wanted to go around to the other side of the house, out of sight. Sometimes she wanted to graze.

Sitting on a grazing horse is a very good exercise - I found I had to concentrate hard on keeping my seat dropping onto the saddle and my heels dropping while my hand and arm were pulled far forward as Rose lowered her neck to graze.

I found quite a big improvement in communication since yesterday. As I'd hoped, the hamfistedness of the bitless began to give way to a little more subtlety. We did a couple of much nicer halts, using the seat and a much lesser amount of rein. The turning was greatly improved too.

I gave Rose a lot of latitude in choosing where to go. But each time she up and moved, I made sure to connect with her and establish a collaboration - asking for a little faster walk, or reminding her to lighten up, or asking for a slight turn. I think she gave some nice responses.

One time (my mistake), we were grazing under a tree, and the other horses hollered for her. She suddenly decided to go over to say hello, and there was much crackling of twigs on my back and helmet as we exited from under the tree. Startled, she started trotting - but quickly relaxed back to a walk when I asked.

A couple of times I suggested returning to our tacking-up spot to dismount, and she emphatically disagreed. I think she enjoys the independence of being away from the others, choosing where to eat, and having the security of a built-in buddy who magically accompanies her wherever she decides to go.

Finally, I decided it was time to quit. I must have in fact made some sort of stronger inner determination, as she agreed this time to return to the tacking-up spot. I think horses know the difference between "Oh well, I suppose it's time for .... " and "Right, gotta go."

Once she was untacked though, she didn't want to go back in the field.

You can't make me.
But I insisted, and back she went.

Bridget was next. Put a saddle on and thought maybe she'd like to graze for a little while. Not a bit of it. She was quite clear that we were supposed to be doing weird things - preferably in return for treats, or - failing that - at least to the accompaniment of loud praises from June. So that's what we did.

We even practiced stopping in position by the kitchen steps in preparation for some potential future time when I might want to, I don't know, do something crazy like maybe mount.

When the time came to stop, it was Bridget's turn to refuse to walk back toward the field.

Can't, won't, shan't
I felt very happy about what we did today.

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