This ties in with something I've noticed with George. When I bring the feed into the pasture at dinnertime, George is very polite about not crowding me and not trying to get at the food until I've scooped it into his bucket. However, on very cold days when George is extra-hungry, it's all a bit too much for him. On those occasions, he will vehemently charge at the nearest mare and see her off, before returning to my side, his good-boy manners restored. He has figured out how to release his frustration without frightening me.
Yesterday, Bridget and I were hanging out in the pasture. I decided to work on some proto-dressagey type stuff. Bridget stuck to me for a good half-hour as I tinkered with her, asking her to bring her head towards me, to put her leg under her, to pay attention to her shoulders and so on. I did all this without a rope or halter, and she was free to stay or go as she chose. She chose to stay, except at one point - knowing I was trying to communicate something and not knowing what that was - she felt a little frustrated, and spying the dog sitting nearby, she ran at him - something I've never seen her do before. The dog was alarmed, but Bridget was clearly restored to good humor, and she walked back to me to resume our mysterious activities.
If she had been restrained - unable to leave because I was holding her by a rope and wouldn't let her go - I doubt very much if she would have been able to resolve the issue to her satisfaction and resume working so willingly. Imke Spilker talks about the horse's willingness to work voluntarily - what a priceless thing that is, and all too easily damaged.
When I was "working" with Bridget (in quotes because I'm a neophyte when it comes to this new way of working and am feeling my way forward like a toddler learning to walk), I had a stick which I used to point to and touch different parts of her body. She reacted instantly to each touch - turning to look, raising a leg, twitching. Sometimes Bridget wanted to hold the stick. I avoided trying to control her head, as she resists that. We are trying to find ways of communicating, things to practice, a modus operandi. It's ok for me not to know exactly what I'm doing, because Bridget is free to express her opinion. We can take the time to work it out, because Bridget is willing to stick around while we do. Spilker says that horses are very interested in movement - so I hope that by working on movement, we are doing something she finds rewarding.
Something she definitely finds rewarding is playing with the wheelbarrow. After our "practice," I did some more manure-shifting, and once again Miss Bridget wanted to help.
|Here she has tipped the barrow towards her.|
|That's how it's done!|
She got a little sad again when she couldn't manage and stood looking sleepy for a few moments. Then she got back to work.
I used my foot to rock the barrow forward, by stepping on the handle and pushing it to the ground. Whenever I let it go, Bridget nudged my boot to get me to do it again.
Finally, Bridget went back to join the others at the pile of hay. But she'd sacrificed a lot of good eating time on a cold and hungry day to participate with me in our joint ventures.