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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Battle of Wills

But it wasn't really a battle. More like a summit.

After George's little incident the other day, I decided we'd better do some more regular work with the horses. So I fetched George out of the pasture and decided to do six minutes of work. (Six, because it was like 12:34, and I planned to work until 12:40.) George did everything I asked politely and immediately, so I reduced the work time to four minutes and then let him graze on the lawn for a while.

Next up was Bridget. She walked forward and stopped and backed up once. After a minute, I asked her to back up again. The answer was a very definite no.

So, we stood.

For ten minutes, she nudged and nibbled at me. I kept pushing her head away, and if she came across as too aggressive, I bopped her (in a friendly way) on the nose with the end of the lead rope. After ten minutes, she stopped the nudging.

Just standing.
She became quite peaceful, and snuggled her nose up to my hand.

But every so often, she took a step forward with one foreleg. At which I turned her in a circle and resumed standing. The mood remained calm and cordial.

As the flies were bothersome, Bridget lifted a foreleg sometimes to swat at them. After 20 minutes of standing, she began replacing her foreleg into the same position, rather than taking a step forward. I clicked a "yes" every time she did this.

Up comes the leg.
Down goes the leg.
(Why is her chest so uneven - I hope it's just cos of the way she's holding her neck.)
Every few minutes, I repeated my request for her to step backwards, and every time I felt myself up against an immoveable object.

Finally, after half an hour of standing, Bridget began to place her foot just a teeny bit behind its original position whenever she picked it up. There were a two or three incidents of backsliding when she couldn't help herself and stretched one foreleg out and didn't replace it (at which I would lead her in a circle again). But there were also a couple of times when I said, "Ahem," and she put the foot back.

At last, she took a few steps backwards. So I gave her a treat and let her graze.

Bridget is, as my daughter would say, "Miss Sassitude." She is a dear, loving, warm-hearted, companionable creature. Also bold, brave, and strong-willed. Most of the time, she'll do what you ask without any fuss, but every so often, the bossy and dramatic side of her personality will emerge. In those moments, she is not always very ready to listen to my opinion or the opinion of any other human who happens to be around. So it was, I think, very helpful to have this difference of opinion, highlighting what great resources of stubbornness and determination Bridget has. It was good to be able to settle this disagreement without drama or rancor.

Most people, in my experience, resort to whacking the horse with the rope if it doesn't immediately step back when asked. This is pretty effective, and also takes much less time than 30 minutes. Also, it must be said that a dominant horse does not wait half an hour to exact compliance from a lower-ranking herdmate.

However, I feel it was a half hour very well spent. We explored the reality that I, in my humble, bipedal way, can be even more stubborn than Bridget. Plus we had a nice long stretch of just standing together serenely. And Bridget's acquiescence was not an outcome forced upon her, but a conclusion reached by her.


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