Sometimes it's hard to find a middle point between the two extremes of being confrontational and being a milktoast.
There are certain horses whom I find particularly challenging in this respect. Ahem, did I say "appaloosas"? Surely I wouldn't say something as racist as that?
Today, however, the challenging horse was not in fact an Appie but a buckskin Quarter Horse mare, about seven years old.
The owner has four horses and a donkey. She saved the buckskin mare for last, after the other equids had proven themselves to be gracious and cooperative. I was warned me that the buckskin was occasionally aggressive and often not cooperative and that I shouldn't worry if I couldn't get much done.
The owner was really nice to work with, because she knows all her horses very well and has a good relationship with each one, as well as helpful insight into both their character and their physical condition. It was no different with the "difficult" mare. The owner really loves her in spite of/because of her strong-willed nature and was able to help me with her, rather than just standing there randomly saying "Whoa! Steady!" and apologizing for the horse - which is what some people do.
I think it was because of the very good relationship this mare has with her human (who understands and appreciates her character, while at the same time insisting on certain improvements in the behavior resulting from that character) that the horse was able to help me figure out how to "deal with" her.
It seemed that the following were good approaches to adopt:
1. not to be bossy or confrontational;
2. not to be intimidated;
3. to allow the mare to express a certain imperiousness - e.g. allowing her to snatch her leg away; but at the same time
4. to keep asking for more help and cooperation;
5. to ask and expect her to give me her leg of her own accord; and
6. to remind her - if she forgot and became too engrossed with her haynet - that I was standing there waiting for her to pick up her foot.
By the time I was working on the hind legs, she was picking up her foot freely and leaving it on the stand.
The owner was relieved, as there have been some tussles in the past with this mare and the farrier.
As I drove away, I reflected that I felt it really was the horse who had been the instructor somehow, that she had firmly and kindly shown me how she wanted things done, and had rewarded me when I figured it out.