Driving home today, I hoped that Chloe would be by the gate so that I could let her out without the rest of the gang. As I turned in the drive, there she was, waiting by the gate. So I opened the gate, and out she came.
When I come out with treats to work on Chloe's tricks, she'll often walk away after a short while, or even before we've started. Today, I had no agenda and, leaving the groceries still in the car, I went over to crouch on the ground in front of Chloe.
She plonked a forefoot on top of my knee, which is one of her tricks. I expressed my appreciation, and then went to pick an apple off the tree for her. She ate it without much enthusiasm and walked off.
As I was starting to gather the groceries from the car, I saw that Chloe had stopped grazing and was parked in the middle of the driveway, apparently waiting.
I walked over, scratched her for a minute, and then stationed myself in mounting position. Chloe gave what I have come to recognize as her "up you get" signal, which is turning her head around and pointing at me with her nose.
So I kicked and flailed myself up onto her back. She is so small, there is no excuse for the kicking and flailing - I should be able to leap up like a gazelle; however, Chloe stood like a little Rock of Gibraltar throughout the process.
Once I was settled, she essayed a step. I wobbled precariously. She stopped. Another step, another wobble; she stopped again. Finally I was stable enough for her to set off towards a good grazing spot on the lawn. I sat comfortably while she ate.
So, what am I learning from Chloe?
I'm learning that tricks can be fun for horses too, and that perhaps they don't always want it to be a mercenary transaction - perhaps sometimes for them it can be that offering a reward takes the heart out of it.
I'm learning that having a plan is not always a good idea. But I'm also learning that sometimes a crazy plan can pop into your head and it might just be the right thing to do: Hey! You know what? I think I might just climb on top of this pony!
I'm learning the importance of trust. When I clamber onto Chloe's back, what allows me to do this is not training or practice but the fact that Chloe has decided to make it safe for me. The trust I feel in her far surpasses the trust I have in a horse whose training keeps it standing still.
I'm learning that "training" is a two-way street, but that, while the cues humans use are often arbitrary, horses state their meaning by simply using their words.