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

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bridget Refuses to be Bored

Bridget and I had an interesting excursion today, which reminded me again of the many dilemmas and questions in life, such as when - or whether - to compromise, when - and whether - to stick to an agenda, and of the perennial necessity to stay in the moment and just hope you don't mess things up too bad.

I've been finding the Bored Game to be very helpful in trimming. Just the other day, I was trying to trim a TB gelding, who was restless on account of I had interrupted his Very First Day Out On Grass this spring. A minute or two of the Bored Game was all it took to bring him mentally present and allow us to finish his feet. Most horses get the picture really quickly.

Bridget is another story. While Bridget and I were out for a walk today, I lead her off the road onto the verge to allow a car to pass. She has no fear of traffic, but as the car went by, she was very distracted and not paying attention to me, which made the situation feel unpleasantly unstable. If I'm going to start riding Bridget this year, we need to have an understanding that we must both be present in the same mental space. So I decided then and there to play a spot of the Bored Game. Over half an hour later, we were still at it.

Bridget is what, if she had been a little girl back in the days of my childhood, would have been termed "a proper little madam." Nowadays I would say she possessed a flair for the dramatic and displayed excellent leadership potential. Be that as it may, thirty minutes and counting of the Bored Game and we weren't getting anywhere.

She looked into the distance, pawed the ground, plunged, walked into me, stared at phantoms, tried to sneak past me, nudged me, bounced, and altogether refused to accept the fate of boredom. The good thing about this game is that it is non-confrontational, which means that the horse might be getting mighty ticked off, but the human can remain serene. However, when she started barging into me, I thought this might be a bridge too far and decided to whomp her on the chest with the end of the leadrope, which is sort of against my principles, but, hey, no one likes an ideologue, right? Then - which is where I took it too far, I think - I whomped her again when she tried to run around me. I think whomping is ok to stop her running into me but not to stop her running around me. I guess. Whatever. Anyway, I got my head back into the right place, but Bridget was still refusing to be bored, finding ever-cleverer ways to circumvent my plans. And I admit it might not have been the best idea to play this game half a mile from home.

Then, in moments when she was momentarily [note correct use of "momentarily"] still, I started feeling on the leadrope to ask her to relax her neck and back a little. And as soon as she did, she would go into this paroxysm of opening and closing her mouth and twisting her body and contorting her neck, and lifting her foreleg up underneath her - as if letting go of the tension in her neck and back was just too, too weird-feeling. At first she resumed her head-up tension almost immediately, but each time I asked for the release she maintained the paroxysmic (is this a word?) behavior for longer and longer, until she dropped her head completely and began rubbing her nose on the ground like a bloodhound.

None of this bore any resemblance to boredom, but I could sense Bridget coming in closer - that the focus of her attention was now on this weird experience she was having rather than on outwitting me. I asked her to walk forward while her nose was on the ground, and she did so. When her head crept up, I stopped, re-asked for release, whereupon she immediately dropped her nose all the way back to the ground, and we started walking again. She could even trot with her nose on the ground. After a few stops, she would automatically drop her nose without being asked and start walking again. And in this manner we walked all the way home.

When we were almost back, a neighbor stopped to talk to me, and Bridget immediately reverted to her toddler-in-the-supermarket-fed-up-because-mom-is-having-boring-conversation-with-boring-grownup-and-toddler-wants-to-go-home-already behavior.

Bridget's willfulness was in clear view today - it's a quality I like in her, but I think we'll have to continue this conversation. I really do want her to understand that if I say "Be bored," then that's the way it has to be. I don't think she even really knows yet what I'm asking for. She and I had a similar loooong conversation a few months ago about backing up, and as I re-read that blog entry, I recall that I used the clicker to help me clarify to her what I meant. She was calmer then because we were at home - but it still took about half an hour.

Later today, I was out in the pasture, grooming the horses and hanging out. I managed to teach Bridget (by dint of bribing with scratches) to turn 180 degrees away from me, and then I started teaching her to keep going and turn the rest of the 360. She stuck around for ages, letting me teach her silly stuff. She's a good kid.

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