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

Friday, August 30, 2013

Another Ride with Rose

The other day I saddled up Rose again. We repeated the mounting exercise from last time, and this time things moved along more quickly to the point where I could hop up onto her back.

 I was trying out the smaller Cashel Soft Saddle. Definitely the larger one is going to work better. With both saddles, as it would be with bareback, it's a challenge for me to maintain a good position/posture - but a beneficial challenge, I hope? I do need to work on my seat.

Rose was in heat, so she kept wanting to go over to the fence to touch noses with George and squeal a little. I let her.  And in between we pottered about, but her mind was wandering.

Finally she came to a dead halt. I could not prevail upon her to move at all. As I have foresworn using a stick or other such persuasions, there we stood. Finally I dismounted, thinking that maybe she would like to be lead back to the pasture. No. She still wouldn't move.

So we stood peaceably for a while. Every few moments, Rose touched her nose ever so gently to my hand.

George and Bridget are always chivvying Rose about. "Go away." "Move." "Come along now." "Git."  I honestly think she gets fed up with it and likes coming out with me because she knows I won't make her move when she doesn't want to. She can pick a spot she likes and stay there, or she can head off towards a destination of her choosing.

Part of me says, "Well, this behavior is not conducive to making her a nice mount for my husband or anyone else to go for a pleasant trail ride in the countryside. And isn't that my goal?"

On the other hand, Rose has taken people for pleasant rides - on one occasion, it was all her idea in fact. And while it would be nice for my husband to reliably be taken for a nice hack, he does do other things for fun in his life, as well as owning a pretty serviceable pair of legs of his own. While Rose never has the opportunity to be Queen of the Realm except when I take her out.

And she is always perfectly sweet and polite about wanting her own way. Very different from a horse imposing its will on another horse - I think she recognizes that she can claim self-determination as a gift, as it were.

As this is the path upon which I've placed my feet, I feel I must follow it where it leads.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Today I had occasion to compliment a horse I was working with on his nice manners.

It occurred to me that when people talk about a horse's nice manners, they usually mean that the horse has been trained to behave, to be obedient, to be respectful, to be compliant.

But that's not what I meant.

My grandmother of blessed memory had many wise sayings. One thing she used to say was that good manners were simply Christian principles put into practice - one is polite and mannerly because  it's a way of treating others as one would wish to be treated oneself, of putting others at ease and - well - of being nice to them.

That's what I meant with this horse. I felt he was being kind and accommodating to me. He was willing to put himself out, shifting his weight onto his sore leg when I asked, just because I asked. He picked up his feet and left them on the stand without fussing, even though he wasn't used to the stand and was suspicious at first. I felt he did all this not because he felt he had to, or was afraid of any negative consequences, or because he was trained to, but because he wished to treat me nicely.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

More Riding

Inspired by my ride the other day, and also by my Animal Communicator client's claim that horses are worried about hurting their humans' feelings, I resolved that we should do more riding around here.

Cos I reallyreally like riding, and maybe they wouldn't mind indulging me.

Plus I have a Cashel Soft Saddle on loan to try, and I needed to give it a whirl.

Here's the thing - there's this fear associated with mounting up. Fear and a feeling of seizing control from the horse - of creating a disconnect between human and horse.

So that's what I wanted to work on.

I got Rose out and put the Cashel saddle on her. It has a Western cinch, which I'm not used to, but I figured it out; plus the stirrup leathers are set on low, so the stirrups are long, even on the shortest hole. But I got it sort of sorted out, and when I brought out the bridle to put on, she turned her head all the way around towards me, because she knows it's the bitless now - back when she was expecting a bitted bridle, she used to turn away.

Next, we headed over to the kitchen steps for the purposes of mounting.

I just wanted everything to be calm, and relaxed, and unforced. So I lead Rose into position, gave her a treat, and when she broke position, I peacefully lead her around in a circle back to the same spot. Once she started holding that position, I stepped up onto the bottom step and gave her another treat. When she moved off, I just lead her around again and re-positioned, keeping the reins loose.

After a few times she stayed put, so I advanced to suggesting that I put my foot into the stirrup, again keeping the reins loose. When she moved away, we just quietly walked around and back into position.

After another couple of times, she stood still and let me mount. Of course the treeless saddle slipped, and I had to tighten the cinch. But on the next attempt, everything worked fine, and there I was sitting on top of Rose with no sense of having had to hold her still or take control.

Rose is a horse who likes to take her time and say no at first. Allowing her to do that gives her confidence. I liked the feeling of being able to mount because she agreed to let me - not because I trained her to let me, but because I asked and she said yes.

We pottered around the yard a bit, sometimes Rose choosing where to go, sometimes me. I think she'd've opted to go down towards the road, but the dogs were out, and I didn't want them to follow. Rose is a very listening horse. The bitless bridle we're working with is a bit of a blunt instrument, but nonetheless I think we made a little progress in the short time I was riding.

The soft saddle was ok - I need to try it with shorter stirrups. I think it'll be a good addition to Rose's saddle wardrobe, but I expect that it won't work for Bridget as I was hoping, as because she is so very cylindrical, it'll probably just slip at the slightest provocation.

Then it was George's turn. It seems that being tied to a fence and having a saddle put on and a person climb aboard is less of an imposition than being asked to walk backwards at liberty for no particular reason. He totally didn't make his mean face or get grumpy even when I tightened the girth. We approached mounting the same way as with Rose. He didn't need as many re-positionings and let me climb up pretty quickly.

As with Rose, we just had a short ride pottering about the yard. I think George will be a good riding teacher, because as soon as my hands start to interfere at all, he pulls the reins out of my grip. But if I'm very careful, he stays connected and listening.

I'm looking forward to my next ride!

Head Carriage. Etc.

I rode a horse! It was so exciting!

Actually, it was a little too exciting, as my daughter rode him first and got dumped on the ground. We were at a client's, who has become a friend, and she invited us to stay and ride. It was the gelding's first time with this saddle, and my daughter was taken aback by him starting off at a fast trot in the round pen, and she bumped on his back, and Mr. Allegedly Perfect crowhopped, and onto the ground went daughter. Never mind. She got back up, and he settled a bit, and then it was my turn.

He's a very nice, sweet horse actually. His new owner, my client, has only ridden him Western, but she said he was supposed to be trained to Level 2 dressage. What I found was that he was trained to have a false head carriage - chin tucked under, and zero connection over the to the rider's hands or to his own back. So that's what I worked on with him, and I think he started to let go of his behind-the-vertical mode of going and to connect a little with the rest of his body.

And he's not my horse and not my problem! So I didn't have to self-examine and question myself and wonder if it was ethical to be riding him in the first place or using a bit or any of those things. And honestly I enjoyed myself. Doesn't mean my equivocation with my own horses has got up and gone, but, hey, I'll take a bit of fun when I can find it!

Now on to the Etc. part of this post, which is the more interesting part, involving another client who is an Animal Communicator. Most of what she does involves finding lost animals, but she does help humans communicate with their animals about other matters also.

For example, she told me of a recent situation she'd helped with - the owner of a miniature horse was moving out of the country and had to find a new home for the horse. Two or three different potential new homes were on the table, and my client talked to the mini to find out which new owners he preferred. He had a definite preference and was allowed to make the choice himself - so the horse was happy, and the old owner was relieved to know that the horse would be content in his new situation.

Sometimes she'll be asked to find out what is bothering a horse. She said that horses are often reticent to complain about their owners (e.g. hard hands), as they don't want to hurt their feelings. So she has to promise to be tactful in communicating. I find this immensely reassuring.

I used to think this stuff was crazy. Now I don't. That is all.

p.s. Daughter may have cracked rib.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I've not had many dealings with stallions in my life, but I've come to know a few. As a teenager, I worked for several weeks with three (very dear) pony stallions. In the years between then and now an occasional stallion crossed my path, such as the affable Welsh Cob to whom I was introduced when he came to greet visitors in the pasture where he ran with his mares. As a hoof trimmer, although I haven't worked on any full-size stallions (there just aren't that many around), my clientele has included three donkey stallions and six miniature horse stallions.

There is something different about these guys. They have all been so ready to engage - more than other equines, they seem to embrace a spirit of rapport and rapprochement. They are easier to flatter - but also more flattering. ("Oh, you like me? That's great! I like you too!") All have been characterized by an eagerness to enter into the moment, by magnanimity, by playfulness, by unservile cooperativeness. When I'm with them, I feel as though I'm being welcomed onto a team.

I know we can't let all the colts turn into adult stallions. They can be harder to handle, and I've witnessed stallions who basically had turned into menaces from boredom and lack of attention. Uncontrolled breeding leads to neglect and unwanted horses, so housing stallions is a problem if there are any mares around. I accept that gelding is necessary. But I wonder if we haven't gotten rather complacent about this seemingly routine procedure, giving it the same perfunctory attention we might give to worming or vaccinations.

I don't want to try to sketch the characteristics of a gelding compared to a  stallion; every horse is different anyway. But perhaps something more than fertility may be lost in the castration of the male horse, and I want to acknowledge that loss, even it it's unavoidable.

There's plenty of stuff in this world that maybe ain't wrong but somehow just ain't right.

(Now, when Moshiach comes ..... )