Here's a convoluted anecdote which sort of expresses how this loom-large aspect can distort one's view of reality:
Once upon a time, George used to be really aggressive, and he would bite people and threaten them. This was the Main Feature of George and one which had everyone jumpy. So he comes to live with us, and he gradually becomes less and less aggressive, but it's still there - out there in the universe, lurking. The other day, I read a sample report by Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling about a horse who is part King and part Child. It sounded a lot like George, even looked rather like him. The owner's trainer had warned her that this horse was liable to become aggressive. KFH said to put such thoughts far away, as you don't want to raise a specter which then cannot be put to rest. He also said that this is a horse who is unlikely to ever cause anyone any problems.
And I was like lightbulb moment. George never causes anyone any problems. He is unfailingly courteous, considerate, and affectionate - gallant even. Yeah, he still doesn't like his saddle put on. But he's never tried to dump a rider, or kick someone, or take off, or rear, or do any one of a number of things that a horse might do. And he hasn't offered to nip someone for a long time. It is time to put the specter of George's aggression to rest. It colored all my thoughts of him, and continued to make me fearful of some kind of bad reaction well beyond the time when he was likely to actually do anything. This is a horse who doesn't cause trouble.
Same thing with Bridget. She doesn't mind giving me piggybacks at all. She had an extremely adverse reaction to having her head messed with, and in my angst-y way, I immediately went to the default hand-wringing position of "Oh no, she doesn't want to be ridden, what shall I do, maybe it'll never happen." Which of course IS always a possibility. But apparently not in this case.
The saddle arrived. An 18" Wintec, from which I extracted the medium gullet and into which I put the extra-wide one. Cos that Bridget is, well, extra-wide. I sat it on the rail of the round pen, got Bridget (who was still not eager to be gotten) and then set her loose in the round pen. We were hanging out, doing a little of this and that, when the trainer joined us and asked if Bridget had shown any interest in the saddle. As if on cue, Bridget walked over to the saddle and nudged it with her nose. We saddled her up, leaving her free to come and go as she pleased. But she stayed put. I put some reins onto her halter - no more messing with stuff on her head. I got up. We walked around. All was serenity. And it really helps having a three-year old child in the ring - keeps the mood light.
I go to the barn more than once a week, but we have one day scheduled to work with the trainer. Today was that day, and when I went to get Bridget, she was happy to see me, walked away when I tried to put the halter on, but accepted the second attempt. She's spooky walking along the wooded path away from the pasture - perhaps she has seen the cougar that I saw the other day. But the round pen has become a safe space for her, where she becomes relaxed and confident. After a few minutes, our trainer said she'd like to see Bridget walking around the rail quietly, so I invited Bridget to come do that with me, but instead she made a beeline for the saddle and nudged it. So we put it on, and I climbed aboard, and then we had a quiet time pottering about, Bridget following the trainer, or wandering off on her own, or stopping at the mounting block to allow the little boy to hug her face. She turned around to inspect my foot. She rested one hind leg and dozed for a minute. We scratched her ears. Everything felt nice and safe and cozy and friendly for her.
I'm heading north on a 3-week hoof trimming trip, and I've asked the trainer to - not work with Bridget - but take her out and bring her up to the round pen and hang out and put the saddle on. I said I want Bridget to be able to say no and refuse, just as the human has the right to do the same. Also I want her to be able to make suggestions and have them accepted, even if they're not strictly with the program.
The head thing started, I believe, on her trip down to Texas. She was never in the least head-shy, but when she arrived in Texas, she didn't like having her halter pulled over her ears. The lady who transported them is lovely and I'm sure would never be rough or impatient. But they spent two nights at horse motels en route, and it could be that someone there manhandled Bridget when putting her halter on. So I think persisting with trying to "desensitize" her to the bridle was not a good idea. Today, after I snapped her reins onto her halter, she balked a little at first when I went to put them over her head, fearing that there was going to be some interference. She still loves to have her ears rubbed and scratched vigorously though. She's no fool - she knows the difference.
I think the trainer enjoyed our no-stress, non-training hour. She had a good idea - let's put random stuff into the ring for Miss Curious to inspect. Here's hoping the two of them will have fun together while I'm away.
|She loves the boy.|