Saturday, January 19, 2013

Taking Things For Granted, and Listening to the Horse

Sometimes I wonder about how easily I take things for granted with my horses.  I think, sometimes, if things haven't been difficult or challenging first, it's easy just to assume things.  All three of my horses stand still for mounting, and stop and stand as needed for as long as I need, and ground tie.  All three horses are great for hoof picking, the farrier and the vet, and take worming paste and medicines as needed by mouth.  All three lead well and move out of my space easily, even when worried (although Red will sneak up and grab a nip if given the opportunity - eyes in the back of my head are a plus). None of this happens by chance, or without intention.  Dawn used to be terrible for mounting - she'd move off once one foot was in the saddle - but she stands now, even when she's ready to blow - this presents its own set of issues as I need to read her mood from something else.  Pie came to me standing for mounting - his default condition is to stand still - but Red took some time to get there.

Red, when I got him, didn't lead, didn't load and would push through pressure on the bit or halter.  You couldn't handle his feet - he would kick and strike - and he was very difficult for both the farrier and the vet, and a nervous wreck most of the time.  If you were leading him in a situation that worried him, he would bolt, spook and run right over you. Now, even when he's worried, he's able to listen and wait, and his ground manners are very good.  It took a lot of time and work to get to where we are today, and I should never take things for granted - he's come so far due to his willingness to trust and learn.

All three horses are a delight to handle on a daily basis, and reliable in almost all (I won't say all for any horse) situations.  Dawn I still won't take on the trail - she's got a short fuse and explosive reactions as well as extreme acrobatics - but there's a lot we can do without that to expand our horizons.  Pie is more and more reliable in lots of situations - even if he snorts and looks, he's bidable and willing to try.  Red has huge heart and try, and although he hasn't been on the trail yet with me, I think he'll be pretty darn good when we get there - he's one of those horses that will go through fire for you if he trusts you, I think.

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And sometimes I wonder why I'm slow to listen to my horses.

Pie probably had Lyme even before he had EPM, and I was slow to pick up that his soreness, reluctance to move and crabbiness weren't his personality or a training issue to be solved, they were a disease that could be treated.  I wonder how many sore, unhappy horses are in similar circumstances due to muscle issues, unsoundness, dental problems or poor saddle fit, with people who won't listen to them.

Red, in the year and a half or so we've been together, has been trying to tell me that he needs to canter to warm up.  He has always walked out well for warm up, but as soon as you ask for trot, he fusses and sometimes balks.  This makes no sense, as he is a very forward and energetic horse.  I finally figured out that, due to some underlying hock arthritis, he feels more comfortable cantering before he trots - it helps him stretch out and warm up before trot, which is more difficult for him.  Now, when I ask for canter, he just floats into it and after a while, is happy as can be to trot and do as many transitions as I'd like - how easy that is and how slow I was to listen to him and do what he needed instead of what I thought was "required".

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It's amazing what our horses put up with - I expect they think we're pretty slow on the uptake . . .

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