Saturday, September 1, 2012

2 in one day!! Is she back?

So a friend of mine came out to see the horses the other day.

He's really interested in them, but doesn't know much about them yet.

Like most people who are just starting to work with an animal, there are some residual fear issues to overcome.

I think fear (for us) has a lot to do with the unknown.  We are afraid of horses not because of what they're doing at the moment, but what they're capable of doing at any moment with seemingly little provocation.

I had him lunge both the horses--Chev on the line and Tiny in the round pen.  I think it can be helpful to realize that they do respond in a predictable manner (most of the time).  And confidence can be built on the knowledge that they really are (mostly!) pretty easy to read.

I am a very nervous, high strung, worried person.  My stomach churns in new situations.  My nerves often get the better of me.

I was the kind of kid that couldn't even call and order a pizza because my anxiety about talking to a stranger on the phone was too high.

Ironically, about all I've done for work these last few years is talk to people I don't know on the phone, often in emergency medical situations.  Irony!  At any rate, I can adapt.  Very quickly, sometimes.

I think this hyper-sensitivity is an asset around horses.  I grew up with jumpy, unpredictable horses (Arabians, but who's keeping track anyway?) that would spin and bolt at the drop of a hat (or the buzz of a fly...or the appearance of a shadow...etc, etc ad infinitum).  I sympathized with them.  I, too, was a scaredy-cat afraid of everything.

I got really good at anticipating.

I could feel a spook in a horse way before they were going to bolt (often "wayyyy before" gave me a few seconds lead time).  I worked well with them.  I became the calm, confident one out of necessity.  We understood each other.

So I guess the point is, over the years I've developed a very calm way around horses.  And as a result, I have some really, really laid back horses that look to me for support in strange situations.

Tiny was a great example the other day.

I had the chiropractor out to see if anything could be done structurally to improve her way of going (there could--she was an absolute mess).  To do this, he had to take hold of the lead rope.

Literally no one has handled her but me in almost three months.  And before that, no one had really handled her at all.  She bonded fast and hard.  Now she's tough to get rid of (ha, ha).

She was pretty confused when I stepped back, and kept looking over  like, "Hello?  Hello?  Is this okay with you?  Should this be okay with ME?"

Anyway, it's sort of flattering when an animal acts that way.  But the ultimate goal is to have a sane, happy, confident horse in any situation.  We give them support and tools to feel secure.

So consistency is really the key here.  For my friend, it will take time to learn that horses are, for the most part, predictable animals.  That doesn't mean we should forget that they are potentially dangerous, whether that be intentional or not!  But I think there's a lot of trust that forms there in that daily relationship of predictable handling.

Horses are great mirrors of a person.

Certainly not the first time I've heard this said, but the best I've ever heard it said, comes from Mr. Brannaman.

"Your horse is a mirror to your soul.  Sometimes you might not like what you see…sometimes you will.”

The round pen & a round bale

There has been some serious slacking going on here over at the Chevelle Chronicles.

Part of my problem is now they are the Chevelle AND Tiny Chronicles.


I started a new job about a month ago working for a great equine hospital in town.  I have A LOT to learn.  But so far so good, and I'm checking into new barns that will be closer to where I'm working now.

I watched a girl work her horse in the round pen yesterday while I was picking out the girl's paddock.

The mom and grandma were also looking on, and the grandma was mumbling something about Clinton Anderson--"Well, that's what the Horse Whisperer would do".  Clinton Anderson's the Horse Whisperer, right?  To be perfectly honest with you, I can't keep all those guys straight.

The horse, a big chestnut TB-looking lanky guy, was about as unhappy as a horse could be.  The round pen was way too small for a horse of his build to move properly in.

She kept making all these "ARRRRHHHHH" buzzer noises every time he did something wrong, while simultaneously yelling "TROT"  "WHOA"  and "TROOOOTTT!!!!"  She couldn't catch him (which is a feat in a 50' round pen), couldn't get him to stop, and was getting increasingly annoyed.

That horse had an expression like he wanted to kick her head in.

He didn't though.  He was way too much of a saint for that.

Then, after several minutes of completely mind-numbing activity where the girl expected everything and didn't listen to a thing the horse was saying to her,  I heard the grandma say, "Get him to follow you around!  That's what the Horse Whisperer does."

So she tried that.  She called and called him.  That horse wasn't moving a muscle except to get AWAY from her.  The absolute LAST PLACE ON EARTH that horse wanted to be was next to her.

It kinda made my blood boil to see.

Horses are such forgiving, amazing animals.  I've made so many mistakes with training that I can't even count 'em all.  But one thing I really try to be is fair, and to listen.  But above everything is: being fair.

This horse was set up to fail, and he did.  She didn't notice when he gave her signals that he understood and was trying to comply.

More than anything, she failed her horse.

And the worst part is, she went away from the pen thinking it was his fault.

Ugh.  I'm going to have to start offering free clinics or something.  I'm not an expert by any definition, but I feel like I could at least help people to notice when their horse is trying, and to reward that try in them. 

Then maybe everyone could be happy.

My girls sure aren't perfect, but they are respectful, interested, and calm.  They throw their noses in the halter and go towards something new bright eyed, happy, and secure.

Speaking of happy...

The girls are eating their way through a 600 pound round bale, and loving it. The free choice hay gives them something to do all day, and they could both use the extra pounds before winter hits.  This was after 1 day of being on the round bale--about 100# of hay gone already!  I've since removed the wrapping--it was supposed to help keep the bale together, but they took no heed of that--so we'll see what kind of devastation I'm looking at when I get out there today.

Happy Labor Day weekend to one and all!  Don't forget to hug your horses :)