Today was all about establishing good leadership with* Suncatcher and Dude. First, let me explain that it is one of those days where you think to yourself: “Self, should I really work with a horse in wind like this?” But then you say, “Sure, it’s a perfect time to establish good leadership.” The only thing you’ve forgotten is how hard it can be when there are THOUSANDS OF HORSE EATING MONSTERS and the horses have forgotten that you really are as good as you’ve been telling them you are.
That brings me to taking *Sun for his walk and today I saw a different side to *Sun than I’ve seen before. *Sun lives with 3 others: Dude, *Jack, and *Leo. All geldings, all somewhat goofballs in their own way; oh, and all of them hold up their hoof and yell “Take me, take me” when you walk in with a lead rope. So, actually walking out with the correct one is a feat in itself!! Having made sure that I had *Sun on the other end, we proceeded down the drive toward the lower pastures, walking and whoaing the whole way. That is, of course, until we had to pass the area where we have tractor equipment stored covered by a huge piece of tarp (tarp blows very nicely in a strong wind if you didn’t know...). *Sun was NOT so sure I was as smart as I keep telling him I am. However, we managed to go past it without it eating him, so perhaps I am okay. We then walked all the way down to the lower field without incident. Yes, he was very aware of his surroundings, but he kept his focus on me. We went to the round pen and walked one way around it. As we nearly completed the circle something ‘blew up his skirt’ as they say, and he charged ahead, got to the end of the rope, turned, snorted and looked at me. “What was that?” I asked; “Did you see me get upset? Did I tell you there was danger? Nooooo, you’re fine.” And I proceeded to walk on straightening him out as I went. We did another circle and walked out of the pen and turned left to go once around the outside of it, and he exploded! However, he did so while always being mindful of how close he was to me. He pulled out, moved his rear away from me, leapt into the air and cow-kicked. I asked him, “What was that?” (It is a favorite question of mine). He immediately came back in and inserted his head in my arms. I told him, again, he was fine, and we started to walk again. About six steps later, he again exploded by pulling himself out from me, leaping, kicking, then rearing, and kicking, then rearing again (he’s pretty impressive actually...have you ever noticed that while something like this is happening part of you is noticing the oddest things?) This time, I looked at him, swelled myself up to about 18 hands (which is good considering I’m only a bit over 15H) and said “NO!” I pulled him back in (actually pulling isn’t right, reeling is more like it) and asked him to walk and whoa over and over. He has recently been learning clicker, so now it was time to highly employ it. As we began to walk back up to the winter pastures, when he walked calmly and attentively next to me, I C/Ted. We did this all the way back up, and I am happy to report that he stayed “with” me the whole time. I deposited him back in with his cohorts, and took a breather.
Next up was Dude. Now Dude is typically a very calm fellow, but he is also an introverted horse. You need to pay attention to him as his eyes and his nostrils say it all. Dude, too, was very aware of his surroundings. That wind is a tricky fellow and it makes all sorts of things move around. Dude is, though, definitely one who likes to check out the “boogie men”. He’ll be startled, do that really cute splay-legged move, stare at it, then say “Let’s go look at it!” He also is VERY clicker-savvy. So, going past the moving tarp over the equipment was a definite eye-bugging process, and unfortunately, I couldn’t let him check it out, as much as he wanted to, because we haven’t been able to use a metal detector on the arena base yet. I’d hate for a horse to get anything in their hoof. Other than the covered equipment, Dude seemed very keen to go for a walk, and I thought we’d make a trip around the field, but we’d no sooner gotten all the way down, than he too, exploded. For Dude it was no aerial theatrics but moving forward. So I fed out the line and let him trot around me. I could tell he was not happy (those nostrils you see), so I made the executive decision to not push it today. He did ‘stay’ with me, he was aware of where he was, where I was, but he was past his comfort zone. Once he had settled, I moved to walk back up out of the field and he felt he was most comfortable with his head towards me, and his butt away, side-passing up the hill. We did about 10 feet that way and he decided it was too hard. So, he turned head first next to me, but then thought I wasn’t going fast enough. I tend to go slower when that happens and it didn't take long for him to realize that he needed to not pull and walk beside me. Of course, I used C/T to tell him when he was “correct” and “correct” he stayed, until we got to the equipment. Then it was a discussion, “I want to see!” “Sorry, Dude, too dangerous” (and repeat for the number of steps it took us to pass by). Once past, he thought about exploding again, but decided against it, and he was very ready to go back into his paddock.
So, I’m left with thoughts: Was it because of the wind? (Could be) Was it their lack of trust in me? (Could be) Perhaps they are herd-bound? (Could be) I’m thinking it was all of the above and all that means is that I have to keep working at it little by little.
I can say though, that wind is whipping pretty powerfully.