Friday, 26 July 2013
Have been thinking a lot recently about how to make my relationship with my horses better. Take Kinna's recent problems, the first time I went to see her after she got sore, she didn't want me anywhere near her at first, she didn't trust me not to hurt her so I had to give her the choice to walk away and after trying for about 20 minutes to get a headcollar on her, I rethought it, and just went for a leadrope round the neck. Even this wasn't pleasant for her, she still wouldn't let me touch her head to put cream on, but she did let me treat her legs and under her tail.
Usually of course I have daily contact with her so would it have been easier if she'd stayed at home? She clearly didn't want poor Sarah anywhere near her but then, she doesn't know Sarah like she knows Ali and me.
I have just read a book by Joe Camp called Horses and Stress. He and his wife came late to horse ownership and because he never had any preconceived ideas on how to do it, he questioned everything and chose what he sees as the best way to keep his horses. So he keeps them out all the time in a herd, moving about, barefoot, unrugged, just like mine. One of the things he says is "Time in the saddle, in the arena, and on the trail are important. But I believe the most important time is in the pasture. Just hanging out. It has done wonders for us, and our horses". He does this thing called "No Agenda Time", more on that on his website, which is essentially being with a horse and doing nothing to it, expecting nothing of it, and waiting for the horse to choose to come and interact with you.
We all talk about the importance of groundwork, training, leadership etc, but before all of that we don't take time simply to be with a horse. We expect things, we need to do things, achieve something, teach them something, practise doing something, whatever.
Today something cool happened when I was down at Tanya's cleaning the paddocks. Her little pony, Polo, has real issues with being caught. He doesn't like adults, he doesn't always want to be caught even by his rider, he is very wary of strangers and often of people he does know. He can't really deal with any kind of pressure. For months he avoided me, except for when I arrived with his food. More recently he has consented to let me go up to him, but hasn't exactly been happy and relaxed with that. Mostly I just need to check his fly mask, pick out bits of stray hay in it, that kind of thing. I have just got on with things around him, tried to put no pressure on him and leave him alone and I see him watching me out of the corner of his eye a lot of the time.
But today, he chose to do something he's never done before. He actually asked me to do something for him. After I'd picked the hay out of his mask, I scratched him on his wither like I usually do and then he took a few steps forward. I thought he was going to head off to the hay but her stopped in front of me and looked back. I get this a lot from Tari and with her it means "scratch my bum". So I scratched Polo's bum and he pulled the "that's good" face, the first time I have ever seen him do that.