Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lessons from A Horse . . .

We are all still adjusting to the loss of our beloved Lady Byrd. The biggest thing that she taught me over the years, and something I hear repeated by many great trainers, is "listen to your horse". Listening to Lady taught me so many things about riding, horses and also life.

These are a few lessons I have to come understand and appreciate . . .

Bucky helped me to realize that the harder it is to reach a goal, the more important it becomes to recognize it once your there. We have been struggling with a nice, soft, smooth halt for a few weeks now. I realized that each time I asked for halt, got it, and was then thinking ahead, "Next we'll swing hindquarters over, then back up . . . ". I realized I wasn't taking the time to show him that "yes, that is what I want". So today we worked on halt, and then standing quietly savoring our lovely square, soft, halt. This concept was also very helpful with Miss Haley, it took so long for her to come to me in the paddock, so we make sure to spend lots of friendly time when she does.

Haley, though still a little mistrustful, reminds me the most of Lady Byrd. She is very very smart, but far more interested in her own self preservation than what you are asking her to do. She is teaching me daily to throw agenda out the window. Today I carried saddle blankets, flags and lead ropes out to the paddock to work with her and then realized what she really needed was to just build trust and work slowly. So we spent 20 minutes just working on facing me in the paddock and allowing herself to be approached without swinging her haunches at me. It was pretty amazing though to watch her think through the process, after 3-4 times of stopping & looking away whenever she would turn towards me she finally turned her haunches away and then stood there chewing and yawning for about 3 minutes before walking right up to me.

And then of course there is Sassy, forever reminding me to have patience. No matter how many times we have been over hoof trimming or fly spraying, there are always days when she has to be naughty and forget her lessons. When we first got Sassy she needed a lot of care - bathing, wound care, clipping her matted winter coat, hoof trimming and deworming. Because she is little we were able to get this all done without too much trouble, but at times I didn't take the time to help her accept what was going on. In the long run I think this has led to more problems with her and I should have just taken the time to let her be dirty and matted while we worked through her issues. Lesson learned, and we are now trying to work through things more slowly with her and help ger gain trust and confidence.