I love to follow along with y’all’s blogs. I see you out there, schooling 6th Level dressage, galloping across cross country courses and jumping things taller than my truck… But prepare to seethe with jealousy because MY horse?
He’s turning an ear towards me.
I’ve been doing horse ownership the minimalist way — I go in the morning and turn them out, put hay in the pasture and do barn chores. Then I leave for the whole day until I come back at night and bring them in, get them tucked into their stalls with more hay and a little grain/supplements, and then I’m gone.
Simon copes fairly well with this (though he would prefer to be in his stall 23.75 hours of the day). Charlie though? Is loving it. It struck me that Charlie was acting like a soured, burned-out horse. Even after digging into his past, I don’t really know what kind of life he had. Did he go directly to the Amish after flunking out as a race horse? Worst case scenario, they drove him for those 8 years and then let him starve half to death when he couldn’t hold up to the workload any more. Then he got taken to auction and bounced around before landing in a soft place with me.
We completed a couple roundpen sessions before I became an absentee horse owner. It was tough on him! I asserted myself in a way he didn’t like by controlling his movement. I did the Equine Body Language equivalent of bootcamp: relentlessly picking on him and then offering, “Hey, if you’ll trust me as your leader, we can take it easy from here on out.” He took me up on it, of course. Anything to be rid of the pestering!
And then I let him chill out for a week or two.
I’ve been taking him out and occasionally lunging him — lightly. The difference in him is astounding. He keeps an ear turned on me at all times, despite the sound of Simon crying in the barn. He’s so tuned in to my body language — I can get him to lengthen his stride by simply bringing my energy up, or shorten it by facing his shoulder instead of his hip. He licks and chews. Slight pressure on the lunge line now has a huge effect, like sending a wiggle to push him out into a wider circle.
I’m tremendously impressed, and I had to take a moment to check myself. I had been sloppy with my body language, like “Why bother dialing it in if he’s not paying attention anyway?” It’s like when you babysit your nieces/nephews and they get to the age where they repeat everything you say… you gotta clean up your act, STAT. haha
One hard and fast rule I keep for my training clients is that a workout/training session needs to give more than it takes. People love to use exercise to punish themselves, and to feel totally annihilated afterwards. It’s soooo detrimental in the long run! A lot of times, less really is more. Quality over quantity, etcetera etcetera.
I’m planning to guide Charlie’s training in the same way, but for now I’m just glad we’re speaking each other’s language a little better!