Today I found a quote from Ray Hunt on Facebook. Ray Hunt was and continous to be a guardian angel for all horses…at least for those owned by people willing to make a change.
“We expect immediate learning from a horse. We expect him to go from kindergarten to the eighth grade – to high school – to college without enough time, preparation, or consideration for his thoughts and feelings. We often don’t even get him into a learning frame of mind before we begin to train him. We don’t even have him relaxed and confident, where he can sit down in class and just listen. We skip all that preparation because we are so superior, or neglectful, or lazy. Because we haven’t prepared ourselves to recognize the horse’s feelings.” – Ray Hunt.
This quote is so clear and it made it’s way right into my heart.
I know that I am at least as guilty as anyone else of sometimes rushing or being not as patient as I should be. This summer though, I feel like we came a long way in our relationship. With all the injuries he had, we had lots of time for bonding.
Pretty sure that this reflected in the ‘incident’ we had at our Friday “play time”, when he suddenly was really scared of a bag.
Three things came lightning fast into my mind.
1. Don’t tense
2. Keep breathing
3. Talk to him
I did not try to hold him by pulling on the reins while he felt uncomfortable. He did a couple of turns with me, trying to get away but I always got him back to the starting point, without a huge amound of pressure, but possitive reinforcement instead. Loose reins, a lot of praising and I petted his neck, ensuring him that it’s ok to take just one more step forward or if needed, just to stand still and investigate a little longer.
This is where we ended up after 4-5 minutes. I was pretty happy with him. Even though he was really scared in the beginning, panic did not take over completely and he was still listening to me.
We even had such a situation outside on a trail ride. My friend and I were riding in the dark, it had snowed and it was slippery. Just 10 minutes away from home we saw very strong lights approaching…and pretty fast, too. Oh dear, the bikers!!! A group of approximately 20 people cross biking through the forest, having strong lamps mounted on the steering of their bikes and their helmets. Our horses stopped and watched. Same procedure here, don’t pull on the reins, do not try to tense, relax, breath, pet him on the neck and talk to him. Of course we also had our reflexes on and headlights on the helmets, which helped because the bikers noticed us too and shouted back to each other, that there are horses on the path.
Just a reminder, this is how we look like, going for a trail ride:
We could barely make out the people behind all the lights. It was almost surreal that our horses did not bolt with us right away. They were moving a little, but not much. Barley tried to make one half-assed turn which I was able to easily stop by slowly pulling him around on one rein and I just said ‘Look, they are people!’ and he stood still and investigated some more. My friend had asked the bikers, if they could please talk a little, just so that our horses could hear that they were humans and not saber-toothed tigers, which helped a lot. They also turned their headlamps away and tried not to blind us.
Really happy to have met so friendly mountainbikers that showed so much consideration for us.
In a minute our horses had cooled down and we were able to walk past the bikers in a distance of just two meters. We were sooo proud of them and sooo thankful for the assistance of the bikers. All things considered, we can file this under a positive experience for both horses and riders….and bikers, too.
As we reached the grass, the bikers continued on, about 60 meters parallel to us on our left side, biking through the forest. My gosh, I tell you, that was a sight. Almost looking like a band of pearls making it’s way through the dark forest with their strong lights. It would have been awesome to be able to take a picture of that.
Well, the past two weeks Barley have had a cold, so we took it slow. It’s yet again a time where I was not able to ride him, but came to realize, how much I love just being with him.
Temperatures are around -10°C to -16°C at the moment. The ground is frozen, we have just enough snow to cover the ground and it’s quite slippery at some places. Fortunately we had a farrier appointment just in time to get shoes with 4 screw threads, so that we can screw in the studs. I have studs on the toe and heel of his front hooves and only on the heel of his hint hooves.
This way he gets a much better grip when walking on ice and snow.
Just one day before the farrier came, I picked him up from his pasture and he jumped a little, I assume because he was happy to get on an even ground after going around on the very uneven, frozen pasture ground all day. Of course he pulled a muscle in his hintquarters, gliding on the snow covered dirt path in front of the pasture.
That’s yet another reason why I couldn’t just let him stand and rest.After just a day of not moving I am sure he would have come up lame.
For the last days of 2014, I wish you wonderfull days filled with joy, a very happy new year and great start into 2015.