Earlier this week, I broke out my long lines to see if I could help Moses relax with lots of bending from the ground. Much to my surprise, he seemed to have experience with this type of driving. So we moved to exploring; just what did he know? I discovered right away that he was worried about the lines flipping over his back from behind, so I did this excessively in motion all the while letting him know not to worry, using my voice to make soft noises of approval when he relaxed.
I asked him to follow the feel on the halter. He had trouble following the feel when I was on the left wanting him to follow the feel to the right. He wanted to look at me, but with a tap of the line on his cheek he quickly learned that was not the answer. I have finally learned, that it is better, just to go there! Make the correction quickly and clearly, just like the lead mare does.
I had the perfect example shown to me by Valentine and Jessie when they first got to co-mingle with Moses (on purpose!) in the field. We were all there, all the mares and Sterling too, I was cleaning as usual and playing with horses when I got bored with the cleaning. I let everyone in quietly, without a fuss. I noticed earlier in the morning Mo and Valentine seemed to be interested in one another across the fence so I knew it would be a good time to bring everyone in. Valentine is my lead mare and Jessie is the enforcer, but she honors Valentine's lead and they are usually together.
Without looking at or acknowledging Moses at all, Valentine went straight to grazing. Jessie and Moses both turned butts to each other and tucked under and I thought they were going to kick each other. Then they didn't ~ Hmmm. Then with just a cock of her ear in his direction, Valentine double barreled him! I heard Whack. She was back to grazing only one heart beat later. He was looking at her like a little puppy dog seemingly apologizing for being in the way, and only moments later, they were touching noses and that touch ran all the way to the flank. Lovely example of Love language and leadership. Firm fair and friendly.
So that was my goal when Moses did not follow the feel on his halter, but wanted to turn and face me. Touch quickly, firmly and go back to grazing, so to speak. Like Valentine, I was sure this was the best way to get through this uncomfortable place of misunderstanding. Unlike Valentine, I needed to repeat this lesson a time or two during our session! Soon enough, he was asking me questions about the quality of his hind quarter yield :) So we quit for the day, friendly confident and happy.
It was two days later when we revisited this lesson and gratefully, the yields were soft and way better than how we left off! We have been making a habit out of approaching one another with our necks relaxed and body language soft. I go out several times a day to give Moses a piece of carrot, just to reinforce the relaxation. I go up to him and crouch down in front of him and encourage him to come get his carrot. At first he would come right into my space, not asking permission to share the space, but taking it, so I needed to send him away. But as the days went by and our lessons progressed he realized the price for the carrot was to come in relaxed, respecting my space and asking politely.
I wasn't sure a couple of days ago if this horse was going to be a reliable riding horse for his owner, and I'm still not sure, but I was encouraged yesterday by the shift in him. I think he is having congruent conversations on all fronts, even Mya, my little 30 inch tall mini mare, tells this dominant horse where to be, then she leaves him alone until he asks politely.
Once again, it is my honor and privilege to live, play and work In the Company of Horses..........