Friday, October 10, 2008

Horse lessons

Bar has been giving us all lessons recently, and through it all, we've all learned a few things about him, and I've learned something I need to keep working on, both with the horses and with the people in my life.

Katie worked with Bar in the round pen the other day and we're still debating who exactly was in charge. He got a good work out, but Katie was a little frustrated because he didn't do exactly what she asked when she asked it, though she took control at every turn and didn't let him get away with anything, either. She learned that sometimes Bar doesn't cooperate (or switch direction, for example) when you think he should. He's tricky that way. But on the plus side, when you do connect with him, it's really rewarding.

I rode Bar on Tuesday morning and, well, he was mostly good, but not great. We made it through the ride, though, and I learned that giving that extra bit of time and energy is sometimes necessary to get to the right place to stop. He was pretty distracted by the noises coming from outside the arena, but was mainly just using that as an excuse to act goofy. I had to work with him a little longer than I'd intended (since I had to go to work afterwords) but I knew if I didn't, we'd backslide and that is the last thing he needs from me.

Steve rode Bar Thursday night and learned that even a race horse can be a little lazy sometimes. Or at least not always willing to run. (I know, shocking.) Steve kept at it anyway, and then took the dancing horse down the driveway for a walk. I was longing Lena at the time--due my current unfortunate pattern of getting to the barn too late to ride and still make dinner--and didn't see how things were going, but I could tell Bar was not at his most cooperative. Steve had a couple of theories, but one never quite knows with Bar.

I (again) got to the barn too late last night to ride, so I replaced Bar's bit with an egg-butt snaffle while they munched grain, then tried it on him to see what he thought. He thought I was weird to bridle him in his paddock, then take it off and go get his halter. He wandered to the other end of his paddock and stared out over the pasture, but I waited, halter in hand, until he turned around and came over to me willingly to go down to the round pen for a little bit of exercise. Only once has Bar ever refused to come and get haltered by us, so he must enjoy himself at least a little bit. (That time, he thought we were having a lesson.)

Then we just did some ground work and played with each other a little. I try to do new things with him and not just stick to the same routine. While he's comfortable with a routine, it means he isn't learning and neither am I. Sometimes it's big things, like walking over wet tarps on the trail course, sometimes it's smaller things, but I try to think of one new thing to do each time I handle him. Each time we get through one together, I feel like we've built one more inch of trust between us.

He still thinks I'm weird half the time, but now at least he goes along with what I'm asking with only a slight sideways glance out of a worried eye. It's almost like he's saying, "Okay, I'll do it, but only because you haven't gotten me into a mess lately."

I don't always remember to do that with Lena because she's not the "problem" child. (Well, most days she's not, anyway.) But she grows and learns from new things, too, and she certainly needs our input just as much, if in a slightly different way than Bar does. Have to put that on the to-do list, though, because I think it's important.

The last thing I learned (relearned) this week is that I have to let the people I care about build their own relationships with the horses I care about. It's really hard for me, particularly with Bar, to watch other people work with them and do things differently than I would. However, it probably won't hurt any of us to have the different inputs, and it is certainly not helping things if I'm hovering anxiously while someone else is working with one of the horses. Lena has always managed to respond to her rider based on who it is, and she certainly expects different things out of each of us. (More carrots from Katie, for example.)

Big week of lessons all the way around.

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