Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Getting into Bar's head

Bar tends to be very routine-oriented, sometimes to a fault. He doesn't quite anticipate my next request the way Lena does, but he does know what usually comes next in our evening workouts.

And he prefers it that way, thank you very much. He likes knowing what's expected of him and doing it.

So I like to throw new things at him fairly often just to prove to him he can handle a wrinkle when it crops up.

The most recent thing I've tossed in the mix is working on his "wrong" (according to him) side. I noticed awhile ago that if he was following me and I drifted so he was on my left, he would nose me back over to the other side. Interesting. Then I watched a video of Tom Curtin working with ex-racehorses and he talked about being sure your horse could deal with things happening on both sides of his body--including being led. (The video is offered by LOPE Texas and proceeds benefit their program.)

So I decided to torture my overly-concerned Thoroughbred and asked him to walk next to me on the "other" side. He tried very hard to convince me it's actually the dark side, the place horses get eaten. The eyes were big and worried as we strolled along, and he continuously attempted to fall back behind me to sneak around to the proper side.

Then I asked him to trot next to me on that side. "What?! Now I know you are a crazy woman!" I had to go to the "correct" side, trot, switch sides and ask again before he did it, but he did decide he would try. Just this once. Just for me.

He even let me mount from the dark side, though getting him to stand still next to the mounting block ("WRONG SIDE!!!) took some maneuvering and patience.

When I introduce something new, I don't ask him for perfection, I just ask him for his best try. We work at things somewhat sideways on occasion but as long as he's staying focused on what we're doing and not blowing up, I'll take whatever he gives and figure a way both of us can learn from it.


Anonymous said...

Good idea to mix things up - I think anxious/higher-strung horses often worry when things don't go according to their expected plan - they take comfort from the routines - and allowing them to try different things in a considered way can show them that things can change (at least a little) and they don't have to worry so much.

Joy M. Drennen said...

Bar definitely looks to you for leadership. What a sweetums he is.

Dave (aka Buckskins Rule) said...

I think the bottom line is that even when you are doing something that, to Bar, is clearly wrong, he trusts you enough to give it a try.