Sunday, July 04, 2010
One of the hardest things I've run into--besides the ground, of course--is teaching Bar about maintaining personal space.
All the reputable trainers (and even some of the disreputable ones) insist that to start to get a horse's respect, you need to teach them to maintain a set distance between them and you. They all insist horses don't really want to be that close to you, and this is all related to safety on the ground as well.
Nobody seems to teach racehorses this rule, nor have they been told snuggling is not horse-like behavior. The concept is completely foreign to them--someone is always there, holding their head, often giving them lead ropes to nibble to occupy their busy little minds and mouths. Now that's okay, nobody needs to teach them this ridiculous "personal space" concept--it's not necessary for them to do their job and do it extremely well.
It does present challenges for those of us who come afterward, particularly when you are in the way when something spooks your ex-racer.
Now, Lena is very good with maintaining "the bubble." Mostly, she doesn't want to be in your space and merely facing her backs her off a few steps.
Bar, well... not so much. He will back off the full length of the lead rope without too much commotion--because I've asked him to--then stare at me with worried eyes, as if he can't understand why I am not right there next to him, keeping him safe.
I admit, I don't push on this issue like I probably should. He does watch out for me now--more than he did when I got him--and he will absolutely back off when I ask for it, but he is much more relaxed when I'm within reach of his nose. The trainer's answer is to slowly expand that safety bubble and I'm sure we could work on that. I'm sure we should work on that. I also know I love hugging my Thoroughbred.
It may be a tough sell on both sides.