My BFF, the one who will be sharing Dickie once he is older, came out for a visit recently. He has wants to come out more often but work has been crazy. For the most part he gets by on pictures, videos and stories. He started so many horses that he is burnt out on the greenie stage so it is working out great for me to take charge right now. I, on the other hand, just LOVE this stage. I have never been the first person to back a horse so this is exciting for me. It is so fun to have the BFF out because he has great advice. He also knows how hard the little things are so his encouragement means a lot. People who haven’t worked with a baby don’t always realize how much someone had to teach their seasoned horse. Our groundwork is still rough around the edges but he knows so much about horses that he realizes the improvements we have made.
The last time he came out I was able to sit on Dickie and practice mounting and dismounting. We were hoping to do more of that since BFF so rarely gets time off work. The next time he comes out might be months from now. It was windy, rainy, and the arena was packed so that was out of the question. Other horses don’t really distract him in the arena but he can still be unpredictable at times and I don’t want to distract kids in lessons. With that in mind, we showed off our round pen skills. BFF remembers our very first lunge session where Dickie didn’t understand what was going on. He also remembers the days when he would throw a tantrum if I asked him not to step on my feet. These days I can say “Hoa!!” and he will stop immediately. If he stops before his shoulder passes mine he doesn’t have to back up. If he takes the slack out of the lead or lets his shoulder pass mine he has to back up.
When he gets into the round pen he goes right to work. He listens to my body cues to change directions and to halt. He doesn’t stop every time a person walks by (he things about it though because he loves people). We showed him how Dickie will move his haunches and shoulders with a gentle touch. He will even move his haunches from side to side with me standing in front of him using the whip as an extension of my arm. Then we practiced side passing and he is getting pretty darn good at it. He does all of this at liberty.
Back at the stable we showed him our newest trick, shaking hands. I just started working on that because it hurts my back when they don’t hold their own feet up. He will also target objects if I point at them and say “touch”. I have a cute little vibrating bumblebee, the kind you use as a back massager. It is great for getting him used to clippers. There are no sharp edges and it doesn’t matter if I break it. First I have him touch it in my hand then, I put it down in the stall and ask him to walk away from me to touch it. Next, I turn the vibration on and ask him to walk over and touch it. He still isn’t convinced he likes the sound but will touch it. He really didn’t like it when he decided to pick up the bumblebee while it was vibrating. It cracks me up that he was afraid of it but that didn’t stop him from putting it in his mouth.
My friend thought we were doing great. He thinks Dickie is gorgeous and loves rubbing him and feeing him treats. He mentioned that he has never taught his horses to respond so much to body language from the ground. He also noticed that even when Dickie didn’t seem to be listening to me because he was looking at other horses, or people, he still responded to my body language and seemed in tuned to me. It got me thinking about the differences between men and women. A 6’2” man like my BFF can control a horse by pulling on them or pushing them with force. I don’t see it as neccesarilly an aggressive thing, they are naturally so strong they don’t even realize they are doing it. A woman on the other hand couldn’t muscle a pony. We are smaller, less muscle mass, and more prone to soft tissue injuries. Do you think because of that we are more inclined to teach our horses to respond from body language or light cues?