Today was another one of those very cold days. Keeping my fingers and toes warm is always quite a challenge on these low temperature days. In spite of this, on a break in between inside sessions, I decided to go out and see if Sunshine (Little Horse) would agree to being haltered.
I went out into the herd and saw that he was eating on the round bale. I knew the deck was not necessarily stacked in my favor, but I proceeded anyway. I went up and scratched on a couple of the other horses on my way to Sunshine. As I got closer he looked at me and then started to move away. I moved after him a couple steps, paused and backed up a little to try to draw him to turn and face me. He would have none of this. So I encouraged him to keep moving doing a form of free lunging out in the pasture.
It only took a couple of circles before he stopped and turned to face me. I watched his eye as I got closer. I was hoping to see it soften, which generally needs to happen in order for whatever we do next to be pleasant. Fortunately, his eye did soften, and I was able to halter him without him trying to bite me or the halter. The little things that aren’t so little some days!
I was able to lead Sunshine into the arena without any incident of him trying to go in a direction opposite to mine. This disagreement about where we go would have been much more likely to occur had I tried to halter him without that softening in his eye I was hoping to see. Our work together has shifted a bit because I felt we were ready for a promotion. Before, I would have abandoned the idea of haltering Sunshine and bringing him out of the pasture if he moved away from me when I went to halter him. I know that this can seem ridiculous to many people, including most of the horse world. Yet, if I had previously tried to halter him when he was not agreeing, if I was lucky enough to get the halter on without him bolting, that bolt would have come after I had the halter on. I felt it was much worse to continue to teach or train him, in essence, to rip the rope out of my hand and run away than to halter him when he was agreeable.
. I am now able to help me get to be agreeable often now, whereas before, this wasn’t an option. We have made much progress together. Of course, this progress won’t be as evident if I use anyone else’s yardstick. So, I stick to swimming in our own lane and start from where we are. (I manage the edge of trouble best I can :)) I have begun to be able to monitor my energy level with Sunshine’s as I lead him, and often time prevent the bolting when I see the warning signs by lowering my internal energy level and waiting. Figuring out how to work with him considering these types of situations and ways to deal with them has led to many more pleasant interactions where I can not only consider them a success, but I felt that we were increasing our level of trust. Because of this, I decided that our “most of the time” rule now is that whenever I go out with the intention to halter Sunshine, we complete that task. (Because the only always is sometimes……)
That is why today I still haltered my little red horse and brought him into the arena. He didn’t object at all on our way in, and I felt connected to him. By the time we got in the arena, my fingers were frozen! Another pair of gloves that I thought would keep my hands warm bites the dust. Because of this, and to reward Sunshine for his decisions, I decided to let him roll in the arena. This is one of his very favorite things to do. After several rolls, I led him back out to the pasture. He followed willingly and kept that softness in his eye and expression. I unhaltered him once we got inside the gate, and reveled in the fact that he opted to stay and hang out instead of run back to the round bale. A very simple and short interaction, and one that sets us up for more of the same peacefulness in the future.