Playing with obstacles with Little Horse a few days ago was a lot of fun, and did it ever give me a lot to think about.
I had a basic agenda for this introduction to obstacles for the two of us. I wanted to have fun, observe what happened, and not let my Little Horse jerk the lead out of my hands. (Story for a different day!) I thought that this was a pretty sound and realistic plan.
To start, I walked him around the 3 obstacles without asking him to get close to them or go through them. He seemed calm and curious which I took as positives. Then, we got closer and almost through them. The next step I got some resistance from Little Horse. I gave him time and space, and then asked him to come through again. We had successes, sometimes making it all the way through, and sometimes just getting closer and more relaxed around the obstacles. Then, the big resistance came in as Little Horse did a little rear up and tried to get the rope away from me. Luckily I was enough in the moment, and prepared for this antic, so he did not get the rope away from me. I felt like we had made it through the biggest obstacle of all by not letting him get loose.
We continued through a couple more obstacles with no more rope removal attempts. What happened next astounded me.
Thinking we were all done and leaving on a very positive note, I took the halter and lead rope off Little Horse. I really thought that he would take off to join the other horses grazing through the gate. However, he did not. He stayed right with me. Armed with treats, I decided to experiment.
I started walking, and he followed me. Then, I went through what I would have described as our easiest obstacle, and Little Horse followed me through without the hesitation that he had demonstrated earlier. He did that through the others, as well. He even trotted with me as I ran through one of them. In fact, he only joined the other horses after I walked out among them with him. I was absolutely delighted by this, and I was also bewildered by what I had just witnessed.
There was a huge shift when I took the halter and lead rope off of my Little Horse. For both of us, everything was more fun. Now, I want to figure out why that was. Was it a shift in him? Was it a shift in me? I have a feeling it was both, but so many variables can enter into the equation, it’s hard to know where the shift originated. At this point, I want to identify where it started so that I can recreate that feeling of fun more consistently throughout our journey together. I am fully aware that I may change my view and perspective as we progress, but for now I am pondering this shift and excited to continue my research. Always, always, always more to discover and learn on my journey with horses!