It was pretty darn cold today, very windy and difficult for me to stay warm. It could have been easy to pass on horse time and stay cozily inside with some hot tea. Sunshine had another opinion, however. I have told my horses that I want to hear what they have to say, and I will listen. Today, that was not the easiest of choices. And, I still honored it.
After I bundled up, I went out in the field to see what I would be me with from Sunshine. The horses were all standing at alert back behind the run in. Then, Jewel took off at a run, and Sunshine followed. My red horse was running straight toward me, so I angled off so that the hay bale was in between us. He continued toward me and surprised me a bit by stopping about 6 feet from me. I went up to him and stroked him on the neck as I put the lead rope over his neck. I will admit that I was anticipating that he would run off at that point. He did not, and I raised the halter to put it on him.
Sunshine did not think that was a good idea. His head swung around and I could see his teeth. I stepped out of the way, got my halter in a better “ready” position, and tried again. I got the same response. I took a few steps, leaving the rope over Sunshine’s neck. This placement of the rope has previously been a trigger for him to swing his head away and leave. Not today. He walked with me, and stopped with me after those few steps. I got my answer if he was heading to get a drink or elsewhere. He was with me. I continued down and stopped at the gate.
Sunshine allowed me to get the halter on without showing me his teeth at the gate. I led him out, and then ran into the arena so that he would have to trot. I thought that this would help keep his focus and interest so that he didn’t direct his super powers into jerking free and running around the front lawn. Sunshine trotted in willingly after me.
Once inside the arena, Sunshine got his rolls in. I kept the halter rope on him and asked him to move around the arena. Today, it was hard for him to bend in my direction, he had a brace. Not surprising after his show of teeth outside. We fell into our new routine of him choosing where to place himself and exhibiting signs of release of tension. Today his spot of choice was to have me on his right side, just behind his hind leg. (I made sure I was out of kicking distance.)
I was starting to get cold, and made my way gradually to the gate. I didn’t want to interrupt whatever his process was, so I waited to move each time until Sunshine seemed like he was ready. When we finally drifted to where I could swing the gate open and stepped out, Sunshine did not follow me. Not even when I took the slack out of the rope and encourage his hind end to move. He was letting me know that he was not ready to go out. I stopped giving a direction, and just asked him to move. He circled around, had his tail facing the gate, and I was back in the position of the day. This happened two times before my fingers and toes had lost feeling. I told him that I really needed to be done today. It took a little persuading, and this time he followed me out. Once in the field, there was just a tiny half hearted attempt to bite as I took his halter off. He gave a big yawn, and I went in to defrost.
Later, I shared something I remembered with Kathy. When I got Sunshine, his old owner gave me some pictures of him. It looked to me like he was in a show type situation, with a leather halter complete with a chain, and a young man with a white shirt and a tie. I had also mentioned that I had decided not to get him his official Oldenburg brand and registration. Kathy remarked that things were starting to line up and make more sense. I knew nothing about the registration process (I am sure that isn’t really what it’s called.) Apparently, the horses can be man handled at times. It’s quite possible that some of the tail swishing and resistant behaviors originated from such an experience for Sunshine. Speculation, and interesting just the same. And, yes, I will continue to listen to whatever Sunshine tells me. If he is willing to make things better and give me a chance, I will take his viewpoint into consideration and honor what he is sharing. I am so very lucky to have him.