Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Slightest Try

sometimes is not what I want it to be nor what I think it is going to be.

Couldn’t catch Riata at all yesterday. Could have if I had a rope, I suppose, I was close enough that even with my limited skills I would have managed that. I didn’t want to catch her that way, but it may turn out at some point it’s what happens.

Just absolutely was not having any of me touching her in any way. I was not going to have a repeat of the other night, of endlessly running her guts out until we were both numb with the effort. That hasn’t been a successful method for anyway. I have used running a horse to catch it on a ton of them and always had them decide being caught is a lot less trouble than avoiding being caught. Not her.

Watching her tense and raise her head when I would even look her way.  Turning my back to her and having her take cautious steps my way. She was trying.

I walked with her around the round pen. Her head at my shoulder or just behind. About a foot from her nose. Sometimes I would step in a little closer and she would stop, but then I noticed she had quit sucking back and would just stand there.

I rubbed her with my stick, sent the string over her neck and back. That was fine until the stick snagged on a mane hair, then it wasn’t, but we did it again and again. A couple of times, I held the long end of the string and slipped the outfit over her head. The first time, as soon as she felt it settle, she was out. I knew I couldn’t hold her like that and let go before she could pull away. The second time, she let me put a little pressure on it, but wasn’t going to hang around to be caught.

I have to be smarter than this. I have to figure this out. Chasing everyone else out of my head, as what they would do is not what I would do, at this point, I thought, she needs to catch me. She needs to want to be around. I can use force, all day long, I can MAKE this horse do anything I want but I can’t MAKE her be solid minded and willing about it, and if I can’t unlock the mental condition, I am not going to get much done with the physical problems. That’s been the case so far.

Some people say a horse does not remember what happens to it. I say that is a total crock. If that were the case, we’d never get any training done at all, right? How can a person say, oh they don’t remember . . . whatever. . . but yet they remember the training you gave them six months ago. I am not buying it. 

Something has happened with this horse that has caused her to change from friendly, personable, RIDEABLE to a spooky freak that will bail out of a round pen before she will give in and let someone catch her. She hasn’t bailed on me but if I pressured her hard enough, I am sure she would. And for her, that pressure might not be hard at all, in my opinion but it’s hers that counts.  My not being able to figure this out is causing us to run backwards at light speeds I have never before encountered in all my years of training and being around horses. Figuring it out damn well matters as since I don’t know what’s causing things to go wrong, I am having a damn sure hard time causing things to get back right again. Pretty depressing as this was supposed to be my last one, my EASY one.

What I was going to do. Leave her in the round pen. I can come out once a day with food and water. She will figure out she needs me to survive. It’s not the best. If I lived there, I would offer at least twice a day, but it’s a long drive and once is what will happen.

I watch her watching me. I watch her try to come through. She is taking steady forward steps, to me and with me. Her ears and eyes are on me, not in full alert, just trying. Her jaw works. Whether it’s digesting thoughts, releasing stress, I don’t care what you call it, when I see a horse doing this, they are making mental changes. I have seen it happen in hundreds of them and the scoffers can scoff all they want, I am done with listening to that.

She is trying. Is the reward for that to leave her, lonely, hungry, thirsty? My guts tell me no, and it’s about time I started listening to them on this horse instead of the crowded voices in my head. Still, though, we have to do something to end this.

I send her pasture mates out of the lot into the pasture. I am curious to see how upset Riata will become. She doesn’t, watches them, looks at me curiously, walks towards me. I hang on the fence, she stops a few feet away and a light bulb comes on for me. She needs to catch me. That is what needs to happen for Riata to get released from the round pen.

I open the gate some and position myself in the gap. I don’t look at her except from under my brows. She needs to figure this out for herself, no pressure or help from me.

There’s a lot of approach and retreat on her part. She gets closer and stands closer to me than she has for awhile. I have put myself close to her and she has tolerated it, but this is her,coming though and coming forward.

At no point does she leave me and go to the part of the pen that is closest to her buddies. We are doing something here, and I am not entirely sure what, but she is participating, of her own accord.

Her head stretches down and she stands. Usually this would be where I would approach her, and she’d allow herself haltered. Nope, I am done trying to catch you, it’s your turn.

Then the yawning starts. Yawning is what happens when a horse releases adrenalin that has come up and been stored in the brain. It’s what happens when they release their stress.

She changes. Her eye is soft, her body is relaxed. I don’t know what would have happened, had I reached my hand up, but I didn’t. That was not the bargain.

She puts her nose on the gate beside my hand. This has been a stock answer for her. You want me to touch that? How about this? It’s close. . .


I feel her breath on my fingers but not a touch. She leaves, makes a small circle, comes back from the other side, closer to my body, not keeping the gate between us.

A whisker brushes my other hand. Does that count? While I am deciding, a nostril gently rubs across my hand and she looks at me calmly.

That counts. I pull the gate open, moving myself back. I don’t want to see her bolt through, that would tell me I have been totally smoking crack with my horse whispery theories, and I hate when that happens.

She walks through, slow and calm. Easier about it than when I was sending her though, little scoots and fast feet. She does not look at me warily, just walks on.  There is no bolt to the pasture, just a level topline leaving.

We will see what today brings.

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