Horsey Therapist

Sunday, December 10, 2006

It's in the little things

I spent time with Bo today. I haltered him and checked how he responded to my requests for him to circle around me, change directions, slow down, stop... All this within a few feet of his beloved Sofia, then further away when things went well at that close proximity.

He would have preferred at times to be shooing the other horses away from Sofia. But he let go of those thoughts fairly easily. When I felt like he was comfortably with me, I gave him a job: follow me while I picked up rocks and moved them.

Sometimes I do this with a horse whether there are rocks to be moved or not. Today there were real rocks. Real or imaginary, that doesn't matter as much as my focus and intent on doing something. He stalled out a few times but then understood what his job was, keeping the float in the lead and stopping when I did, and waiting. It's amazing how relaxed a horse can get when he has a job and knows what it is, and especially when he's asked to do something meaningful, not simply asked to move this way or that. Horses prefer to join us when the focus is on something we can do together, not just when we focus on them doing something.

I did find that if my rock-carrying route was off to the right of him, he didn't understand how he could reposition his body to let me do my part of this job. So I helped him get a better understanding of something some might call yielding his front end, or a turn on the hindquarters. It involved helping him think about getting ready, lifting his withers, stepping back and over away from where I needed to walk, giving me the space to pass there. He picked it up pretty quickly. It was sweet.

Then I led him into the barn. I had no plan other than 'take some rocks' into the barn, then we headed out again. Knowing how quickly the white of his eyes comes to view, I was careful all the time to take him deeply into his comfort zone after I took him a little bit toward the outer edge of his comfort zone. So in the barn, turn and out of the barn. Go pick up rocks again and back to the barn. Realizing this would be a good time to check if any of our saddles fit him, I tied him to the high O-ring and got the first saddle I came across. He was a little worried about the saddle and about being separated from Sofia, but Sofia must have known this because she arrived at the barn door and stood there.

That first saddle was too big -- too wide and too low on the withers. The second saddle, another English one, fit better and might do, although he's a pony and the saddle looks big on him. I suspect anything that is going to fit me will look too big for him.

Then I set my nice western saddle (semi custom from David Genadek, www.aboutthehorse.com) on him. Although proportionately it looks big for him like the English saddles did, it fit his back pretty well.

If I keep this handsome pony, I will get a saddle that fits him better. I'm fussy when it comes to saddle fit, regarding both fits -- fit for horse, fit for rider.

Done with that, I untied him and led him back out to the paddock. After I removed his halter, he stood there, 'with' me, until I released him to go. I'm growing fond of this fellow, and I think he's starting to understand the routine here and feel OK about it.

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