Saturday, April 11, 2009

Flexiblity when working with horses

Working with horses is like working with kids, in that you always have to be willing to be flexible and change your plans if needed.

I went out to the barn today with the intention of taking Panama for a walk off the property, and maybe even doing a little bareback riding in the pasture. However, when I arrived I found there was a soccer game in the park just beyond the field where we normally walk. To top it off, the wind really started picking up shortly after I arrived. I decided the combination of wind and brightly dressed, screaming kids was probably a recipe for disaster, so we worked on despooking instead.

The other day when I dressed Panama in my sweatshirt it was a little breezy but not all that bad. So I decided that today's strong wind was a perfect opportunity for another lesson.

While grooming Panama I got hot, took of my jacket, and snapped it in the wind. Panama was convinced that it was a horse-killing jacket, particularly when the sleeves blew toward him and flapped against his nose. I laughed at him and waved the jacket around some more, and he realized that the name of the game was Mommy Messing with Me, not Mommy's Jacket Trying to Eat Me.

After grooming him (which took a while — he's shedding like crazy!), I turned him loose and chased him around the pasture a little. He was more interested in the hay in the other pasture than in running, so it was more like chasing him back and forth along the fence line. He showed off with some twisting moves and ran with his neck arched and his head down, half playful but I think also half annoyed. Is it bad that I get a kick out of annoying my horse?

He doesn't hold a grudge, though, because as soon as I walked back over to the hitching post and called him, he came right back to me with his ears pricked. I grabbed the jacket and harassed him with it a little more while he was still haltered but not tied. He got to the point where it would flap in his face and he would just stand there or try to sniff it. I also tried dropping it and even tossing it up into the air a little at this point. He was a bit startled the first time, but after that it was no big shakes.

I was pretty pleased with my visit. Even though I couldn't do what I had originally wanted to do, I still found a way to make the visit productive. I think that will be my goal from now on: to be sure I do something productive at every visit, so that he is always learning something.

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