Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Rosie is wonderful to drive, an energetic mover, alert and willing. Unfortunately, she has a few games up her proverbial sleeve, mostly she performs little faux-spooks at silly, inconsequential things along our route. These spooks are interesting, because she used to do them while trotting and being ridden, especially when she first came to me. Eventually, she quit that behavior and I forgot about it until this year. During the several months she’s been driven, it’s arisen, and for awhile she faux-spooked quite a bit. That behavior now is less but still enough consistent to keep me at the ready to remind her of our task.
I wonder why she does this. If it’s an eyesight problem, there aren’t signs of this at any time other than when she’s asked to work. My thought is that in her early life, this behavior might have got her out of having to work. She’s a horse with a mind of her own and as I think back, from the beginning of our time together, she’s clearly wanted to make all the decisions. I had to learn how to overcome her resistance in order to get her into a horse trailer, how to lead her without finding, instead, that she was leading me.
Somewhere along the line, I learned to grab opportunities to train Rosie. One of the first was taking advantage of feeding times. Instead of following the horses into the barn, I made it a point to halter Rosie and lead her inside. The others followed, as she’s the lead mare and no one dares get ahead of Rosie. She must pause before entering her stall until I give her an okay. It’s similar when letting the horses out, for Rosie gets haltered and leads the others out. These episodes gave me short but effective opportunities to make her listen, walk with her shoulder alongside mine, and whoa when asked. She knows all this stuff well, has to be reminded.
Driving took our working together to a new level. It’s a big jump, to where a rider in a cart behind the horse is dependent on the animal’s good behavior. Interestingly, Rosie behaves except for those small “tests?” to her handler. If it’s not about eyesight problems, then she’s exploring whether she can get out of working–as if hoping I’ll throw up my hands and give in. I’m counting on that same as in the days when she was trail ridden, this unwanted behavior will disappear and she’ll become enough dependable that my mind can drift a bit, much as like when I’m driving her nearly-perfect little sister.
Dear Friends: Someday, maybe these two can be harnessed and driven as a pair. Diana