I didn't do anything with Faith today, it was raining way too hard to
do anything outside the barn so Cathy "No Legal Relation" Walker and
I worked inside the barn painting and cleaning.
Cathy snatched Dakota off the slaughter truck that came into Brave
Meadows a few months ago to see if there were any horses in the semi
trailer Brave Meadows might have an interest in.
Cathy had an interest in him even though I had my doubts. He was a
rangy, skinny, nervous paint. He was what I have heard referred to
as a "hide." It is unfortunate that there are way more horses than
there are homes for those horses.
Most horses end up in the slaughter truck for a reason. People are
very often unable to deal with them for whatever reason, very often
handling problems, and rescuing a slaughter bound horse is iffy. It
is very easy to end up with someone else's burden. If that is your
desire, more power to you and good on ya for it. I don't like
slaughter one bit but I'm at a loss as to what to do with all the
unwanted horses. I have a pragmatic view - I cannot save all the
horses in the world and death is not the worse thing that can happen
to a horse.
Truthfully, I would have left him on the truck. Cathy wasn't having
any part of that.
Cathy is without a doubt a superior volunteer who leaves no doubt
when she says, "I believe in the program." If there is a need at
Brave Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center Cathy Walker is there to do
it. She will flat do to ride the river with.
She had a horse in her childhood for awhile before children and grand
children and then she had Dakota. Not having a lot of luck dealing
with him she was open to some suggestions I offered and in no time
those two were thicker than honey and the talk of the barn. He looks
nothing like he did when he clambered off the truck. He is slick,
fat and has even grown a hand taller. He is an impressive horse and
lets Cathy do whatever she wants to with him. It is obvious he is
her horse. She calls him, he comes.
She is his leader and he looks to her for direction.
If you have a herd of horses grazing along and something spooks some
of the herd they'll take off. But they'll only go until they see the
rest of the herd is not following and then they circle back with an
"We were just practicing" air. Let the lead horse spook and every
horse in the herd follows for as long as the lead horse goes.
The herd lets the head leader evaluate the spook. They look to her,
and it's almost always a "her," to determine their reaction to the spook.
This is what I want my horse to do with me. This is what Dakota does
The purpose of the "bonder" is to present the horse with horse
leadership actions, just like a lead horse in a herd would do, until
the horse says by its actions, "This being is acting like a herd
leader and I am acting like a follower. Therefore this being must be
When it comes that conclusion it then begins to look to me for
direction and to evaluate any spooks. "Look to me for direction on
how to deal with whatever you are concerned about."
Normally it only takes me a day or two to get the horse to that point
and another day or two to drive it home - "Look to me!"
I go out of my way to do strange things I think will upset the horse
and then ignore the horse's reaction to the thing I'm doing. If the
horse reacts to something outside of what I'm doing, such as Imdal
wearing a blanket, I tell it, "Look to me, ignore it."
Most horse people will forget what they are doing when a spook is
encountered and concentrate on the spook. For instance, a dead
mattress on the trail. The goal is to get the horse as close as
possible to the mattress, maybe even get it to walk over it while all
the time trying to convince the horse "It's okay! It won't hurt
you." Eventually the horse pays little attention to the mattress and
the horse person chalks up another successful desensitizing session.
And then a large white trailer lies in wait around the back of the
barn. Same routine. Every time something spooks the horse they stop
and concentrate on the spook.
What are they teaching the horse? If something disturbs you we'll
stop what we're doing and deal with it.
If something disturbs my horse I want it to "look to me, I'll deal
with it, keep moving."
Faith does that to a degree some of the time. Some of the time
she'll go into hyperspook and I'll be the furthest thing on her radar
screen and instead of focusing on me she'll focus on the
spooker. She's pretty good with things that aren't connected to
her. Connect it to her and get out of the way.
Strangely, she'll stand for something connected to her, if stand is
even the right word for what she does, if I have a hold of her. She
respects leadline contact while acting like a box of springs just
waiting to be released. The slightest lessening of contact and she's off.
One list member sent me an email about a similar horse they had that
spooked at man made items and they inundated the horse with various
items baited with treats until the horse accepted them.
This is a busy week for me and I'm not real sure if I'll get much
time to work with her. Cathy and I are going to haul Dakota & Faith
to the vet for yearly shots and Coggins Wednesday so that will eat up
my available barn time.
I'd like to spend a day at the barn and surcingle her all up and
connect all kinds of spookers to her and leave her to her own devices
in the arena until she accepts. I don't expect it to be pretty. I
want to be there for the most part early in case something goes wrong.
I've always said, "Mechanics drive the rattiest cars. Builders live
in the neediest houses. Horse trainers have the least trained
horses." I have been so busy working with other people's horses I
haven't had time to work with one of my own.
Now I find myself with the most difficult horse I've ever dealt with
and I own her.
Marv "Be careful what you chase, it may catch you." Walker