Monday, July 28, 2008

Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming, Folks!

Someday, I'm going to open the helmet can of worms. But not today. I have an idea...let's make Fugs do it!
I will have to fill you in on my stud colt tomorrow, because I've wandered onto a slightly different section of trail here. Bear with me, I think we're on to something good, and I'll take pictures of the stud.....
A question popped up at me out of yesterdays comments.
How do I read my horse?
Basic, to the point, and vital.
Try to remember back to the days of your first exposure to a horse. If you were like me, you'll remember him in terms of friendship or love, his personality, if he was mad or happy, etc. Do you remember how their feet looked? Were they fat or thin? Were they hard mouthed or soft? How did your saddle fit? How did they carry their head? Did they swat their tail? Or did they ride with it quiet?
Who the hell knows?
When we first experience horses we personify them. Our perceptions tend to be based on how we personally see the world.
As we get sucked down into the the vortex of horses we learn to try to read the horse. We know that pinned ears mean get away. We will duck a raised foot. We find out that a fed horse is a happy horse. That shoes aren't cruel. That a lot of equipment is.
As time goes on, hopefully we learn that a joyful neigh in the morning actually means, "Where the hell is my breakfast?"
That a horse may stomp you, knock into you, or buck you off, but it's nothing personal.
Because they aren't people. They're horses.
So our journey continues.
I don't think we ever get it all. If we want to stay in this game, we have to keep learning.
If we are going to lower the odds of getting smashed up, we have to keep getting better at reading our situation.
"You can't teach feel."
This was a mantra I heard every day, at least once, the entire time I was training with the Big K.
He said it, his WWOTW said it, we all smugly echoed it, like good little robots.
I think that's a load of crap.
Some of us have a better natural sense than others. I will agree to that. It makes our life with animals much easier, and safer.
But everybody can work to heighten their awareness.
Everybody can work on their feel. Hell, I've taught architects and engineers how to ride. Talk about a brain not wired to "feel"!
What gets in the way of reading your horse?
1. A lack of sensitivity. Let's be real, we're not all horse whisperers. Some of us are about as in tune as a cinder block. It doesn't mean we can't work at it. Our spouse and kids will really appreciate it.
2. Ego. If I need to have all the answers before I've learned them, I should let it go now, or find another interest. Like Legos.
Seriously, I didn't start making much progress until I threw myself on the ground yelling, "I don't know nuthin'!" I meant it too. And I'd been training for a while.
3. A desire to be right. I fight this ALL the time. If I have to be right, especially in front of a group of fellow horse people, I can guarantee my horse will kindly step up and show me the error of my ways.
4.Anger. I am an angry person by nature, or nurture, whatever. I struggle with it all the time. "Go throw rocks." That's the best thing I've ever learned. I can't read anything, my horse, my student, or myself, if I'm angry. If I'm mad, I leave the situation, and throw rocks until I'm better. Thanks Big K.
4. Fear. This is the toughest. Fear will make you misinterpret, become angry, lock up your mind and body. Fear will kill you faster than anger.
How Do I Begin?
First, I don't care if you study with a pro, read books, listen to Grandpa, or clinic yourself into oblivion. Do whatever keeps you learning. Keep your eyes and ears open. Be as cynical as you possibly can. Don't be bullied, ever, by someone you are paying to help you.
Now here's a little home work.
1. Move Fluffy. On the ground. Move him away from you. Back him up, turn him around. How hard is this?
2. Take Fluffy away from his dinner. What happens?
3. Lead him down the road, without any barn buddies. What happens?
4. Turn Fluffy out in a arena or pen. Can you safely take off his halter and walk away? Do you feel safe standing in the middle of the arena while he plays?
5.Watch a group of horses interact. If you don't have a pasture full, then find one, park by the road, and watch.
Who's the boss? Who's getting picked on? Are there friends? Loners?
Feeding time with a herd is best. You'll get an eyeful.

None of this is about training. Just absorb, and see what happens.
See you manana.


  1. I agree you can definitely teach people about body language. Theres a lot of sublety there too. I've learned almost everything I know about body language from my fellow humans. I keep learning new ones all the time, especially here.

    Some of it is hard to articulate though. How many of us just know when a horse on a lunge line is about to break gait, or buck or call out to his buddys? Could you articulate how you know? Maybe this can be done by those more skilled than I. The world certainly doesn't lack for people who fit into that category.

    I think the truth to the mantra about what you cant teach is what experience needs to get you. I watch the big R work and he reads well and he also has managed to learn to talk back in body language. He is a big advocate of not using too many words, or shouting a lot. To quote him "there's nothing wrong with shouting at a horse, but there has to be a reason for it." Every now and then I manage to do do it. I think. Maybe I'm not really staring that pony into submission, maybe the would have done it anyway. I dont know.

    Something you and big R have in common is you're very aware that you're always learning. I find that very inspiring. Its not as common as you might hope.

  2. Learning to read horses also means you need to practice on other species, too. I can't read cows worth a damn, but my husband the ex-dairyman knows in a second what's up with a cow.

    But if you watch the body language of a kidpack, you'll see similar behaviors to a herd of horses. I've seen driving behaviors, flight behaviors, stuff that can translate oh-so-easily from four-leggeds to two-leggeds among playground groups of K-3 kids.

    As for the homework--

    1.) Cluck is my friend. My horse has also learned to stand back until invited in for treats.

    2.) No problem. Why should there be one?

    3.) She gets tense past a certain line--something we need to work on this year. But she's improving.

    4.) No problem. Why should there be one? (My wild witch mare from my teen years came to me because she chased the kids of her former owner. She didn't chase me--in fact, I eventually got her to the point where I could walk up to her in pasture and pick up any foot I wanted).

    But I've been fortunate to learn about reading horses from some true schoolmaster horses out there. If the old schoolies figure out that you'll listen, oh, the stuff they'll tell you.

  3. During the past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the issues this entry and the "how's your read" post bring up. I'm finding my way with my mare, and it's a lot like driving through the countryside without a map.

    Anyway, I'm thinking that there are a couple things you need when developing feel: time/experience and patience. I'm learning to SEE for the first time stuff that I wasn't aware of in the past. I am starting to anticipate problems because I'm with my horse regularly, and I have had the time to watch her interact with the world around her. The only way to get that is through time/experience.

    I also have become more patient with her and with myself. Because I have her at home, I'm able to spend five minutes figuring something out and still finish cooking dinner or grade a few papers or whatever. I can sneak in my time with her, so if we don't make a big leap forward, oh well. It's not like I just devoted an hour of my time driving to the barn to be with her. There's always time later if now doesn't work. This may actually relate to why horses thirty years ago were more broke--people tended to live closer to them, so they could spend more time with them. Just a random thought.

    I think the biggest problem I see with a lot of training schemes such as NH-ship stuff is ego. Or as I like to call it, human agenda. It seems like the human agenda is too often completely removed from the horse's needs, ideas, wants, reality. It's all about ego and chest-beating. I hate promoting my own blog here, but this is something I wrote about that (as a response to your earlier post):

    And today I wrote some about rearing and natural horsemanship:

    I really think people can learn to have better feel if they put aside all of the stuff you describe. My own personal Waterloo has always been fear. I was born fearful and will die fearful (hopefully not while riding, knock wood). It's my personality. Putting it aside to work with horses is hard stuff. I struggle with that every time I walk within ten feet of our horses. Of course, for me, anger is related to fear. I get fearful and then I get angry. Sigh.

    What I love about horses, though, is that they have a way, eventually, of making you emotionally honest. One way or another, if you want to stay in the game and do it well, whether professionally or recreationally, you will have to become a more honest person.

  4. I forgot to add: helmets are required at my house. I'm a writer. I rely on my brain to get me through life.

  5. I posted these comments in the post prior to this one. But am reposting them as it has to do with "reading your horse" and ignoring them. I learned something very valuable! so here is my repost:

    would liketo share my experience from just the other day. I have learned something very valuable. NEVER take short cuts, and NEVER EVER get cocky and too sure of your young colt. I've been riding my 3 year old HANDFUL of a filly, and a week ago we did five flying lead changes (which amazed me). OH, a quick side note, I am FAR from a trainer and am sorta "winging it". lol. Anyway, Friday night, I was so anxious to get on and film our wonderful flying lead changes. I had NOT ridden her for an entire week. (and I make it a point to ride her at least every second day).
    Anyway, I lunged her a wee bit to take the fresh out, but not enough. Got on, walked her a bit, did some bending, got off, cinched her up tighter, put the camera on and right away thought I would film my wonderful progress and do some flying lead changes.
    HOLY COW. well, she quickly put me in my place and "bronced" me off. I got it on film! I also learned the above mentioned two things. NEVER rush through something, and NEVER get so comfortable that you get cocky. My filly quickly taught me that I was pushing her to fast and was way to confidant. (the video is posted on my blog, its not pretty, I look like a rag doll. ). I think you always need to be aware. I KNEW I didnt warm her up enough, but I just was so excited to see what our changes looked like, that I didnt listen. So there ya go. I had a very big awakening.

  6. There are lots of time I would like to comment, put in my two cents worth, but sometimes I just don't know how to string the words together to make a solid thought. You just put into words my comment for yesterdays post.

    Mug, you have such a way with words and an ability to say what needs to be said in a clear and to the point manner.

    Your right you can't teach feel. You can't teach someone how to read a situation. You have to study lots of them before you can pick up on what is going on before it develops.

    Reading horses is really no different than any other skill. Somethings come easily for some and not so easily for others. Math for instance. I struggle and I am an engineer by education but it was a hard fought for degree.

    Horses on the other hand are easy for me. To bad it doesn't pay as well.

  7. I agree that some people have more natural feel, but it comes down to paying attention. I often find that the people who get hurt around horses just aren't paying attention. They have zoned out. They aren't watching the horse.

    But even for those of us who are pretty aware, we can miscalculate. I miscalculated with the SSG. I didn't read him properly. I mean, I kind of DID but then I just went ahead and rode anyway...which was dumb. LOL. That was ego and exhaustion working in tandem to turn me into a lawn dart.

    And helmets...well you know my take. For one thing, I have never landed on my head. Based upon past experience, I need to wear body armor on my right hand/wrist and a great big pad on my right hip bone. That's what I tend to F up when I come off. Honestly, it's all a crap shoot. Plenty of helmetless riders will live to 80, unscathed, and plenty of helmeted riders will wind up blowing through a straw to make their wheelchair move. I am adamant about youth wearing helmets because if you are a parent, it really IS your responsibility to protect them however you can. But I also believe adults can make their own choices. I was thrilled when I hit 18 and could stop wearing a helmet, and the thrill hasn't left me...

  8. I'm a helmet-dork. I'm a grad student in molecular biology by day- I need my head.

    When I did get bucked off, I landed flat on my back and head. Maybe the butt first, but even WITH the helmet I had a headache for the whole day, and a neckache for the next week. And this was on fluffy grasses!

    However, I'm still a beginner. I haven't been riding all my life.

    I'm also the kind of person that even when doing acrobatics, diving, yoga, or aikido, I can still trip going up stairs.

    I HAVE improved my seat tons, but it's not the swiftest development. It might be that with confidence comes the feeling that you don't need a helmet. There are some horses or situations where lack of a helmet wouldn't be a big deal to me. There are some where if I don't have it, I don't ride. Were I into big jumping, I'd probably wear a chest protector too.

    People think I'm nuts when I say horses are like my parrots. They have their "flock" My flockbound cockatoo will scream if you leave the room. My grey will be a sassface if he's taller than you.

    Many people get them as snuggly youngsters and rub them all over letting them know that they're their mate, then bore them and ignore them, then yell at them for being loud or biting (so to the bird it's a good way to get attention! Loud = fun), then hide them in a basement or empty room, dump seed in their bowls and wait for them to die. Which takes 50 years.

    Like horses, parrots are asked to ignore all of their natural behaviors, but all of the time. It doesn't mean they can't be happy, much like a show horse, but it does mean that they need to be played with, socialized, and given things to keep them active.

    And like horses, they can be dangerous, and when they don't work out anymore after they've developed all these problems they're held on to and abused because they "are worth something" and the owner just can't part with that theoretical money. Unlike horses it's cheaper to abuse a parrot.

    I can read most birds pretty well. I can't read my (husband's) cockatoo, or I can, but too late. So we are only friends and I do not handle him.

    My african grey I "started" and he is gentle to the point where I would have no qualms letting a child hold him. I have been bitten a few times, and each was my fault for "seeing and not believing" what was going to happen.

    I can read my horse, and the funniest is that when I was first teaching him to be longed, he would not trot. He would flip out instead. I found that if I told him "good" at that exact moment of hesitation, the explosion would not happen. He needed that little boost of confidence at that key moment. If he is frustrated and explodes, and is thoroughly flustered, I can give him a hug, he'll hug back, and he'll try again. The bigger the frustration, the bigger the hug he gives.

    So with some horses you can pick up a longe whip and they shape up, with mine you pick up a whip and he'll panic. But, that's because somebody beat him with one.

  9. It is interesting how you can read certain species, too. I am VERY comfortable reading cats and horses. I can handle ferals without worry. But any growling from a dog and I'm GONE.

  10. Hey Fugly, does be able to read the male "species", well, my hubby anway, count? hehe... I know when its gonna be a BAD

  11. Got any advice on reading goats? Because I'm cool with cats, dogs (growling and otherwise), birds and getting better with horses all the time. Goats, on the other hand. Yeah. Devil children. That's goats.

  12. Oh I'm good with kitties too. I can bathe even the evil ones without getting sliced up or wearing crazy gloves.

    I left my parents to fly home and my kitty peed on the floor and puked everywhere. He does things like this whenever I leave again.

  13. talking about not humanizing animals.... I had a GP showjumper stud who would always bite me on Tuesdays while cleaning his stall. Why tuesdays? It was the day after my day off. The person who looked after them didnt exactly take good care of them so he would bite me (in my openion) because he was mad I was away. This is a stud that never bit other than that, and yes we let the kids ride him lol (at least they had helmets and saddles!)

    Another gelding needed some quality time in the morning. When he got it he was fantastic. He would pick up his feet so you could sweep under them. You didnt give him his quality time he ignored you for the rest of the day and ran away when you went to catch him....

    I have to quote gillian "How many of us just know when a horse on a lunge line is about to break gait, or buck or call out to his buddys? Could you articulate how you know? "

    I can but I cant tell you how. Got a complement on the weekend about how my lungliner has improved.... Ive only lunged her once.... but I read her body and stayed one step a head of her.

  14. Figured I'd share the results of my homework.
    1. Blue needs a bit of a growl and a poised handler (working on that) but does understand personal space granted he gets refresher course. It's one of those things I've learned to live with; he needs a lot of repetition before he understands that this concept won't go away.
    2. Admittedly, he's dragged me to his food bowl before. After a couple of circles of his stall and a long minute where any steps or even leaning towards the food bucket got corrected, he now stands quietly and realizes that the quicker he does whatever I ask, the quicker he gets back to it.
    3. Our biggest problem is lack of focus. He doesn't act up or whinny to friends, but he does look around a lot. I just bring his head back around to where he's going, which is a continuous process, but he's getting better about coming back.
    4. No problems at all. This is the horse who, when stalled for days due to injury, exploded in the pasture by walking, then leisurely jogging, to his friends.
    5. His field is easy to analyze. Tex is the boss, but Sequel is his second. Those two are bonded. Sequel is the one who terrorizes the others, but even he knows Tex comes out of the field first. One raise of the hind leg, always a threat to the horses, never people, is enough to send the others scattering. Blue minds his own business, and would prefer to graze than socialize (do you see a pattern here?). He gets along with the other two, but since they're such great friends he's usually on the outskirts.
    I'd like to think I'm good at reading horses. I think the most important thing to remember is that the horse you had yesterday isn't necessarily the horse you have today. Each day is new, with a clean slate. I know Blue loses focus easily, and that my pursuits aren't always on his radar. I'd like to think I'm good at gently refocusing him, but requiring him to "be there" mentally. Once this happens, getting him there physically is fairly easy. In turn, I try to keep patience with him and understand that I can only ask so much before he gets exhausted both mentally and physically, and I always try to end with a positive experience, so that it's worth his while to stay focused.

  15. Feed time is a really good way to get an eye in, and see if you "pull rank". Mugs I meant that each blogger had reiterated that horses are individual so let's move on (and yes, I am mostly grumpy, I am a school teacher).

  16. Great post, mugwump. I just got back from vacation and checked out your blog first day home. As usual, I agree with what you say. I had to learn how to read horses--I was no natural. But I'm not bad at it now. I sure hope your friend Sharien recovers--I've been thinking about her a lot. Her wreck really haunts me. It could be any of us. And thank you for the short plug about my books in an earlier post. I'm glad you enjoyed "Cutter". Sorry I seem to have pissed off so many folks by "plugging" my equine mystery series, but, in fact, the only reason I agreed to this blogging stuff initially was to help sell books. So, plugging the books was sort of the point. Now I'm getting interested in the blogging (and a few of the bloggers, you in particular) for their own sakes, but I have to admit, as a published author who gets paid for my writing, I still see selling books as part of what I'm trying to do here. This blogging doesn't pay too well, you know? (I'm sure this point isn't lost on any of you.) Cheers

  17. OK -- I'll do the homework!

    1) Easy. He's light as a feather - most of the time. :-)

    2) Not much. He'll leave his hay to come greet me at the gate so it's really a non-issue - most of the time. :-)

    3) He's OK for a certain distance, after which his energy comes up a bit more, he gets much closer to me, his body tenses and has an extreme desire to eat grass. Same thing on trail rides by ourself.

    4) I do, but I don't think most other people would be! He's famous for coming at me at a full gallop and then sliding to a stop just in the nick of time! Very fun for me -- terrifying to anyone who happens to watch it (especially if my mother is watching!)

    It's really fun when you start to read your horse very well. I've been exploring the trails and roads down below the barn with my guy and we go through a few of his thresholds on the way there - so he's a bit "up" and tense. On the way back to the barn, he starts to relax and at a certain point I say "OK, he's going to blow out and sigh now"... and then he does. Makes me look like a psychic but the only thing I'm good at "reading" is my horse. (OK, dogs too)

    People are really impressed by it -- but honestly, shouldn't that be something that every horse owner is able to do? Shouldn't everyone know their horse well enough to understand what they're saying?? And shouldn't that spill over to include lots of other horses, too? But maybe it's not as common as it should be.


  18. Laura in that earlier post Mugs highlighted the "plugging" of your books and one blogger (me) agreed. Advertising just does not sit right on a blog especially FHOTD. You did not piss me off at all.

  19. fanoffugly, I'm glad you aren't pissed, though I might not agree with your point about "advertising" on the fugly blog. I felt that folks who like horses as much as those folks do might enjoy my mysteries if they knew about them--a mutual benefit. And several have written, like mugwump, to say that they've tried the books and liked them (at least mugwump said that she liked Cutter, which I take as a great compliment coming from someone who writes as well as you do, mugwump)Anyway, my intent is/was to let horse people who read horse blogs, who I assume are horse people who like to read stories about horses, know that my mystery series exists, and that I do have the background to write knowledgabley about horses and various western horse events. Though since I got started with blogging and checking out "horse blogs", I've gotten much more interested in this for its own sake, particularly this blog, which I really enjoy. Mugwump, I am thinking very seriously about your horse wreck stories and your point about reading the horse--it truly resonates for me. I am a bit on the hyper-vigilant side with my horses--its my nature--and (I'm knocking on wood here) in a lifetime of training and riding horses (I know I emailed back and forth with you about my history) I have had very few wrecks and no serious ones. I would put this down partly to the fact that I have learned to read horses pretty well, and to the the afore mentioned hyper vigilance. If I get the slightest message from a horse (or the landscape for that matter) I am right on it. In a way, you could say I'm always keeping an eye out for problems and trying to stop them before they start. Its not the most relaxed attitude a horseman can have, but overall its served me well. And especially now that most of my riding is done with my 7 year old son. Saying that I pay attention is putting it mildly. And as for the helmet--my son wears one when he rides and I don't. Go figure.

  20. I was raised with helmets. I always wear a helmet. Once in a blue moon I'll forget to put one on but I've never gotten more than five feet before someone saw me and pointed out my error. My parents, my school, my community all pounded this into me with bicycles and it carried over to horses. (Helmets were, of course, required for minors basically everywhere.) If it were socially acceptable I'd wear one when I'm driving (dont laugh too hard) because I'm so used to them I wouldn't even notice it was there, and I'm a nervous driver.

    I've gotten two mild concussions while wearing a helmet and I'm sure they would have been much worse without it. I also was thrown into a wall once and the visor on my helmet broke but my nose was undamaged. Horses with improper ground manners sometimes hit their chins on my helmet because they forget I'm there and they turned their head to look. (Seriously, at least three times now I've gotten a pretty good thunk in the head from absent-minded, quickly-reprimanded horses and two of those times I happened to be wearing a helmet. Trust me, much more pleasant with a helmet.) Plus helmets keep my head warm in the winter. Yay helmets!

  21. I can watch herds of horses every day but the one that perplexes me is the one that my mare lives with. Every book, documentary, clinician, trainer and whisperer can tell you how a horse herd is supposed to work and these guys do the complete opposite. They are outside 24/7 and are never separated unless we work them. It comprises of mother and three (was four) offspring. They are ages 15, 3, 6 and 3 months. None of them are herd bound and none of them EVER fight. What mom says is law. You can throw down a bucket of grain and they all share. No one gets a bite last it's who sticks their nose in first and everyone gets their fair share. No biting, squealing, hip cocking etc.
    You can stick another horse in that dominates mom (not often you find those) but mom marches to the beat of her own drum. Even though there may be another head mare she goes where she wants when she wants. She never waits for the other dominant horses to make the calls of when to go where and the kids are happy following mom but they are also happy being by themselves. Just not typical herd behaviour.
    My mare has a hard time dealing with this unique herd situation.

    "there's nothing wrong with shouting at a horse, but there has to be a reason for it."

    OMG I don't think I say this enough to my students. I don't know what has gotten into humans these days. If you were a kid and every time you got scared your parents yelled at you, would that teach you to be brave or to be more afraid? I see horse handers with a horse, for instance that is pulling back when tied. Instead of standing back and quietly waiting for the horse to sort itself enough to get it untied said handler is wooping "WOAH WOAH WOAH WOAH WOAH!!!" in as loud a voice as they can and darting around all panicked or exerting really frightening body language on now doubly frightened clip clop.
    Yelling is however, a good tool for getting a horses attention when hes out of body language and grabbing reach. For instance a good loud "HEY!" usually gets my horses attention when they are doing things like trying to sneak into the barn (Usually Indigos big grey rear sticking out of the door, she promptly turns around and high tails it out when she hears me yell)pawing when tied or rubbing on things like hitching posts with the harness on.

  22. sydney I used to be a shouter before I started training with the big R. It was just instinctive. Learning to shut up really changed my life. Not just with the horses. Once I got in the habit then I could tolerate big dumb bipeds too in contemplative silence while they finished ranting for whatever reason. They get done much faster that way and I discovered that I didn't need to explain to them why they were wrong to just go ahead and do what I was going to do anyway.

  23. I have a problem with our barn's "herd dynamic." When we first started at the barn, our barn owner had ALL geldings in his barn. Ours were the first two mares. He had an older gelding that was in a separate pasture from the others because he was old and didn't get along with them, but he got along with mares in the past. The BO stated he would put our mares in with him because he found that the younger guys would fight over the mares. Well, low and behold when it came time to start turning everyone out, he STILL turned them (our mares) out with the younger guys. At first this wasn't a problem. There was just two geldings and two mares. No one bothered anyone else. Then a new boarder comes in with a young (draft) gelding who thinks he's king shit of the place. Now in my mind, the other two geldings who have been there quite awhile should be the ones who are trying to act dominant. This dumb horse runs our mares like there's no tomorrow and the BO won't separate the girls because if he does, then that dumb horse will ruin the fencing. He's already tore down one gate and stretched out some of the fence line (he's part draft and pretty big) because we left him in there when took our girls out to actually ride them. So really how are herd dynamic's made up? I don't understand them or how to stop this big idiot from "protecting" his women from us. It's just really strange to me.

    As for the homework (so that I'm not going totally off topic)
    1. my mare has a fear factor that's pretty low. She spooks at a lot of things, but she never jumps on me. She pulls back. She has hardly any fight in her, it's all flight. She used to like to walk really close for protection, and still forgets ocassionally, but we have gotten to the point where we can jog next to each other and as soon as I can stop, she's already stopped just about a foot and 1/2 behind and to my right. In "her" space.

    2. The mare LOVES her food, but I've taken her away after she's eaten about 3 bites and she will still work. A bit huffy at first, but she will work. She doesn't try to run back or stomp on me.

    3. I can't lead her down the road quite yet, but I can take her away from her buddies and friends. If they are in the pasture or in the barn, I can take her outside and walk her around or ride her in the arena's and she doesn't call to them. Now since the outdoor arena borders a pasture, she does pay a little bit of attention to the boys that are grazing but she doesn't stop what I'm asking her to do.

    4. Yes. I can go into the arena and turn her loose and without a halter. Only one time she flipped out on me while I was trying to change her into her bridal from her halter (which I was stupid for not having her tied because it was windy out). She tore off around the arena with the halter around her neck and lead line flying, but when she came around to where I was frozen standing and my husband was standing about 10 feet in front of me with his mare, she turned on a dime to go past them and then back up around the mare to my husband that was between the mare and the fence. I did not feel at any time that she would run me over or do something to me. Usually they run AWAY from me, and that's the problem. lol

    5. I have watched ours A LOT. Everyone pretty much does their own thing UNTIL there has to be human interaction. Then, like I said in the start of my post, two geldings could care less unless it has to do with them. The dingbat draft think's he's king shit and my two girls just try to get away from him. Mine is a scardy cat and won't do anything at all to defend herself, and the other mare, who's 22 I might add, tries to bare her teeth and kick at him, but when she can only reach his knees, it's basically pointless. He can practically jump over them. As with eating, my mare has more of a problem (pinning ears back, kicking the stall sides, etc) with other horses eating next to her while she's in her stall than she does when they are all turned out and eating at the roundbale. She moves around, but she doesn't act angry. She's pretty calm and no one is making her move with their body language either.

  24. Homework? Sounds like fun, I LUFF homework (when its about the horses)

    1. Move fluffy. Thumper moves, almost always, without being touched when I enter his space, unless I am doing something (grooming, flyspray, etc.). He stops before he gets to my space. (This did take some work, he was so gentle pre-gelding days, that his old owners let him be a stud pocket pony...why would anyone WANT a pocket pony? I HATE that description. He is so non-assertive though, that a few spankings back cured that one) He stays a good 3' back unless encouraged to come in. I have to insist that he lead up beside me for showmanship at halter work, he would rather hang back ala mugs horses.
    2. Take Fluffy away from dinner, what happens? absolutely nothing. I wish this horse showed more interest in dinner, he has to eat separately or he would starve to DEATH! I do this regularly, I ride when I can, BO feeds when she plans to, sometimes these don't mix. You work for me, horse.
    3. Lead down the road. Again NO reaction. Riding off has recently gotten some attention, but I believe that is because of the big scarey culvert about 100 yards down the road, because as soon as we get past that, no problem.
    4. Take off halter. He has to be pushed to "go on, get out of here." This is part of our routine, I unsaddle then unbridle, then put on cribbing strap and flyspray with horse free standing. Once I wave him away, he ambles off. PLAYS? Who plays? I'd feel safe sound asleep on the ground in the arena with this horse, being shooed away to jog 10 feet is a major reaction for him.
    5. PASTURE MATES If you hadn't already guessed, he is a loner. They may be in barn, he may be in pasture, they maybe in the pond, he may be standing near the breezeway of the barn, he just don't give a shit.

    At feeding time, he will back his ears, and look grumpy, then walk off and watch another horse eat his food. This is the most non-reactive horse I have ever seen, probably the anti-thesis of Sonita.

    It is hard to read him because the cues are soooo slight, I don't want to say they aren't there. Some days he turns his head and ears toward me in a friendly manner when I go to pasture to get him, somedays I simply don't exist in his world until I place the halter on him, some days he even walks off a few feet, but I have just about described the totality of his reaction to anything. I hope I am not missing anything.

  25. So late on this...

    Working with my first horse - had her for 2 weeks, been working with her for 4 months.

    She "passes" all your homework...except for the food thing.

    At our old barn, she'd happily leave her hay when I arrived, but since our move, she gets quite pissy when I go near her when she is eating. Ears back, mostly, but an occasional angry spin.

    What is with that? Grain is the worst. I have taken to making her put up with me while she eats. I pick her hooves, brush her tail, take her bucket away, give it is very annoying.

    Any suggestions are welcome!

    (I'm working my way through the archives...I know this is an old post - but I don't want to miss a thing. I'm learning so much from you and your commenters)