Saturday, February 1, 2020

Just One Time

My time as a horse trainer was drawing to a close. I was selling off investment stock, finishing up contracts and promises and gearing up to leave the last place I'd landed, foundation buckskin breeders that also rode cow horse. It was interesting and a little pitiful to end my career riding almost the same not-quite-good-enough type horses that I began with.

Drawing boundaries with people was a brand new activity for me. My first effort was quitting this job, I was determined to be kind, polite and direct. It didn't work out as I expected, and I was under quite a bit of pressure my last few weeks as a horse trainer. I had one more colt to start and he belonged to me. Loki's foal was a cute, runty, aloof little thing. He didn't want to be pet, caught, fed by hand, or talked to even after weaning. He was too short to sell and I hadn't messed with him enough to get much for him and I liked him.

I had a niggle of an idea with him, it came from no need to hurry but no time to really concentrate on him either. I decided it was time to test consequence and sequence, the cornerstone of my training program. I was going to teach my colt no more than one behavior or response per session, and if I did it correctly, the next day we'd add the next step, built from our last session. If I knew what I was doing, and seriously thought things through, I had a feeling it would work. Didn't have a clue what my little Scrub end up like, but it was nice to think about and a private challenge.

The yearling colts were raised on pasture, then kept in a large corral until they were gelded, taught some manners and halter broke. I could handle every single one of those little shits - except my own. He's scramble the fence to avoid looking at me.

Our first lesson was about contact. I walked into the corral and started watching him, which was enough to get him trotting out, tail flagged and looking over the top rail away from me. I kept a steady gaze on his ears and would stay even with his shoulder from the middle of the corral while he  moved. I stopped, relaxed, and looked away any time he paused. Nothing else. He could hide between his brothers and I would still stop. He could bolt and fart and stomp and I would still walk along just behind the point of his shoulder and stare at his ears.

A bunch of horses can always figure out who I'm hunting, and while it might be fun at first, eventually playing wild mustang got old and they'd stop moving, close ranks and kick out the one I'm after. It took about forty-five minutes with these knuckleheads, but seriously, with six bored yearling stud colts in that pen and I couldn't expect less.

Scrub got pretty white-eyed when he realized his siblings had sacrificed him to the enemy, and didn't seem to give a hoot whether he lived or died. He took off running again in little spurts, with a lot of stops and turns, but didn't last long, he was tired. His head still looked over the top rail and away from me, and he whinnied to the broodmares on pasture across the road. Loki answered him and he bawled to her again.

Then, I got what I'd been waiting for. Scrub flicked a fuzzy little ear toward me to reestablish my whereabouts. He'd lost track of me while he tattled on me to his mama. Our first session ended when he flicked that ear. I turned around and left.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Let's Get to It

I'm neglecting you again.

Can I make it worse?

I have about 10 half finished stories hidden back here.

I've been mulling things over and getting stuck. Sometimes, a story pops up, just like the old days, and I start writing and the whole thing eventually just fades off. I haven't been able to get ahead of it.

This isn't unusual for me. I will begin a project, a new tack room, a book outline, a rock wall, mulching my pasture, and suddenly stop. I wander off to another unfinished project and stare at it, wondering why it's still not done. Eventually, I see a problem I hadn't before, something crooked, or awkward, and I know how to fix it. So I'm back at it again.
I'm not sure whether this is me not wanting to admit there's a problem, or knowing instinctively, but not logically, that something is wrong.

Logic finally meanders on in and I untie the knots.

I do believe I've at least loosened some of my blog knots.

I need you to meet who I am now. Not growly, tired, frustrated Mugs, well, OK, that's still the same, but I've been doing a lot of thinking. Faced facts I wouldn't before, sorted out what needed sorting and realized, I can't write anything but how I see it. For reals.

I want to start out with a list. Remember how you guys used to get all mad at me for oh, hating blankets or drop nose-bands? Then I'd go through all the angry responses and either flat out tell you why or write a related story?

I'm hoping my list will remind some of you and kickstart others.

I hate box stalls, but I think every horse needs to learn to live in them.
Horses need to learn to stand tied.
I hate nosebands and tie-downs.
I use spurs.
I like spade bits on bridle horses.
I don't clip and rarely brush.
My horses have been barefoot for years, but it's only because I'm cheap, I absolutely do not ride the barefoot wagon.
The majority of horse whispery clinicians have turned a colt's first 30 days of training into a life-long project for their customers and a career for themselves.
People who dance with their horses at liberty with Enya blasting through the speakers are generally full of crap.
Horse communicators are lying to you.
Not all Mexican dancing horses are brutalized untalented messes.

There's a start. Let's see what happens.