This blog is dedicated to my friend, my mentor, and the best teacher I have ever had. Without him, I would not have embarked on this amazing journey. Split, this blog is for you!
Ponderosa Misty Icon, aka "Split," is a handsome gray Welsh pony who came to me via a phone call "out of the blue" (actually Peterborough, Ontario). Our first few months together were rocky to say the least, which made me question my ability as a horse owner, as a horsewoman, and as a rider. Forty years of horse ownership had not prepared me for this little gray pony!
But we muddled through and because of Split, I have begun a journey that is both spiritual and enlightening. I hope something here resonates with you and that you'll check back now and then.
We leave you with one of our favorite quotes: "The best whisper is a click!"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I don't wanna play!

"Who wants to play clicker?" is usually greeted with enthusiastic nickering and asthmatic donkey wheezing in my barn. Yesterday was a bit different.............
I've been gradually getting Split and Jingle adjusted to their spring diet of fresh, green grass. I started by letting them out to graze for 15 minutes a day at the end of March, gradually increasing the time so that now they can go out for about 90 minutes twice a day. I toss a flake of hay into the paddock now and then so that they have something to nosh on (other than my barn) but they've gone on a "hay strike" as in "WHAT? You expect us to eat THAT CRAP when there are acres of nice, green grass to be had? Away with you!"
Yesterday afternoon was just like summer and I headed out to the barn mid-afternoon to do some clicking and some chores. I donned the vest o' treats, grabbed my grooming box and went out into the paddock. Split walked over to see what was going on but there was no "Hi-dee-ho neighbor" nickering. I picked up the curry comb, gave him 2 good rubs with it and he walked away, leaving me grooming the air! How interesting. He walked over to the gate that opens into the pasture and just stood there. He didn't put his ears back; there was no tension around his muzzle; his eyes were nice and soft. I thought perhaps he just wanted to stand somewhere else so I walked over and started currying again. He turned and walked away again! I walked up to him and he walked off again - straight to the pasture gate. Well, REALLY! I can take a hint! LOL He was clearly saying, "Enough with the beauty routine. LET ME OUT TO EAT!" Well, OK. Since he didn't want to be groomed, that was fine. I turned my attention to Jingle. SHE was delighted to be fussed over!! After her grooming, which Split watched with interest, but he didn't come near us, I got my target on a stick (duct taped soda bottle attached to an old lunge whip) and Jingle and I played with that. Again, Split watched from his post by the gate, licking and chewing, ears up, eyes soft......but he didn't offer to play. Jingle and I ignored him. After about 15 minutes, I saw Split out of the corner of my eye - he was moseying over to where we were. I ignored him. He very slowly walked over to the target I was holding out for Jingle and gently touched it with his nose! I C/T but then offered it to Jingle; then Split; then Jingle. We played this way for quite a while, alternating the target between them and sometimes playing "follow the target" as well.
So? What's the point? In a "former life," I would have INSISTED that Split stick around to be groomed; I would have gotten his halter and tied him up and forced him into being spiffed up. I would have been insulted that he didn't want to spend time with me!! Yesterday my first thought was, "Ok, then. Do what you want. I'm going to go play with Jingle." And I just walked away................That's a big mind shift for me because, like many of you, I was brought up with the "don't let them get away with that" mentality. WAS I "letting" Split get away with something? Yes, I was letting him "get away" with his own, true feelings - he had a say in the matter. And that's the beauty of letting things unfold at their own pace, I believe. If I'd been getting ready for show season, I would have been frantically trying to get his mane detangled, his tail combed out, his whiskers trimmed, and there would have been a sense of urgency and tension about it all. (I'm not condemning horse shows; I'm just using that as an example of how things can become stressed out as soon as you put deadlines on them.) If a trainer says to you, "I'll have this horse jumping 3 feet by your show next month, I promise ya that," you might want to ask yourself, "Yeah, but at what cost to my horse?" I firmly believe that when horses balk, buck, rear, run away, stop dead.....that they're trying to tell us something in the only way they know how. Are there horses that will never be trustworthy? Sure. There are some human beings that are damaged beyond repair, too. There will always be that segment of the population, whether human or animal. But I believe that lots of horse-related problems are created by humans who don't or won't listen to their horse, and who have to "prove" that as the human being, the "smarter one" of the pair, they will prevail at all costs!! Of course, if you're reading this, you know that I'm just "preaching to the choir." I'm enjoying not having any deadline - which is different than a goal. The word deadline is off-putting simply because it has the word "dead" in it - something's going to give and end up "dead" alright, whether it's your spirit, your horse's spirit, your relationship with your horse.....whatever. But if you set a GOAL, you can leave it open-ended as to how and when you reach that goal! Does anyone else feel that way? I'd love to know what you think!
It's beautiful here today! I love springtime! Go out and play today!

"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."
Margaret Atwood

Or horses!!!! Or horses AND dirt! Enjoy the weekend, everyone! Go out and get smelly!

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