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!"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Splitter the Spook

I've mentioned before that Split has a very high "fight or flight" response but what's really interesting is that if he spooks when I'm working him on the ground, he knows exactly where I am and goes to great lengths to avoid running into/mowing over/knocking me down. He'd rather get pecked by that killer turkey or jumped by that rabid rabbit than hurt his mom!!!
The only time that I've ever been afraid of him was that fateful day that he bolted with me and now, in retrospect, I realize that it was just a whole crucible of errors that led to his running away and truthfully, I'd have done the same in his position. But I digress...........
One day before I got my hearing aides, I decided to take Split for a leisurely walk thru the meadows around our property - on line, not riding him. We were returning home and were walking along this narrow strip of grass in front of our house. Within one step to my left was our tall privet hedge; on my right was Split; one step to his right was the road. All was going well and we were ambling along on a loose line when suddenly I felt Split's entire body go tense. He stopped, nostrils flared, head up, tail up, prancing in place. I had no idea what was going on.......I couldn't HEAR anything, that's for sure. I stood beside him, not sure what was going to happen next. He turned his head to the right as if to look down the road and I knew he wanted to face whatever monster was coming from behind us but he didn't because he knew he would have to knock me down in the process. All of this "action" took place within a matter of seconds - it wasn't like I even had time to think about what to do next! I turned my head, too, and saw this gigantic, big, bad-a** dump truck-looking rig hauling another big piece of equipment behind it bearing down on us, and could only imagine the banging, wheezing, clanking and thumping accompanying it (remember, for all intents and purposes, I was DEAF then)! I swallowed the lump in my throat as Split turned forward, tucked his tail and sat back on his haunches, prepared to blast off! All I remember thinking was, "Crap! That hedge is gonna hurt when I hit it!" and hoping and praying that Split didn't run into the road if he got out of my grasp. But something - instinct, gut feeling, guardian angel - told me to "stand still and hold on" as that truck went flying past. I've never seen ANYTHING like what Split did that day! He spooked - big time! But he spooked IN PLACE. He had his left eye on me, probably his right eye on that truck - and all of his "flight" energy went down into his feet where it came out as a "horsey tap dance" - his feet were flying but staying right in place!!! As I said, this all took place within a matter of seconds - we both had decisions to make in a nanosecond. Once the scary monster truck had blasted by us, Split stood stock-still and stared after it for a second or two. Then he very slowly turned his head and looked at me for several seconds, clearly saying, "Can you believe that?" He sighed, shook himself vigorously, and continued on as though nothing had happened. I was impressed, let me tell you! He could have run and injured either or both of us but he chose to stay with me and keep us both safe. Amazing!!
Just the other day I was walking him down into our little riding ring and in order to get into the ring, we have to walk thru a narrow chute that has electric fencing on both sides. As we went into the chute, a big ol' turkey flew up virtually under our noses! It scared the daylights out of me and nearly made Split jump out of his skin! He COULD have turned and bolted out of there - which would have resulted in him knocking me down and running me over - but instead he simply jumped a little in place, snorted and stood like a statue beside me. After the initial shock, I had to burst out laughing - and give Split a big hug! I noticed that left eye was once again keeping track of his mom!
Yesterday we put Split and Jingle out into the "new" pasture and the grass is quite long. Split started out at a canter but when all the birds flew up out of the grass, he stopped, whirled, and bolted for "home base." ha ha I noticed something interesting as I watched his progress back out into the pasture. He'd go just "so far," just into his "comfort zone," and then come back to the paddock gate to graze in safety. He did this several times before he finally figured out, "OH! They're BIRDS!" And then he was off and running. But going a few steps and turning back to the comfort zone is something that clicker trainers advise riders with anxiety (like me!) to do.......Ride to your comfort zone and maybe a step beyond but turn and go back BEFORE you get into scary territory. Yesterday I saw Split do this "naturally." Amazing what that pony can teach me!!!

"When we listen to our horses, we get an education. When we don't, we get an experience." Mark Rashid

Listening involves more than my hearing aides these days!!!

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