My friend, Star has a little mini named Rex that she's going to put up for sale. When I say "Mini" I don't mean pony, I mean Mini-Horse. Mini-Horses are shorter than ponies and if I remember correctly, Rex is less than three feet because anyone over three feet is considered a "pony" by the whole registration thing. In other words, anyone over 8hh's. So, Rex is probably about 8hh's or less. Not sure. He's awfully cute though. He was a rescue so he's a little tentative about new stuff, but he's extremely sweet. There is no way I could afford to have enough horse - even a horse that tiny - but I have a little dream that if I could just find some therapists who want to do equine-assisted therapy I could be their wrangler and Rex could be their horse. He's so sweet and sensitive I know he'd be great at that. If only I had a ton of money. I guess that is the lament of most humans though.
Toadie did really well in her work yesterday and today. Yesterday we just did work on the lunge line and I clipped her mane and brushed her tail out really well and just all around did a big beauty treatment on her. Today she worked over trot poles and stood quietly in the arena while it was crowded and busy. She's been doing extremely well.
Ok, except for yesterday when she tried to bite me twice. Both times were right in a row when I was tightening the girth on her sircingle. The first time I slapped her and the second time I slapped her and she looked at me like she wanted to challenge and fight me. I remembered what Trainer K. had learned at a clinic earlier in the ear - that we use our shoulders to communicate with the horse what they communicate with their ears. So I looked her straight in the eye and threw my shoulders forward and then slowly pulled them back (which is actually a very subtle movement because shoulders don't move very far just by themselves if your arms are still) and boy did that snap her to attention! She quickly turned her head away from me, dropped her neck and started licking in that submissive way that horses do. I was very pleasantly surprised!
She didn't try to bite me at all when I was putting on the surcingle today but when I was done and started to turn to get something out of the tack box she turned and nipped at me. Kind of a "I'll tell her to fuck off when she's not looking!" sort of thing. But I saw it out of my periphery vision and I did the shoulder movement just like yesterday along with looking her straight in the eye and I got the same reaction! I could swear there was even a word bubble over her head that said, "Sorry Mama! I didn't think you saw that! Oh crap. Now I'm in trouble." Wow. That was it for the rest of the day for giving me any problems. Even when I had to tighten the sircingle girth in the arena before lunging she started to turn her head like she wanted to bite at me, and I saw her out of the corner of my eye and she stopped and sighed.
I'm still trying to figure out how to communicate well with horses and it feels like I'm learning new stuff everyday. A lot of it is almost impossible for me to explain because I don't fully understand it. I don't understand the shoulder thing - is it intention or is it really that they see our shoulders the way they see another horse's ears? What are they seeing and what is it really saying to them? I am starting to understand Toadie's message pretty well though. Her big way of communicating with me is the way she looks at stuff. There is the "I'm looking because I'm ADD" looking, then there's "I swear I heard a monster!" looking, and then there's "By looking at this I'm telling you I want you to do something about what I'm looking at." I'm slowly starting to tell the difference with her on which "looking" is which.
Understanding other horses is still a huge challenge. Well, I understand some like Rex instantly - usually the sweet, sensitive ones that have had a hard life. I don't understand Trainer J.'s horses. And today I was bringing Toad out of the arena and I saw two of her horses in the front pasture and one was galloping in circles with her halter and lead rope still on. I saw her stable hand coming out of the pasture and locking the fence so I wasn't sure if she was going to get help or just giving up on catching the horse. So, I called over to her and asked her if she needed help and she said she couldn't catch the horse with the lead rope still on. I pointed out that was a horrible accident waiting to happen having a horse running like that with a loose lead rope. She said she couldn't catch her and there was nothing she could do so I told her if she'd hold my horse I'd go try to catch her. I'm sure Trainer K. would've had a fit about me walking in there with those two horses I don't know that are referred to as "the two crazy mares". But I figured I would take it slow and leave quickly if it looked too dangerous. Plus, no one with more experience than me was available and I really didn't want something awful happening to that horse.
First thing I did was pick up the other horse's halter and lead rope - my thinking being that I was giving them the impression that I was coming in with the intent to catch them. Then I walked to the middle of the pasture and said calmly, "You're being bad, aren't you?" while they ran around me, chasing each other and bucking and kicking. I just stood there and watched and they watched me the whole time they were running around. I watched the horse with the lead rope the whole time - not because I was trying to "say anything" by that but because I wanted to keep an eye on her in case she really got tangled and fell down or freaked out (I wanted to get out of the way if that happened!). It only took maybe a minute before they stopped what they were doing and just stood and stared back at me. So I held my hand up in front of me and started to walk toward the horse with the lead rope and said, "Whooooa, let me help you, Whoooooa ..." in a quiet voice. And she just stood there. They both just stood there. So, I walked up and took the halter and lead rope off and they *still* just stood there. So I gave the horse I'd taken the halter off a couple of pats and nuzzles and said, "Ok, go play," and they still stood there quietly until I left the pasture - then they started romping again. So, I'm not sure what the stable hand was doing to get them so riled up. They actually seemed pretty well mannered if you just asked them to be.
She said thank you and I wanted to tell her not to do whatever it was she'd been doing that got the horse so riled up it ran away from her and then she couldn't catch it, but I have no idea what it was she did. Maybe all that was necessary was that a different person go out and try because the situation had gotten too much into a cycle of chasing. I don't know. I would *like* to know what happened there but I don't. I still have a ton to learn.