Tuesday, October 20, 2009

of one thing I'm sure, it's a friendship so pure

In the twilight, an adorable little friend sneaks out to the barstool to replenish the apples.

Perfect alignment is important!

My work here is done.
Have you ever seen anything so cute in all your life?!!! These priceless photos were on the photo disc left on the barstool for us. Our dear neighbors have brightened our daily rides with juicy apples and now we get to delight in all the "behind the scenes" sweetness that is going on in the re-stocking. Oh, what a treasure! Thank you, friends, for the apples and the photos!!
Our rains finally ended on Sunday and I had the opportunity to review with Pie and Sovereign some easy ground lessons. Somewhere along the line, post-riding grazing has evolved into poor leading habits. Both boys had started balking recently when being led in from hand-grazing. The embarrassing culmination of this happened a couple of weeks ago when our veterinarian arrived to give shots and my friend, Ginny, and I were grazing the boys under the apple tree. Neither horse would walk up to the barn without much delay and head-diving for grass. Our vet commented, "Don't these horses lead?" and I was mortified. Ginny and I jokingly comforted ourselves with the fact that it wasn't too evil to choose apples over a shot, but I knew I had work to do. I also knew that it wasn't the horses' fault. It was mine. I have a history of poor leading behavior and I've come to the conclusion that it all originates in me and my ambivalence about ending the hand-grazing session. Like anything I do with horses, I think about a problem for a few weeks and decide what is the best way to solve it. So, I have been reading and brainstorming about this problem and my personal history with this problem. It really makes no sense. I am not ambivalent about setting limits with my horses when I am riding. I am certainly not ambivalent when leading horses to pasture. I know that I am kind, but firm - almost strict - with Maizie and we have reaped the rewards of that kind of parenting. So why do I get all mushy and passive when I lead a horse in from grazing? The only thing I can come up with is that I don't perceive grazing as dangerous. I am serious about riding and about leading out to the pasture because of the inherent danger in these activities. I guess by the time I am hand-grazing everyone is relaxed and calm, so I let down my guard. This is not good for the horse because it teaches inconsistencies, yet I really want the horses to be able to relax and graze at certain times. We don't have a ring with sand or dirt. Our pastures are grass, our hand-grazing areas are grass and our ring is grass. I have to teach the horses that there are sometimes that we are working on the grass, there are sometimes that we are walking over the grass and there are sometimes that we are eating the grass! On Sunday I started with Pie in his halter and a lead with a dressage whip in my left hand. I took him out of the pasture and alternated saying many "walks" and "stops". He responded perfectly. Next, at a "stop" I threw in a "graze" and pushed his head down. He grazed, although, I don't think it was the happy, calm grazing I am after. He was alert and waiting my next command. I said "stop" and he put his head up, and then I followed with "walk". We did this for sometime and then I switched and worked with Sovey. Sovey actually never really forgot this lesson because he isn't such a chow hound. Later in the afternoon, I took Pie for a bareback ride around the farm. Afterward, I hand-grazed him and he happily munched in his usual voracious manner. When I thought he had had enough, I firmly (no ambivalence) asked for a "stop" and he raised his head. Then I said "walk". He walked without grass-diving to the barn. What a good boy! Now, I have to continue this routine consistently.


  1. Those are adorable pictures. A very cute purveyor of apples.

  2. Very cute pictures! So sweet!
    I know what you mean about the hand grazing. We do that a lot, since the horses don't have grass in their pastures. I kinda let my guard down too. But I try to let them know when it is time to graze, and when it is time to just walk on by.
    Good for you, for teaching your horses good manners!!

  3. I know what you mean about letting your guard down! The problem is MY GUARD IS ALWAYS DOWN!!!! Sounds like you have things back under control. Discipline really is a gift of love. Bill says to me that if I ever became incapacitated and needed to sell my horse, I could be guaranteed of finding her a much better home if she is trained and obedient. He is so right! It is good motivation to get Lilly behaving.
    Love your sweet little apple guy! Boy is he ever cute.

  4. Busted!! That little apple-elf is so cute! I wonder if they rent him out?

    I'm impressed with your ability to troubleshoot and problem solve so quickly. You are obviously much more in control than you might think! It's a huge pet peeve of mine when horses keep diving to chow when you're trying to lead them. I'll have to remember your techniques if the need should arise again someday.

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments, but UPDATE - I sure talk a good talk! Today my dear Pie balked (!ugh!) for the farrier!!! And, again, tremendous embarrassment. No grass diving this time, but still, my farrier and his apprentice had to tap Pie on the butt for me. Oh, I felt like such a failure - especially after this post. Sovey walked in like a perfectly trained puppy that he is, but ol' Pie - he has my number.

  6. Of course Pie balked - he couldn't let the farrier know how easily you convinced him YOU were the boss!! Don't be so hard on yourself, baby steps!

  7. Thanks Michelle - I needed that - you are right - baby steps!

  8. What pretty apples! So colorful. I have the same problem with leading my cats!! (lol). Actually, I think it's just that they are spoiled rotten. >^..^<


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