Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Eyes--New Day

My last post was about my inadvertent training of Beautiful Girl to be a one-person horse. When I adopted her, I had started out with good intentions. I believe I even blogged about the necessity of exposing her to as many people as I could--and, for the most part, I did--but almost entirely in the "petting" department.

Then, my husband went to halter her, when I was occupied in the house, and she wouldn't have any of it. At which point, he declared he'd be working with her more.

It's been about two weeks since that happened, and I've learned one important lesson from this--the upside of letting a new person in to your training world--and it is:

The new person is a clean slate. The new person doesn't have all the red flags, the memories, that you do. And, as such, the new person does not create the "self-fulfilling prophecy" syndrome.

I didn't realize how much bias I'd been bringing to the picture--declarations of what will or might happen based upon what may have happened once. Which reminds me of one of my favorite cowboy sayings I've posted about before on this blog:

"Everyday is a new day for a horse." Actually, he said, "Never hold a grudge against a horse, every day is a new day for them." In this case, I didn't hold a "grudge" against Beautiful, I think I was just over-protecting her.

For example, though by her age all my other horses were tied solid to the trailer, for some reason with Beautiful (because she'd pulled back before) I would only give the illusion of tying her solid in enclosed areas with the rope draped over a solid railroad tie. The railroad tie is rough enough that it felt to her like she was tied solid. And, when I was grooming her, I'd hold the other end, just to make sure, if she did pull back, she'd think she couldn't. I started all my colts that way and it works out well, but at some point (much, much earlier), I progressed them forward to being tied solid to the trailer or tying post.

Also, I only ever gave her baths in an enclosed area--on her lead--using the sprayer as a sort of extension of my arm and starting at her back so she could move forward freely. She doesn't really move forward much anymore, preferring to stand in one place, but when we first started out, she did.

Now, this is a great way to give them baths because they don't feel constrained and soon don't even care about the water, but again, I usually progress my other horses to the next step, bathing out in the open in the wash area.

So, one morning my husband walks in and tells me he was on his way back to the barn with Beautiful and had something else to do, so he tied her solid to the trailer and went about his business. No big deal to him because as far as he was concened, she was like all the horses around here. And, apparently, she is, but I wasn't seeing her that way. According to him, she stood there with no problem and was in the same place, and fine, when he came back.

After I heard that I went out and got her and walked her around the property to see how she'd changed. There's no doubt, she was less reactive. So, I thought, well, let's give her a bath out here in the open like all the rest get after a trail ride or on a hot day--just bring her up to the wash area and expect that she'll behave herself.

She did. Of course, again, no problem.

So, as I've slowly removed all the safety nets, I've found there's nothing to fear. She's a horse--like all the others. She has learned the lessons taught to her in the enclosed areas these last 2 1/2 years. I've protected her so much, I haven't given her the chance to prove herself. I have my husband to thank for changing that by bringing a fresh perspective and a higher set of expectations.

She's a horse--which means--she will make a mistake, but if we're to move forward...

Every days HAS to be a COMPLETELY new day.


  1. Another bit of wisdom I got from an old cowboy... A horse is born predestined to die at a certain time and place, and they spend their whole lives LOOKING for it. Keep protecting her, at least a little... she's cute and we don't want her finding her destiny TOO quickly!

  2. Yeah, that one's definitely true, too!! And it's good wisdom to always be proactive and never put a horse in a position where it can hurt itself--because it will. I always think about ten steps ahead--which can drive people crazy because they think I'm just being negative when actually I'm being realistic. Eight or nine times out of ten, the worst scenario does not occur--but every once in a while, it does. It's not that I expect it to, I just know it can and I don't want it to. But in this case, I have to admit, I was being overprotective with her. I wasn't allowing her to take the next steps.

  3. What a nice lesson, Linda, that you've protected her so much, you haven't given her a chance to prove herself. Isn't that the truth in so much of life, with our children maybe, or even with ourselves, being so cautious we're chewing at the bit but not taking off, the cautiousness the reins holding us back in a way.

    And what else I'm seeing here is Beautiful being in the process of stealing someone else's heart - your husband's!

  4. Yes, I think it's the exact same thing with horses and kids. I've been through this before with my human babies. Tough to let them venture out and possibly make mistakes. And it's usually the dads, when they hit those teen years, pushing them forward and out more than the mom. Hmmm...some real parallels here. Are you also hinting at some creative parallels? Because it's true with piano--timid playing where you're so frightened to make mistakes you don't just relax and go with it--gets your no where fast!

  5. I think I try to be so cautious with my horses. I know so many people that would take my Arab who has serious pull back issues, and go tie her somewhere for hours. Well, it doesn't work that way. With her insecurity/anxiety issues, you can't just do that. But I have heard people say that that is what she needs to get over it. But I won't do it. I will not put my horse in a situation that could potentially endanger them.
    I realize they need to learn, and I do tie her, but just not unattended for very long. I have really worked with Chance on tying and feel she could probably tie for quite a while. But I wouldn't leave her unattended for too long.
    Am I being too overprotective? Probably. But I don't think that is a bad thing!

  6. I agree with you, Paint Girl. I don't think more tying is the answer for a horse who has that anxiety--and really, I don't know if there is an answer except never solidly tying them. I should explain, too, that my husband didn't tye her for long and he never left the general area--he was always at the barn and the trailer is parked in front of the barn. She was probably tied for less than five minutes. Still, I would think I would like blocker tyes on the trailer. Around the barn I have round rings that will pop out easily if the horse puts pressure on them. I know some people would advocate never tying any horse solid--and maybe they have a point--if an accident can be prevented--why take the risk? With the rest of my herd I haven't really thought about this issue because they are the type that can tie all day long--but there are never any guauntees except the one Bill mentioned above.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.