Thursday, January 9, 2014

Winter Strikes Again

It's days like this that I'm reminded that I own a five year old. I drove up to the farm Tuesday to find a field of incredibly friendly red mares (Jazz and five others, plus one bay that must feel very out of place). Everyone seemed to want to see me but my horse. Well, I suppose that's not exactly accurate. Jazz more couldn't make up her mind;  she kept coming and going until I got tired of it and just caught her. Of course this led to me leading a line of all the mares back to the gate like the pied piper. They do so love to follow their herd matriarch. Also I strongly suspect someone has been giving them treats,  because everyone seemed veeery interested in what was in my hands.

Once I had her out of the pasture,  I saw she had big chunks of ice in her toesies,  so I figured I would head straight into the sand arena rather than risk her slipping and sliding on the concrete barn floor... well, maybe not. The arena door was frozen shut again. Sigh.  There was a horse getting trimmed right in the doorway, so I decided to pick out what I could of the iceballs outside and go in the side door of the barn... or not.  I got the ice successfully chiseled out of one foot and had a start on the second when Jazz decided that standing was no longer what she was up for and plowed past my lovely friend C (who is not experienced with horses but is slowly learning more). About five or six times she got Jazz back to her spot for about five seconds before she was right back off again. Jazz was just super distracted, partially because in addition to the trimmer they were unloading hay bales right next to the barn, and partially because such just seems to be her way lately.  Jazz was starting to get tired of it, and when she reared (only about six inches, it wasn't terribly dramatic, I promise), I took her back and told her in no uncertain terms that that was very rude and very not allowed.  I put her back where she had been and when I got her to stand for a decent amount of time (actual standing, not the distracted-and-high-strung-but-not-moving kind of standing she had been doing before), I decided just to end there and let her go.  

Well, I decided to end there and let her go.  I was about halfway back to the pasture when C said something to the effect of, "Is it good to just give up on her like that? Shouldn't you maybe just work her in the yard again, get her to listen to you?"  I responded with something explaining how I just wanted to end with a win, but I gave in and turned back around. Huge mistake. 

..Which brings me to a new blog feature that I'm going to try out: things I have yet to master 
With horses

Thing #1 
Knowing when to trust my instincts and when to Listen to my well-meaning friends that don't know much about horses

 So I wound up struggling with her for about ten more minutes,  during which she stood still for perhaps fifteen seconds cumulatively,  reared as she had earlier twice, threw her head around about three times, and the coup de grace, did a spectacular mini-rear combined with what can only be described as a head flail in every which direction. Needless to say I was very upset with myself for not just putting her back when I wanted to in the first place.

Oh, how I miss 3-year-old Jazz
And the whole ordeal left me thinking about how I'd handled myself and comparing myself to when C was handling her, and how I really have gotten a lot better at dealing with not only Jazz, but any horse who's having a day like Jazz had on Tuesday.  I watched her take Jazz back and forth about six times without even a pause (Jazz really didn't want to stand still), all the while getting increasingly frustrated.  That is one area where I'm really proud of how far I've come.  In every horse book I've ever read, it stipulates that corrections should be treated much the way a lead horse would treat them in the pasture, with a quick correction based on body language (only escalating to a physical cue like a pop with the end of the rope if necessary), and quickly returning to a neutral state afterwards.  I've found that I can do this much more consistently without getting frustrated and feeling like everything's my fault all the time, and it feels so good.  I remember many an occasion where I would get so frustrated when I couldn't get Jazz to do something that I would end up in tears, but I've found myself much more able to detach from the emotion to find the best way to communicate what I want.  Progress, even a tiny step like this one, is still progress.  Considering our history in our past winters, I am definitely finding myself taking everything less personally.  I definitely look forward to the spring though.  Jazz makes it very clear she hates the cold just as much as I do.  

But how could I stay mad at a cute face like that?

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