Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Next Ride

The Next Ride

The next opportunity I had to ride with Shari, the river was too high to cross, so we had to work the hill.  Going up and down the hill multiple times can get a little boring, so I suggested that we try to make things interesting by practicing the trot with Cole in the lead.  She had had a break of a few days from riding, and her feet showed no sign of tenderness at all.  This would be a good test.

We tried it at the bottom of the hill.  Cole went first and Bella followed.  It was like they had done this for years--not one ride.  I was astounded, and so was Shari.  

We did it a few more times with great results.  Of course, Bella got praise and clicks.  Cole no longer seemed worried to be in front of Bella, either.  

Since that wasn’t much of a challenge, we decided to make it a little tougher.  We tried Bella standing as Cole trotted by, Bella walking as Cole trotted by, Bella standing as Cole trotted away from her and then Bella quietly catching up with him.  We did it at different parts of the trail, and even going uphill which is the direction towards home.  Was this really happening?  Bella was simply perfect.

Shari and I talked about it.  I really don’t believe one training session would cure a horse that was so intolerant of other horses leading.  I think that this wasn’t a case of training as an example of a horse changing her attitude.  She decided it was fine if Cole went first--we showed it to her.

It got me to thinking.  We can know a horse’s actions, of course, and sometimes we know the cause of the actions.  If a loud motorcycle comes tearing down the street and our horses spook, it is reasonable to say they got startled.  Common sense says that it is because they were frightened, but do we really know that?  Is it no coincidence that a horse will spook more at the beginning of a ride when they are fresh than at the end of a ride when they are tired?  How much spooking is caused simply by high spirits and a desire to play.  After all, we have all seen our horses playing that game when they are first turned out.  It can be hard to know of a horse’s motivations for their actions--even in somewhat obvious instances.

So the question is, why didn’t Bella like horses ahead of her.  Was it because she just desired to be in the lead?  That is what I originally thought.  Both Cruiser and Ranger always wanted to be in the lead--making challenging rides for us.  If that was the case with Bella, would we be able to fix that in one training ride?  It seems unlikely.  It took many training sessions, and Cruise and Range were still difficult together.

Bella has a lot of energy, so one could think that it may have been just because she travels faster than most horses.  That may be true at a walk, but Cole can trot as fast as the best of them, so I don’t think that she wants to lead out of frustration that we go too slow for her.

I am leaning towards believing she wanted to be in the lead just because that is what she always did, and that is where she was the most comfortable.  Yet, when she was leading, she would spook at many things.  Cole and I had to be very vigilant so we could stay out of her way if she started dancing around or shying.  It was a common occurrence on our rides.

When she was following us, she didn’t spook once.  In fact, she traveled surprisingly relaxed.  Could Bella have realized that the horse that follows can relax because the lead horse is in charge?  If Cole trots quietly, there is nothing for her to worry about.  The horse that follows doesn’t have as much stress in that position.  She could be just as, if not more comfortable following.  Did she figure it out?  Is that why she took to it like a duck to water?  Does she understand she could trust Cole to take care of her?

It really is hard to know a horse’s motivations for hs/her behaviors.  We can often only guess.  We do know something happened in Bella’s head, and it was for the better.  She trusts Cole to be her leader.  Now, will it work with other horses?

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