Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Compromise...

I was schooled by a 14 year old Belgian boy.  Now, I've dated several Belgians and should have remembered that the ones I've encountered (don't want to generalize too much here) have been intelligent and opinionated.  Might be something in the water...seems to me that Belgian horses are like Belgian humans.

I was told he made my mare look motivated (Sug is known to be quite lazy until you put a fence in front of her.)  OK, I thought to myself, lazy ain't new to me.  I strolled out to his field and he ambled right up to me and let me get his halter on.  Off to a good start, I'm thinking to myself.  HAH! The second I get him through the gate and turn to close it, he stuck his head down to graze. Let me tell you, he had no intention of letting me pull his head up and walk him to the barn, and odds are we'd still be out there if I hadn't resorted to bribing him with the peppermints I had in my pocket.

We had quite the discussion on the way into the barn, with me trying to announce my presence with authority as the Alpha and him telling me how wrong I was.  We discussed the issue the whole time I was grooming him, with him turning his head to supervise and let me know which parts I was to concentrate on and which were off limits.  He tested me a bit when I tried to get his bridle on, but gave in gracefully when I finally convinced him I was gonna push the issue, and off we went into the indoor ring.

Now, as he's known to be lazy, I was told to equip myself with spurs and a crop, which I did, planning to use them only if necessary.  Didn't think I would need to use them as he moved off as soon as I mounted and had no problems moving into a trot after we'd warmed up a bit.  All went well until I decided warm up was over and added leg and a touch of hand to ask him for a little more frame.  Instead of moving forward into contact, we went backwards.  The more leg I applied, the more backwards we went.  At one point, he stopped dead and did his best statue imitation.  Crop and spurs did nothing.  Now what?

I'd be damned if I was gonna let him take root in the middle of the arena, so I got him to turn and start walking by pulling his head around.  Decided to try asking very quietly for a trot, and surprisingly, he moved off at a nice pace.  However, the second I tried adding leg or hand again, he slowed down.  Thought to myself, "Self, this horse is a hunter, and he knows his job, maybe I should back off the hand/leg thing." Damned if the old boy didn't pick up his pace and round up nicely the second I did.

Well, I'm not known as a bit of a control queen for nothing, so we repeated our little experiment several times in each direction and at each gait, with me asking him to do things my way and him telling me which way his particular parade was going.  Some issues were deal breakers for me.  I absolutely could not allow the stopping and pretending to be a statue routine, so we argued over this until he eventually agreed to humor me.  He finally got me to agree that micromanaging him was not going to work, and I did my best to sit up there as quietly as I could, "thinking" what I wanted him to do before asking oh-so-nicely for it, and staying out of the way while letting him do his job. 

I had a blast on him, and hope I get to ride him again, as I know I'm gonna need a lot of repetition for this life lesson to sink in.  It's an appropriate one for horses as well as people -- sometimes you gotta let go of your own agenda and try someone else's, or at the very least, see if a compromise between the two will create a better way of doing things.

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