Back You Go

Rodney suffered a bout of remediation. We survived.

The horses ground-tie to be groomed. They are behind a fence, so running off is inconvenient rather than dangerous. To start, I hold the leadrope. When they shift away, I shift them back to status quo ante. Move a step forward; get moved a step back. Move a step back; get moved a step forward. Eventually they get the idea. I drop the rope. Usually, they run off once or twice. I retrieve. No muss, no fuss. Once they have graduated to being reliably ground-tied, the lesson increases. If they run off, they must return. Since they stepped forward, they must step backward, not matter how many steps that entails. I’ve walked horses backwards across the field, up hill, around trees, into the barn, whatever. There is no screaming, no punishment, just a quiet, calm, implacable backward vector. They get the idea that running away is double unplusgood, don’t do it any more.

So, Rodney was getting a bath. Ground-tied. I finished and turned to coil up the hose. He stood for a few moments until the horse flies came to carry him off. Enough of this, I’m outta here. He galloped back to the barn, perhaps 100 feet. Hubby met me a quarter of the way back, leading Rodney. Nope, no more Ms. Nice Guy. I turned him around, pointed his butt toward the water trough, and back we went.

1) He made it all the way. He didn’t just shuffle back. He took nice, big backward steps that would have scored well in a dressage test.

2) He fussed once or twice. Under his anxiety and next to his overall sweet nature, Rodney has a temper. He put his foot down, flipped his head, and refused to move. Unfortunately for Rodney, he is no match for Previous Horse, When PH said no, he meant, You are going to have to alter the laws of physics to make this happen. I steam-rolled past Rodney’s resistance before it even registered.

3) When we got close to the water trough, he slid a little in the mud. I agreed that he had a point and allowed him to woozle sideways onto better footing.

He did what I asked. At no point did I question my ability to manage him. I’m pleased with both of us.

Categories: Groundwork, Horse Behavior, Horses

3 replies »

  1. Congratulations! A great step forward (or backward, as the case may be) for you. Rodney too.

  2. Hello! I really enjoy reading you blog and you are a great writer. I would love it if you would consider writing a guest post for my blog! Its an equestrian lifestyle blog centered around warmbloods and the sporting disciplines. Check it out and if you are interested shoot me an email at rachel@thewarmbloodhorse.com

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