There is one constant, every winter – Noble hates the mud. Once it reaches a certain point of sloppiness, there is nothing that will entice him to cross the ‘bog’ to reach the higher ground and grass. This has been going on for years. Even when Java was around, we had to take the long route, through the arena, to get them turned out. Noble just does not like his giant feet to get wet, or to feel that suck from the mud. Nor will he go out when the rain is actually falling, even before the ground gets mucky. Yet, every winter it is inevitable that I see posts from people declaring that their horses do not need shelter or stalls, because they are living the life nature intended. If that is the criteria, then why do we keep our dogs inside? And more to the point, why are we not living around campfires still?
The saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words, yet so many involved in Dressage want to deny what the pictures tell us. The
most common complaint is that a photo is “just a moment in time” – yet, without the “moments in time” that Eadweard Muybridge gave us, we would not know the actual sequence of the footfalls in a horse’s stride. How can it be that those “moments” were valuable, but those we see today are not? The truth is, they are just as valuable – they just might not always be agreeable with our perception. Just as with Muybridge’s discoveries in locomotion, today’s photos capture moments that are missed by our naked eye.
The last thing I want to do is drag myself out from under the warm blanket, in my warm house, to venture out into the cold and the rain. It has been over a week, and four tissue boxes, and I am tired of struggling to breathe. Just standing up can be enough to make me want to sit back down again. But, there are numerous beings outside who rely upon us for their food and water – so, out I must go.
A recent Facebook conversation about positive reinforcement led to someone asking a question about one of my favorite fallacies – if you comfort a fearful or spooking horse, aren’t you just reinforcing the fear? I first encountered that idea when I started training our dogs, just over twenty years ago. My experience with a variety of animals told me that was a silly idea – and the more I’ve learned about how brains work, the sillier the idea gets. So, how do you handle the fearful equine? As with all things related to horses, techniques are numerous – and I’ve probably tried them all at one time or other – but some are definitely safer and saner than others.
It was, admittedly, probably not the best choice. Due to weather and the holidays, Noble had been idle for a while. With his paddock now mucky, even the newly emerged grass does not tempt him to go out into the field beyond. So, he sulks in his stall and has temper tantrums – though far fewer and less volatile than in winters past. But today the sun was shining, and we had no specific agenda, so I decided to get him out for some quality time. I failed to factor in the North wind that was building – and that is known in the valley to set even the most level headed horse on edge.
Five years ago, today, we set out on the three hour journey to pick up the colt of my dreams. More than just a dream, he was something out of a long held fantasy – and someone was giving him to me! I am not the person who ever wins the raffle, or finds a random twenty dollar bill, or attracts a wealthy benefactor. So, from the beginning, I was waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. But the day was here, and we were on our way.