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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The "Talk"

Farley had I had the "Talk" last night. 
Here's the problem with sweet little obedient horses:  They rarely saw what's on their minds and if they do, the whisper very quietly.  Sometimes I can't hear her and I have to say "Speak up!  What's your problem?" 
The last couple of weeks, especially after arena work, I've been stressed and had lots and lots of tension in my body.  This really irritates me for 2 reasons:
  • Horses are my de-stressing activity, therefore I should not feel more stress after a ride than before
  • I have a sinking feeling that what I'm feeling is merely mirroring Farley, whom I want to make happy, and if she feels like I do, she's not happy. 
Last night I again finished the night feeling irritated and tense.  I looked at Farley and her cute little nostrils were compressed at me.  So I decided we needed to talk.
So we went to the round pen.
My intention was NOT to punish her in any way or "show her who's boss".  I do extensive ground work with my horses when I first get them, and after that on a as-needed basis.  Farley hasn't been in a round pen for at least 18 months. 
I LOVE the round pen because I can take the halter and leadrop/lunge line off and have a little chat.  It's small enough that she can't totally ignore me, but it's big enough she feels free enough to express herelf.  Without a halter or a line attached to her, I feel that Farley is more honest about letting me know if you really wants to be in my presence. 
Once in the round pen she waited for my cue and then trotted around.  She didn't try to change direction or stop.  She wasn't exactly soft, but she was listening and watching.  I cued her to canter and she did, I cued her to transition down to a trot and she tried to stop - just like under saddle.  We worked on getting a forward trot after cantering.  She wasn't responding to my turn cues very well, but I pushed her and she re-remembered.  She stopped on command and followed me when I walked up towards her.  She breathed hard for a while, but seemed to relax as we just hung out in the center.  Then I slipped a leadrope and halter and her and we were done.
So what did I learn?  I've always known that Farley is not a dominant horse.  She's perfectly happy to be in the bottom of the pecking order and is not aggressive.  However, I think she needed to be reassured that yes, I was still taking care of her and she didn't need to worry about it.   There's a huge disconnect in our arena work and our trail work.  On the trail, I expect her to think and take care of herself, pick her footing, and keep an appropriate pace with my occasional input.  In the arena I am dictating every step we take and asking her to be submissive to my cues.  As a result she was getting frusterating.  What did I want?! 
Complicating the issue is that neither one of us is spending as much time on the trail as we would like.  It's winter and it's dark and wet.  I'm a bit grumpy (that whole SADs thing going on) and I don't blame Farley one bit for not being at the top of her game. We are making the best of a seasonal situation and working through it (how many days 'til the time change????)
I think our chat in the round pen last night really helped.  She was reassured that yes, I am still the same partner that will take care of her and I won't let her fail (she really cares about being successful) and I was reassured that she DOES want to be with me and she LIKES being with me, she's just struggling because of the season - just like me. 


  1. I am glad that you two were able to work it out.

  2. "The whole SADS thing..."

    Oh, I hear you. Up here in the Northern Swamplands, at least half the population shows symptoms of SADS, especially in January.

    My doc recommends vitamin D and vitamin B. They help.

    I recommend going outside during daylight (there IS no "sunlight" in the Swamp in January, but clouds get lighter during the day) for at least 15 minutes, even when it's raining. Go to the mailbox, walk around the block, whatever it takes. 15 minutes of daylight will help.

    Of course, what helps most is realizing that winter is temporary. The days are getting longer. Spring will come.

    Just, not soon enough!

    Feel "lighter" soon, Mel and Farley!

  3. Yall have such a nice relationship. It makes me :D to read about it!

    I am running on the purely intellectual knowledge that the worst is through and days are actually getting longer. I might try D and B too, though...


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