Ask the horse. Every time, ask the horse.
Ben has been puzzling me. The in-hand work has produced a dramatic and at times aggressive reaction, which has seemed to bounce out to the other mares in the fields. And yet, in those fields, he turns to greet me, ears forward, eyes soft and is happy to put his head into the headcollar and come with me.
Let me just assume that Ben’s way of saying “no” is on the rather aggressive and ugly side. But it is still his “no”.
Let me give both of us more credit than I have been for the relationship we have developed over the past two years.
Where does that leave us both?
In-hand is too much right now. I am not quite sure why and there is not really much point in speculating, which would only be guessing. Let me just accept Ben’s “no”.
Even leading work seems crude, ugly and not every effective.
So back to the picadero and time spent together at liberty.
At liberty I can let Ben find his own balance. At liberty I can stand back and watch how he moves. At liberty there is space between us which can safely allow for his more aggressive reactions.
This is what I have observed:
- to my surprise Ben canters easily going right but going left turns his bum to me and kicks and seeks to change direction;
- he quickly picks up on my own energy, quicker than I do myself, in particular whilst going right. For example, when I asked him, verbally, to walk, he maintained trot and I realised that I had not dropped my energy from my core. Once I did so, he walked;
- he waits beside me while Sandra is with Cassie in the picadero, watching them intently and also breathing over my hair and into my nostril. He is interested in this.
I have read Ben’s aggressive “no” as dominance or a threat. If I take my own emotional reaction away from it, all I have is Ben saying “no”. I need also to pay attention to his “yes”.
I am stumbling along. I don’t seem to speak horse very well and yet, we are still here together, figuring this out. Could it be that Ben knows my intention is to help him move with more efficiency, suppleness and strength? Because he is sticking with me in all of this.