One of the best parts of getting to know a new horse is figuring out their personality- what they like and what they don’t, where their itchy spots are, and what their quirks are. People who don’t know much about horses always seem surprised to learn that they have distinct personalities (“like dogs?”), which makes me giggle just a little, because it really seems like horses are as unique as people are.
So anyway, so far, I have discovered some of the things that Rose loves:
- soft brushes to the face
- belly rubs, but only with the flat of the hand
- leading trail rides at a forward marching walk
- trying to rub her face on you after riding
I’m sure there are lots of horses out there who like the same things, but really, the way she reacts to a soft brush to the face is a beautiful thing. She closes her eyes and pushes her head forward. Then she tilts it so you can get the sides of her forehead above her eyes. It’s like she knows that the soft brush is her ticket to a velvety, glossy coat, and she enjoys it the way most of us enjoy a good shampoo/head massage at a salon.
Riding wise, things are going pretty well for Miss Rosey, even with lots of new stuff being thrown at her. On Wednesday, we went for a nice casual trail ride with a few friends. Though she has been on trail rides before, this was her first in company, and she took pretty much everything in stride. However, she made it clear right from the beginning that she doesn’t really like to mosey. Her walk was purposeful, and she seemed to enjoy being in front. I think she sort of enjoys the process of “discovery” when she’s out- she’s always moving her ears and eyes, looking to see what’s around the next corner or up the hill. Fortunately, she handles being behind other horses equally well- she doesn’t rush to catch up or pass, and seems content to be behind them even when it’s clear she enjoys being up front.
What she does not enjoy on trail rides is standing still or being turned away from her chosen direction.
There were several occasions on this particular jaunt that we sort of needed to pull up. Most notably, when her horse decided it would be fun to get Allie to slide off into the creek (hey, he was thinking of her, I’m sure. It WAS very hot!). Finding a spot for her to remount, and working out the logistics of such a thing (bareback on a 17+ hand TB who sort of wants to play around a little, not easy!). But Rosey is not one for standing and waiting, and so in order to keep her happy you have to find a direction for her energy.
In a way, this is sort of similar to Klondike. When he started getting upset or not wanting to move where you wanted him to go, you just had to sort of redirect him. Rose, though, is a little more opinionated than Klondike. With him, I could just say, “Hey Klon, what’s over there?!?!?” and totally distract him from what had him being stubborn. Rose, on the other hand- well, it’s more like you have to convince her things are her idea. This will probably prove to be a challenge for me- most of the horses I’ve been riding over the last few years have been very agreeable and somewhat dopey geldings. Rose, though, is too smart for the things that work with those types, and like any woman worth her salt, kind of wants to know “what’s in it for me?” when you ask her to do things.
Fortunately, she’s generally a very good girl, and also responds VERY nicely to praise. She just has to understand exactly what her job is, and has to know she will be treated like a princess for doing the right thing. For instance- standing for tacking up. She wasn’t bad about it, compared to some horses, but she did kind of wiggle forwards and back a lot the first time I tacked her up. Because she’s sensitive, I didn’t want to get after her too much about moving, so instead, I’d just put her feet back where I wanted, and if she didn’t move while I readjusted the saddle, I’d give her huge pats and maybe a peppermint. It’s only been two saddlings since then, and she now pretty much stands still. It’s like she wasn’t being bad at all, just didn’t know any better before (and of course, many racehorses are saddled while being held by another person with a lot of restraint, so before now she’d probably never been actually asked to stand for it on her own).
Similar tactics used by Allie got her used to fly spray VERY quickly, and she’s even standing ground tied for the hose now (though she still tries to follow me when I turn around to wind the hose up, she generally puts her foot back when I point at it and growl a little).
I rode her again yesterday morning, and I’m very pleased at what a quick study she is. She’s really quite easy to steer, and much straighter/more aligned through the body than Klondike was. It’s very easy to keep her on a given path with my legs and body. Her “whoa” is fantastic- just sit deeper in the saddle and put your shoulders back, and she slows down automatically. She doesn’t seem to have much use for the bit, but at this point she almost doesn’t really need one. After we went around in both directions, I did start to teach her the basic idea of giving/softening to the bit- not in any major way, but just side to side a little. She didn’t seem to really get what I wanted right away, but after a couple repetitions, she was following the bit in both directions (just at a standstill, mind you) with little/no resistance.
This weekend we’ll be doing more, and hopefully getting some video of how she’s moving with her new magic shoes. 🙂