Sunday, March 11, 2012

Harder Than it Had to Be

A few days ago I was reading an article about a trainer at a dude ranch, and he mentioned pushing horses in a pen or pasture just enough so they respect you as the one in charge.  This is nothing new to me, but it did give me another perspective about trying to get Bear to come to me in the pasture.  I've been doing it off and on for quite a few weeks, with more on lately than off.  For the most part I've seen good improvement, but if the bales are full and tasty and the weather is nice, Bear is more inclined to do his own thing.

That was the case this morning. When I got about 15 feet away from him I stopped and stared.  He took note of me and ceased eating, but that was about it.  It looked kind of like he was going to go to sleep.  So I slowly increased the pressure.  He's gotten good at backing up, even without a rope and halter.  But he still wasn't coming to me when I gave him the chance, so I increased the pressure a little more and he started walking around the bale and moving other horses if he needed to.

Not an ideal spot to play the game, so I increased pressure and moved him off.  He was starting to get agitated and showing signs of thinking of coming to me, but he never took those first steps.  So I pushed.  And it was at this point that he really started going.  He reminded me a little bit of Sham as he would tear about the lot at a lope and gallop and stir up some of the other horses.  Other than right between the two bales, the footing was nice and dry.  I think we were actually both having a little bit of fun.  I had never seen Bear run so hard and fast.

But I never lost sight of my goal.  I just kept following him and driving him with my eyes; if he showed signs of interest in me or stopping I released the pressure and gave him a chance to come over to me.  If he didn't take that after a few seconds, I pushed some more.  He ran so much he had to take two drink breaks.  He was lucky it took me a few seconds to get over there because the dominant horse in the relationship doesn't let the other one drink if he doesn't want him to, so I moved him off the water.

He did eventually come to me.  It is always neat when it finally works.  They just give up and come right to you with quite a bit of energy and relief.  It was like he just couldn't wait for the halter and head pets. Silly Bear, they were there the whole time.

Needless to say, he snoozed the entire time I groomed and tacked him.  I was actually a little worried that he wore himself out and wouldn't be up for much of a ride.  But I was wrong.  He rallied and we had a great ride.  I knew I had a good opportunity to keep solidifying my authority, so when we started riding I moved from one exercise to another quite quickly.  I made sure he moved exactly how I wanted, and then we went on to another one.  No breaks.  It was a little hard for both of us, but it still didn't fatigue Bear like I thought it would.

After all our tough exercises early on, he still wanted to run some more.  So aside from doing some figure-eight lope/trot exercises, we also ended up loping up and down part of the strip.  It is great that his fitness and mobility is really coming around again.  I have high hopes for what the rest of the spring and summer bring.

He's always super relaxed and affectionate after some tough love.

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