Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Maisie Says No Lungeing is Required

The sunrise was splendid:


But then it turned into a somewhat grey day - here the mares are (one gelding in the background) hanging out waiting for their round bale to arrive:

When the round bale came, both Dawn and Maisie were taking naps in the hay, and had to get up (poor dears!) before they could eat from the new bale.

This afternoon, Maisie and I groomed in the parking lot and then we tacked up and went out to do our work. As we did yesterday, we went up to the hill behind the barn to do some work on the lunge. That's when something interesting happened. Maisie made it very clear that she would prefer not to lunge, by essentially asking if she could please not trot. I asked pretty strongly by walking fast, slapping my leg with the tail of the line and even moving behind her and swishing the line. Nothing but walk - no annoyance or fits, just no trot. What I'm trying to say is it didn't feel at all like "disobedience" or "disrespect" - not that I use those words with respect to horses, but you get what I mean. I confirmed that it was not a soreness issue by trotting her in hand, which she did easily and willingly. When I asked her to move up into the trot again on the lunge, she didn't want to trot and in fact looked at me in an inquiring way and then stopped and looked at me with her ears pricked. It was very clear to me that she was asking me if we could do without lungeing, and in fact I'd say that it was more than that - she was telling me that she didn't need lungeing in order to do the under saddle work that was coming next without getting too excited. It was sort of eerie.

So I walked up to her and said "are you sure we'll be OK?" and then took her back to the barn and put on her bridle and mounted up. We started our work in the arena, and were able for the first time this year to do some fairly relaxed trot work in straight lines, using the long sides, diagonals and making large circles. I was even able to do this in rising trot, which sometimes will get her moving too forward. She felt great and was moving well. We walked for a bit so she could catch her breath, and then we did some figure work at the sitting trot, including some very nice soft leg-yields. Then we went on the trail and took another new loop past a construction area - large piles of dirt, stakes with signs and ribbons - and although she did a bit of snorting, she was great the whole way out and back.

I was right to trust her and listen to what she was saying - she was right, we didn't need to lunge. I don't do groundwork as a routine matter - I'm not a big believer in doing the same exercises over and over again with a horse once the horse gets it - only if needed at a particular point in training or in getting back to work. Maisie's made it clear that she's willing to tell me what she needs, and I'm willing to encourage her to do this. I like it a lot that she feels willing to tell me things and ask for things - it means we're having a real two-way conversation. I feel like today was an important milestone for us - we've been together for almost 8 years and our relationship is still growing.

14 comments:

  1. That's wonderful! Maisie's lucky she has a mom who listens to what she's saying. I think that some of us really don't listen to our horses when they are trying to tell us something important to them and that's when some problems ensue. Good for you both for experiencing this milestone in your relationship, it's so exciting when these things happen between our horses and ourselves.

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  2. That's really great that you've got that kind of communication with Maisie. I'm still waiting.

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  3. Yay for you ! you are certainly in tune with your horse! Listening to her cues is part of getting her to listen to yours

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  4. Leah Fry - it took a long time for us to get to this point - Maisie and I hated each other for the first several years we had each other, then I had to work to relearn completely how I was doing things, then she had to learn to trust me more and I had to learn to trust her, then I had to learn how to listen, etc., etc. . . .

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  5. Maisie is a smart girl, and so are you for being sensitive to what she was saying!

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  6. That is awesome. I truly do believe that if we really try and listen to our horses, they will talk to us. They will tell us all kinds of thing if we only stop to listen.

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  7. Oh Kate, that is wonderful! I love that she told you and you heard her! Usually we humans are to dense to hear. Hooray for you for honoring her confident belief that it would be ok. I am sure Maisie is thanking you and appreciates you. The sunrise foreshadowed your amazing Maisie!

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  8. I love it! How sweet. I do believe they tell us--try to tell us nicely--what they really need.

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  9. Currently I've lost the line of communication with Cibolo. It feels like when you're on a cell phone with a sketchy connection - your talking and don't realize no one has been listening for the last minute and a half.

    Someday. Someday.

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  10. Maisie is such a darling. I always call her The Amaising Mare when we're chatting on the way in from the field.

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  11. I love it! It's amazing how horses can move beyond the initial relationship (or lack thereof)with you and keep trying to communicate and build a relationship. Maisie sounds like a sweet girl. What made you two not get along at first?

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  12. Jen - when I first got Maisie, she was a completely green hunter - all she knew how to do was run around on the forehand, dragging on your hands, when she wasn't throwing her head and almost hitting me in the face. She also had some serious physical issues - we later figured out (I'm a slow learner) that she had serious chiropractic issues, dental problems and ulcers, which led to bucking, balking and all sorts of problems. And although I was an experienced rider, I really didn't know much of anything at that point about treating my horse with respect and listening to what they were saying. Maisie (and others including Mark Rashid) taught me a lot, for which I'm grateful, although a lot of the process was frustrating and sometimes not much fun.

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  13. What a breakthrough! I love when you're in tune with your horse enough to really know what they're saying.

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  14. My comment I thought I left yesterday is not appearing. Blogger is so odd sometimes. Anyway, I said I would love to read more about your early days with Maisie like how you started realizing (and then diagnosing) the physical issues. Maybe you can write an in depth post about them one day - you know, when you have a bunch of free time on your hands and nothing else to do!

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