Time for a horse training update.
“Student of the month” for March goes to… Windflower Dancer!
Actually it’s Bluebell Star that’s in line to get worked under saddle, but she is a proud lady and hard to persuade. We think that’s a winning trait so we must be careful not to take that away from her. (A good horse is a partner not a servant.) We’ve been working her with blankets and covers for a few winter months and she likes the work, but always wants full control. Some horses hold on to their supply of trust and don’t waste it for nothing.
Saturday we chopped up two fallen trees in the summer pasture and piled it up next to the winter corral. Bluebell discovered it later in the afternoon and treated it like a potential enemy. She trotted up to it with high knee action, head high, looking brave, then lowering her head and scratching the ground with her front hooves like a Miura bull, making it perfectly clear for the log pile that she would not give up any ground without a fight, Bluebell Star – Leadmare-in-chief. The other horses looked at her, nodding their heads and rolling their eyes.
As a simple layman I have given that some thought and if I may speculate; In a herd of wild horses there is obviously room for horses with more than one type of mindset. Herds of wild horses roam vast areas and wander thru different types of terrain during a year, in search for good grass, water and shelter. The predator pressure varies from one place to another. A cautious but brave horse, like Bluebell, will be on her guard and warn the herd if a predator is near or if the terrain is risky. A calm and brave horse, like Windflower, will stay and graze the good grass and drink the good water, in spite of the risks, her calm will rub off to her mates. So both types of characters will help each other to benefit from the different environments they roam.
When Alexandra walks with Bluebell in a lead rope with a saddle pad on her back she is still somewhat jumpy, does not like fluttering things hanging on her back without an acceptable explanation. A jumpy horse is a dangerous horse, but a careful horse is a horse to trust, so if we can turn “jumpy” into “careful” she will be fine.
We don’t have a round pen yet (it’s on the list) but Bluebell responds well to a small-version-join-up-procedure in the small area in front of the stable. As soon as pressure is released and Alexandra turns her back to Bluebell and walks away, Bluebell follows. So it’s not that she doesn’t understand the work, it’s just that she needs to know the difference between a mountain lion and a saddle pad. Yeah you go on and laugh, but for a careful but brave horse nothing is taken for granted, better safe than sorry, a trait proven by natural selection during millions of years. The same natural selection that made horses like Windflower cool enough to graze among lurking predators, because what’s the deal if you are safe but always hungry, at some point you must take a chance.
Yesterday Alexandra got frustrated, so I said why don’t you try to saddle Windflower, what if we make Bluebell a little jealous. Windflower is a little too young to carry a rider, she’s just two years old this spring, but she can perfectly well carry a treeless saddle without a rider.
So Alexandra frankly saddled her up and even put some weight in the stirrups without a trace of dislike from Windflower’s point of view, I really had no doubt but my lower jaw dropped to the ground anyhow. Bluebell was impressed too, she walked up to sniff on the saddle and Rosie looked curious. We repeated the procedure later the same afternoon and Alexandra walked Windflower around the stable front yard, Windflower looking cool like a cavalry veteran.
Afterwards there was an apple party, all horses invited. Windflower got very popular among her friends, We’ll see how Bluebell responds to that, perhaps there are advantages about carrying human things on your horseback anyway?
Today after school Alexandra brought up Windflower from the pasture, put on the saddle again and together they took a walk around the winter corral, easy like a piece of cake. If every horse was as cool as Windflower cars would never have been invented in the first place.