Lots of horses, well almost all of them, like to revert to the flight mode when they see a fellow horse kicking up it’s heels. They want to take part and at times mirror the reaction of their fellow equine that is playing or misbehaving via the opposite side of the arena. It’s acceptable for a horse to be a horse, nonetheless. We should encourage them to be expressive and comfortable in their own mind and body, not forced into what we think they should or shouldn’t be doing. But, we must allow them to be expressive in a safe, appropriate manner. Which means, the horse should stay with it’s rider/handler, coming back quickly to their aids or cues.
Yesterday, I had a test of this with Reason. A fellow boarder was taking a lovely gallop down the path that ends up parallel to the arena. I was given a heads up to her coming, so I prepared myself in the best position possible. Before the warning came, Reason was already on alert, his ears up and focused in the direction of the galloping horse, although he could not see it yet.
This was to be a test of Reason’s respect towards the handlers aids and overall presence. I was anticipating this, I was unsure of what his reaction was to be. But, I stayed calm. There were two fellow horses in the arena, which I wasn’t concerned about in regards to their reaction. I actually thought that having other horses in the arena which would probably remain relatively calm during this encounter, would keep Reason’s own flight reaction to a less than exuberant adventure. I can’t tell you if it really did just that, without doing multiple field tests, but I think it helped.
As the horse quickly came into view, Reason’s head, already up, became even more alert. His tail went up, he did a quick turn and snorted. That wasn’t bad at all! He was a bit fired up thereafter, but I was pleased and this was an all acceptable reaction to this encounter. The trouble though, followed.
Although the encounter of the galloping horse, was very exciting for Reason and he exuded a sane reaction, he had little patience to stand there and not do something. His lack of patience, escalated to needing something to hold in his mouth. Naughty pony! He went for the rope, he went for anything close to him. This was enough stimuli for one day, he was good, but now he was a ticking time-bomb. As I exited the arena, I wasn’t short of correcting his naughtiness. Mouthy ness is not a form of expression… My corrections, did little to relax him altogether. Sometimes you have to correct and move on. I did, paying no attention to him as I walked focused to the tie-rack. Once there, he was more relaxed and once tied, back to normal. He stood their quiet.
I didn’t want to have to get tough on him regarding this new encounter and how well he did with it, but unacceptable behavior is well, unacceptable. I’m very much taking a more direct route, trying to be as clear as possible with what I expect out of Reason.
Now that that’s over, we move forward.
I’ve been doing a lot of case studies, which I document in my head (not very precise I know) regarding Dressage horses and riders.
My aim for Reason once the day comes; A nice loose, relaxed, happy, enthusiastic ride/horse. I so admire Carl Hester and the work he does with his horses. I’ve found a fascination with the training behind the horse, the training that created the horse you see in the show ring and Carl Hester is for sure one rider and trainer that is exempts what Dressage is.