Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bridge



Thought id take a few snaps of grey waiting to be caught in her paddock..this is the face that greats me every morning as i walk to the barn

A little patience goes a long way especially dealing with horses....although i love them,lets face the are not extremely intelligent when compared to say a dog or an elephant. They need time to figure things out and they are prey animals which naturally makes them cautious. You can never rush them through anything otherwise your bound to pay for it in training somewhere down the track. if you just take time with little things it always seems to help speed things up in the long run.
For the first time today, the grey had to walk across a bridge. Which to us humans seems a pretty easy task. But to horses, it is a frightening new challenge. Especially the bridge at my house. Which consists of planks of wood layed down over a metal frame, with a stream running about 2metres below it, but only about 4 metres long and 2metres wide. No sides except for a handrail and when you walk across it it makes a big thumping hollow echoing sound, the planks also move up slightly when you step on the end.
The days routine is usually catch grey , lead her to open the paddock gate of the domestic horses, so they can trot up to the barn for the day. Today getting to the domestic horse paddock involved crossing the bridge. Grey was good calmly walking behind until she got to the bridge. Where when she took the first step it thudded hollowly. she froze, nostril flaring and eyes wide at this unexpected threat. This is where i love the wild horses. Instead of leaping about and being idiotic like some hot blooded horses would. She stood unmoving and assessed the situation. slowly sniffing and snorting at the edge of the bridge.
i waited, the best thing a horse can do is try to see and identify what it is that they worried about. The worst thing a trainer can do is not give them the time to do this. Rush them and scare them and anything they come across in the future they will react as if it a scary monster. Usually trying to gallop past or refusing to go near whatever they are afraid of.
Grey sniffed, snorted and pawed. Trying to see if this was a safe thing to be walking across, she obviously had her doubts about my judgement. i let her do this. she can investigate to her hearts content, but is never allowed to try evasive behaviour e.g looking away, pulling back or side stepping. As long as she was looking at the bridge or attempting to walk across it i left her alone, to let her know this was good behaviour. It took a few minutes before she took the next step. But she took it calmly. i hate that feeling horses get when you know they're just going to try and bolt past whatever it is that worries them, grey never acted like this. when she got to halfway she stopped again and spent another minute deciding whether she could make it to the other side. this always makes me hold my breath as the bridge is narrow with bad footing, so if a horse wants to spin at this point and go back the way they came its not going to end up well. She decided she could in fact make it, and proceeded step by step, until we were safe and sound on the opposite bank.
Two minutes later we had let the horses out of the paddock and followed them back to the barn, grey just plodded back over the bridge like she'd been doing it her whole life. Although it took a little while to get over the bridge to start with,because she had been allowed time to reassure herself the bridge was safe she didn't have any problems going back across later. This is also how you build trust between horse and rider.Moral of the story, take the time to let them figure things out so nothing becomes a big deal, it will save you time in the long run.