Communication 101

Horses are world class communicators.  Anyone who has spent time with horses knows.  While some are very vocal with whinnies, nickers, and squeals, others are relatively quiet.  All are masters of non-verbal communication.  A squinty eye with pinned back ears – I am not happy with what you are doing!  Eyes wide and unblinking with ears perked forward – danger, danger Will Robinson!

Ike is the tall, silent type.  I can count on two fingers the number of times he has whinnied in my presence.  He relies more on facial expressions and ear movement to let me know his feelings and boy, was he in a mood today.  Not his best photo but you can see the ‘tude.  Maybe it was because he didn’t get to see me yesterday?  Perhaps I did not doll out the treats fast enough or give him all the attention.  Most likely, it was close to dinner time and I made him wait until after our lesson was over.  Lots of ear pinning and head swinging every time I was in his sight line.  A handful of oats tamed the beast while I tacked.

It was not an ideal spring day to have a lesson.  In fact, it felt more like early March with temperatures in the high 40s and windy.  The clouds were out as well and produced some spinkles while we rode (so no new undersaddle photos to share).  With less than 3 weeks until the debut, we need the practice and you never know what the weather will do on show day.  Ike was feeling fresh so he was very much in front of my leg.  He has had a tendency to pop into the trot if I use too much leg – even with a suggestion of trot today he was popping up.  Do over!  Do over!  We were finally in sync at the trot; the down transitions, which used to be like running into a brick wall, now flow up and into the bridle.  Progress.  Centerlines could not have been better.  I thought we were communicating well…

Then it was time for canter.  The left lead was balanced and controlled and Ike got it on the first try.  The right lead, well, ah, you see, {patience, patience, patience} we were a bit of a hot mess.  Poor Ike was disunited in our first attempts, left lead behind, right lead in the front.  All I can say is that it felt like a was riding a 8 month old Great Dane puppy with legs flailing every which way.  You could tell that he was trying so hard to do what I asked, but he just couldn’t get all the body parts aligned at the right time.  Time to regroup.  I had to ask myself if I was being clear in my request.  Back to trot to gain some confidence, down the long side, half halt, step into the right stirrup, feed off onto a circle, squeeze the rein, rock the right hip, left leg slightly back, and TA DA!  Success.  Not nearly as balanced as the left, but we all have our better sides.

We ended the lesson introducing the concept of a walk pirouette to the right to help Ike shift his weight to the inside hind.  Well, it is a work in progress.  One good step and then out swings the hind end.  We try again.  Alison, where is your weight?  Shift to correct place, two more good steps and we are done.  Note to self – I must communicate at the right moment and in the correct way for Ike to succeed.

Back in the saddle tomorrow.  18 days.


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