06.08.23: Shadows Move Quickly

Yesterday started out with our first Remuda session. Apparently a remuda is a herd of horses. So we meet in smaller groups to discuss the previous day, and go over things. It was a really nice gathering, sitting up by tack room 2. Jesse was our Remuda leader, and we had some really good discussions about our observations of our horse’s horsenality, and our first round of me and my shadow games. People were bringing up some really good points about the game and about their horses, it was a very good time to be able to puzzle out the day before a little better.

After about an hour, we headed into the lodge for class time for the day. Don was teaching more on reading behavior. It started out with a chart that outlined the stages of behavior for horses, starting with the left brain side with the excessive aggression all the way to the far right brained side, with aggression or a catatonic state. The center of the chart starting from curious/bored, to confident, and just edging into unconfident is the ideal learning state.

The second chart outlined the parts of the horse and how they would look in a left brained horse vs a right brained horse. It was interesting because many times the states are similar, but yet its the larger picture that lets you know whether the horse is left brained or right brained. We watched several clips on the TV that really displayed the various states of the horse, from catatonic to extroverted aggression. The extroverted aggression clip was parts of some work that Pat did with a breeding horse named Parade Ground. Apparently Parade Ground went so far to the right brained aggressive side that he had in the past bitten handlers fingers off. As a result, they welded a twisted wire bit into the horse’s mouth right on the sides of his halter, and the bit had been there for two years. They would also muzzle him up every time they took him out, and it took four handlers to take him anywhere, two in the front, and two in the back with baseball bats. Why anyone would want to breed him, doesn't make sense. At some point along the way, someone decided to call Pat, and he was finally able to help the poor stallion. We didn't watch very much of the clip at all, I'd really be interested in seeing more if we can at some point.

After we finished up viewing the examples and filling in the charts, we headed over to the coverall for some demos. Three horses were brought in one at a time, and Don took them each for us to decide what type of behavior the horse was exhibiting. Each one was very different and subtle in their own way, and we were able to identify how each one should be handled with key cards that were on a key ring that were given to us.

After we finished with the horses, we did two simulations dealing with Matching and Mirroring the horse. The first one was a simulation for dealing with an extroverted horse. We chose a partner, and one of us was the horse first, and the other person was the handler. We faced each other, and clasped hands in front of each other so we could have a connection. The "horse" had to "freak out" as an extroverted horse would. The job of the person was to match and mirror the behavior of the "horse" and then add just a little bit more energy to it.

Being the "horse" first, I quickly discovered that once the human started freaking out with me, it was twice as hard to maintain the energy and it was just not worth the effort to keep going. As the human, it was very important to stop all the energy as soon as the horse did, not a moment later or the horse would have a tendency to continue to freak out, or start back up again.

The second simulation was dealing with introverted horses. We paired up, and repeated the exercise, this time the horse had to be introverted, and it was the job of the human to attempt to draw them out. However, the trick is that force cannot be used. Using force on an introverted horse will cause them to "blow their popcorn" like a startled person in a scary movie.

Dealing with introversion requires a great deal of creativity, and the smallest actions are what will draw the horse out. Ignoring the horse and doing something else is a great way to spark curiosity. It also takes the pressure off the horse, which is important with a scared introverted horse. If they feel pressure of any kind, it causes them to clam up even further.

By that point it was lunch time and we were all ready for it. After lunch, I headed up to spent time with Roscoe. I worked on grooming him a bit, though he didn't want to stand very still for me at all. I worked a bit on his mane since it had gotten a bit snarly. After he got tired of that, we began to play Me and My Shadow again.

Again, he was very reluctant to go outside of the gate. I left the chain open for him, and he would approach the gate, and stop. I would wait with him for a while, and then gently ask him to move, it didn't matter to me which way. For a long time he would simply turn and circle back down to the bottom of his pen. He would stand with his head up often, looking down at the other horses. I would ask him to move on again, and we'd slowly make our way back up to the top of the pen and to the gate once more.

Finally he left the gate, and we were off! He walked in a hurry where ever he went, which is a big sign of unconfident behavior. He cannot stop and look at anything, other than stopping to graze whenever he finds nice grass. I don't mind that, so we spent a lot of time grazing. But when we weren’t' grazing, I was leaping through bushes, over ditches, hustling up hills and many number of other things that he thought were good ideas. We headed down the far side of the pens, and up by tack room 2 where he found the hill with a bit of grass on it. We headed into the trees, but eventually I asked him to come down again since it was heading up a path that was out of the way. He then headed up the hill that comes out at the playground fence line. We found lots of really nice grass up there, so we spent quite a while working our way down. We finally reached the bottom and he made a bee line straight into the playground gate. There were several other horses there so I am sure he was looking for companionship. We wandered our way though the playground finding the choicest bits of grass, and hardly looking at any of the obstacles.

I finally began asking him to play the games softly and slowly. We did very basic things before I began asking him to touch different things with his nose. He didn't seem to mind that so much at all, though I am sure that he was very unconfident still. We played around the big upright tires, and then wandered over to the flat tires and he hopped right up on that. All the while, the clouds down in the valley and all around us are gathering and blackening steadily. The wind finally began to kick up and everybody began to head for the pens.

The tack room ended up being a pretty popular place as it poured. Everybody crowded into the little room, and we all waited out the rain. Many people had simply run into the coverall since it was right along the way. A few people were still out playing, but not many at all. After the rain finally slowed, the temperature dropped considerably. I headed up to my cabin quickly to grab a dry long sleeve shirt and get my big rubber boots to combat the sticky mud. Roscoe was ready for his dinner so I fixed that, and then headed down for a nice hot shower.

Dinner was eaten in good company, with great discussions, as usual. After that I checked on Roscoe again, and then headed up to the cabin to chill out before bed. Its 43 this morning, and a bit damp from last night’s rains still. The high today is 63 with a low tonight of 45 and a chance of thunderstorms again. So it should be another nice day. Only sad thing is that so far, we haven't been able to see many stars at all as the cloud cover has been pretty thick at night.

Next Page: Thursday, August 24, 2006: Do Not Challenge Tables