For the last few days, we’ve been sectioning off areas of the front yard for the horses to graze. There’s little pasture left in the field, but outside there’s plenty; so we decided to let the horses eat it instead of mowing. Since the area that’s sectioned off now is a square, it makes a nice “round pen” type area (even though it isn’t, by any means, round…), and I thought it might be a good idea to do some liberty work with Molly. I greatly prefer liberty work over lunging. When lunging, for example, the lunge line always gets in your way, it’s harder to change directions, you have to make sure the horse doesn’t step on or over the line, and the horse can pull against you…not to mention the struggle of winding it up quickly AND properly while your horse walks toward you when you’re finished. But mostly, I just love the freedom in knowing you’re in complete control of your horse’s every move, even though you’re not attached to the other end of his rope. To me, it’s fascinating to be able to tell your horse to stand in a particular spot, and be able to move him there without leading him.
I should begin by saying that, since Destiny and Molly were put together, we haven’t been able to figure out who the leader. Destiny nips at Molly, and Molly kicks at Destiny. Also, Molly gets jealous very easily, so if I’m leading Destiny or riding her, Molly will be right there. One day a couple of months ago, I actually did get kicked, just barely, because I didn’t have a whip or a crop on me to discourage her when she suddenly decided to kick at Destiny. (More recently, Destiny actually started kicking at Molly, and now it appears that Destiny is the leader and Molly usually seems to leaves her alone)
I’m not one to hold a grudge against a horse, but I guess I must have been holding one (however slight) against Molly since the day she kicked me; because when I took her into the pen to work with her (I always assumed she’s been free lunged before, but not by me), I expected her to misbehave at least a little bit, at least pin her ears at me or something, trying to convince me that she’s the leader, not me.
However, from the moment I brought her in, to the moment I let her out, Molly was perfect. She bucked a couple of times, but it was in excitement, not anger; her ears stayed forward, with the inside one toward me, the whole time. It only took her one change of direction to understand my method of communication (I believe she’s trained by the parelli method, and I use Clinton Anderson’s style, which is similar but not exactly the same), and she tried her best and listened to me 100%. She even stayed in the gait I asked for, without me having to nag her to keep her moving. She’s a relatively laidback horse, so I was very surprised. When we stopped, she walked right up to me and followed me everywhere, even though Destiny was calling for her.
It just goes to show: it’s rarely, if ever, the horse that’s the problem. Almost any problem a horse has, can be addressed with a bit of time and training. In this case, Molly just needs to figure out that I’m the leader and I don’t give up, and I think she may have figured that out already. “Every time you handle your horse, you are training him. Whether it is training him to listen to you, or not to.” She’s probably picked up a lesson in my stubbornness from the many times I’ve chased her around until she let me put fly spray or a fly mask on her! Yet, in this case, it’s Molly that taught me a lesson: persevere, keep trying, and it will work out. Training your horse isn’t an instant miracle fix; it’s an ongoing production of baby steps that lead up to success, and it’s very rewarding. I’m not saying Molly isn’t going to threaten to kick at Destiny while I’m leading her or outsmart me in the future, but we’re one step closer to solving that problem, and I couldn’t be more proud of them both!