Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2014 > Daily Dispatch #119

April 30, 2014: Horse Training: What I do, and don’t do well

There are some horse-related things I do well, and some horse related things I don’t do very well. Today illustrated well where my capabilities lie. Early on, Pete and I trailered Raudi and Lifre over to the Shrock Road area, where we engaged in a variety of activities. This was at Terri Mielke’s place. She’s the one who loaned us Lifre.

Pete first gave a highlining/packing demonstration. A very receptive audience of six were in attendance. The group consisted of Terri, her husband Bob, and a handful of horse people.

On trips, Pete and I tend to work together, but separately, meaning we have taken to doing whatever needs doing, in conjunction with the other. This saves time and keeps us from getting in one another’s way. For example, he puts up the highline in the late afternoons, and I take it down in the mornings. And I take the packs off the horses in the evenings and he puts them on them in the mornings.

I let Pete take center stage in giving this particular talk/lecture. There was a time when my nose would have seriously been bent out of shape in letting him be at the forefront of any horsey activity. I am now quite content to sit back and watch him hold court. This is because I am pleased to have what so many women lack – a partner who shares this common interest. As I thought, let ‘er rip Pete.

Everyone present was very enthused about the subject matter in question. Deb Moore is THE local horse person. I stood back and watched her look at the highline, and then begin to talk about how she might make modifications. She did the same when the pack saddle was placed on Lifre’s back. She hopped right to the latter, and began adjusting straps, buckles, and pads. I found myself wishing that I was able to see how such things are fine tuned. However, I commended myself for having surrounded myself with the likes of Pete and Deb.

Next, farrier Deb Averitt, with her assistant, set to shoeing Lifre and Terri’s horse Joe. Deb, 50ish, has been shoeing horses for twenty years. She was, in fact, the first farrier to work on Raudi. This was ten years ago, when Raudi was living out in Chugiak. (Raudi, tied to the trailer, watched the proceedings.) I observed that her assistant hopped right in and picked up where Deb left off when Deb took breaks. This, to me, was like watching a carefully choreographed dance. I found myself wishing that I could shoe horses, but as with highlining and packing, I lack that more practical bent. However, I commended myself for having connections with farriers who can more readily do such things.

Next, Pete and I went for a ride with Terri, who rode her horse Joe. Terry and Pete are both equally comfortable on horses. As we did what mainly turned out to be a road ride, they talked about a variety of things, like the now mucky trail conditions. Me, I was quiet – my focus was on assisting attentive Raudi in dealing with gunshots, reindeer, pastured horses, cars, and barking dogs. Raudi really didn’t need an assist. I found myself wishing that I was a more confident rider. However, I commended myself for having opted to ride with those who refuse to let such things faze them.

Next, it was my turn to shine. Upon arriving back at Terri’s place, she got out some Mylar balloons. I’d seen them in her house, and right then what came to mind was what Terri later suggested – that we use them as a training tool. Terri works at a local school, so she has access to these kinds of things. She first showed them to Joe, who was initially suspicious, but quickly calmed down.

It was then Raudi and my turn. I decided to do a chunking down exercise. I took the balloons in hand, and simultaneously showed them to Raudi and said “touch!” Raudi did as asked, and was then given a treat. She then resumed grazing. I then bounced the balloons around her legs and passed them under her belly. Raudi didn’t seem to mind this, which was why I next got in the saddle and this time, had hand me Terri the balloons. I rode Raudi around the yard, balloons and streamers in hand, and then dismounted.

Unbeknownst to all present, I was elated. It occurred to me that I’ve been working with Raudi now for over ten years, in part desensitizing her to various things. For example, I once put a lawn chair on her, and a dog in the lawn chair. There have also been instances of inadvertent desensitization, like the time we were going through brush, and she got a neighbor’s hose wrapped around her rear leg.

I would not profess to be a horse trainer. This is the domain of others, the best of whom do this, and do this well. I have merely trained my own horses. This is what I most enjoy doing. And I would not have it any other way.

Next: 120. 5/1/14: Dog and Pony Show