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March 12, 2017: The Horse Life: Happiness, Play, and Horse/Human Interaction

The other day I wrote about horse happiness. Today I furthered my thoughts on this matter as I was talking with Susan Harris, a Level Four Centered Riding instructor and my mentor.

I told her the story about Raudi’s big adventure. This happened yesterday. We were heading towards the Murphy Road turnoff when Raudi saw activity happening down at the trailhead/intersection. There was a Prius, a blue van, a few dogs, and a handful of fat tire bicyclists hanging out. I stayed put as she walked towards them, stopped, walked forward, stopped, walked forward. When she finally ascertained that they were not going to harm her, she marched on over to where the bicyclists were hanging out. She first touched the Prius, got a treat, next touched the van, got a treat.

I talked with the bicyclists a bit and then told one to lift her front bicycle tire off the ground. She picked it up and Raudi went right over to it and started spinning it with her nose. One of the bicyclists asked me how I taught her to do this. I explained to him that I chunked the task down, took it one step at a time.

After talking a bit more, Raudi and I headed down toward Ridgerunner, and turned back around at the road intersection. We rode back to the corner where the riders were still there. Again Raudi stopped, walked forward, stopped, walked forward. When finally, she ascertained that the bicyclists were not going to harm her, she marched on over to where they were hanging out. I gave her a treat and we moved on. She was switching her tail because she wanted to stay put.

I didn’t think too much about what happened. But my telling this story to Susan was a catalyst for a lengthy conversation about the importance of creativity and play, particularly with horses. And yes, this is the missing link. Too often horse people are intent on getting the horse to do what they think it should be doing. And too often the horse has no say in the matter. It’s all command based. After, there is no sense of self-satisfaction.

I have never, ever had a clinician before today acknowledge the importance of play in horse/human interaction. I wonder why this is.

It was a play day here, mostly because it was so cold and the wind was blowing so hard. (Again). Pete plowed the arena yesterday, and today we finished setting up the March course. It’s Raudi and Hrimmi and my kind of course – lots of moving around, very little focus on footwork.

I first got Tyra out and we worked on something new, scent training. I repeatedly tossed my glove ahead of her and had her find it. I then let her know she did the right thing by using the clicker and after rewarded her with a treat. I then put the glove under a cone and had her find it. She really enjoyed this. After, we went for a walk – she’s doing great at staying out of my space. I found a rubber duck toy on the walk – I am going to use this to train her further. Who knows, Tyra may someday save a life.

I next did agility with Hrimmi – she spent a lot of time just checking things out because Pete and I were working on the course. She had a great time picking up and throwing the cones around. I am going to do a special course with her tomorrow – I may have Tyra find the glove and have Hrimmi hand it to me.

Lastly, I did some agility with Raudi. She really likes the scary corner, which is between two snow walls. She can get up a good trot going through it.

All the mares like the arena space and are equating it with a good time. It’s difficult getting Hrimmi to leave.

Everything we did, we did in the spirit of play. All, including me, had a wonderful time. I sensed that the ponies were really happy. I was happy. The horse/human happiness equation was most certainly in balance.

Next; 72. 3/13/17: Giddy Up

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