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May 21, 2012: Jokla

This afternoon I went over to Mariann and Dick Stoffel’s place. Mariann and I had previously agreed that I’d work with her on her Icelandic filly Jokla’s early training. (Jokla, translated, means “she who walks on glaciers fearlessly.” I was the one who named her, three years ago, shortly after her birth.) Actually, Jokla has already had informal training. Dick has often ridden her dam Karmen out on the trails and taken Jokla along. The two have handled her quite a bit, and Dick has often trimmed her feet.

Jokla has (seemingly) two sides to her. There is her brown eyed side, which is soft and gentle, and her blue eyed side, which is fearless and devil may care. When I arrived, Mariann was holding Jokla who had her blue eye on Dick. He was round penning Yukon, their baskir-curly appaloosa cross. I couldn’t help but laugh – Yukon is now shedding his thick, curly winter coat, making him look like something from the Flintstones era. And Dick, who’d been chasing the colt around for some time, was dressed in his skivvies and western boots.

I watched Dick for a bit, and then turned my attention to Jokla. She wasn’t going to be round penned today. Icelandic horses don’t take well to this because it

Mariann and Jokla
Mariann and Jokla

Dick made a beard out of Yokon's fur
Dick made a beard out of Yukon's fur

seems nonsensical to them. So Mariann and I are going to use the round pen as a playground of higher learning, that is as an obstacle course. This will enable Jokla to become better balanced, and enable her to focus on the task at hand – that is getting a better sense of where her feet are.

I have been to several TTeam clinics, and so subscribe to the belief that the most effective training occurs when one takes the horses’ point of view into consideration. This was why I didn’t immediately jump into Jokla’s space and asking her to do things like turn on the forehand and turn on her haunches. This can come later. Rather, I talked with Mariann for a bit, and then when Jokla was a bit more used to my voice and physical mannerisms, began doing body work, by first stroking her with the wand. The wand, which in some circles is called a dressage whip, is not used to punish, but rather is an extension of one’s hand. It’s used directly to calm a horse, and indirectly to politely ask the horse to move forward.

Jokla was accepting of long, firm, direct strokes, so I then did some body work on her. What was most interesting was that we began with a clamped tail (this is a sign of duress) and ended with one that was fairly loose (this is a sign of relaxation.)

I then reluctantly called it quits – this was a very tough call. Jokla may have been receptive to our moving on with her training. But then again, she may have had enough. Icelandic horses are very stoic, and tend to bottle up emotion. When finally, the pressure inside is too much, they sometime explode. And so, I ended our session on a very good note.

I’m looking forward to continuing work with this wonderful filly. Driving home, I again realized that my good fortune continues. I’m working on a daily basis with six, count ‘em, six Icelandic horses. How, I wonder, did I get so lucky? For me, this is like a dream come true.

A post script. All the horses here are doing well. And Hrimmi seems to be thriving. She now likes to hang back when I lead Signy into her pen, and then take off, running, leaping and bucking, up onto the adjacent hill. Rather than become annoyed by her impish antics, I simply laugh. I didn’t used to be this way. This must be hormonal.

Next: 165. 05/22/12: Little Horse, Big Plans