Home > Trip > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2013 > Daily Dispatch #22

January 22, 2013: Ask a Mare, Tell a Gelding

There are days when I get to thinking that I know nothing, absolutely nothing, and then even less than nothing about the mind-set of horses. Sometimes this is in public venues, like riding arenas. My horse misbehaves and my mind goes blank. And sometimes this is in private venues, like my very own yard. My horse misbehaves and my mind goes blank.

At such times, I’ve considered selling all the horses and buying a lifetime supply of yarn and needles. This is never just a passing thought. I would love to be able to knit my own wool socks. Then once I got the hang of this, I would not err. It’s also near impossible to mess up the mind of a sock.

Siggy stands still as Pete trims a branch on the trail

I’ve also considered writing a book and calling it Imperfect Horsemanship. It would be about what I and others don’t know about horses. This probably wouldn’t go over very well – readers don’t want to know what someone doesn’t know, but rather what they do know. This, I know.

I was humbled today by Mr. Siggi, who when I was attempting to walk him in tandem with Hrimfara, got away from me – repeatedly. He ran back to the driveway gate a few times, and then finally plunged into the deep snow that parallels the road. He then ran uphill a ways, this on the far side of the cedar fence that parallels our property. I went after him, and actually had him in hand a few times. But he repeatedly jerked the line out of my hands and ran back uphill. The snow was deep, and the side of my knee was sore, so finally, I gave up, leaving poor Mr. Siggi standing a few hundred yards from his buddies.

I wasn’t going to let Mr. Siggi ruin my day. I got Signy out, and walked her and Hrimmi around our loop. Then I got Tinni out, and rode him bareback around the loop. Then I got Signy and Raudi out, and went down to Murphy Road and back. (I ponied Raudi).

I was finishing my last ride and turning into the driveway when I noted that Mr. Siggi had, in a manner of speaking, come home. He was standing next to the hitching post, and eating the hay I’d put out for Signy and Raudi. I looked over at the fence – none of the rails were broken. He had most likely figured out that he could get the hay by taking the fence line to the road and heading up the driveway. Smart horse. Smarter than I give him credit for being.

It was as I was putting him away that the phrase “Tell a gelding, ask a mare,” came to mind. After, something in my head clicked, meaning I better understood our disconnect. I get along well with the two mares and one filly because I ask them nicely to do what I want them to do. Today, for example, I asked Signy and Raudi, through the use of my body language, to walk fast, and pick their way around the icy spots in the road. Both were really wanting to take off. When Raudi, who was bargy, stepped back a bit, I praised her, and she snorted. I did not at any point demand that she or Signy do anything.

Earlier, I’d told Tinni to go slow and pick his way around the ice. I learned a long time ago that if I ask him to do anything, he won’t listen. It’s still a bit of a give and take relationship. Sometimes, and mostly on trails, I do listen to him. When his head goes up and he starts chuffing, there is most likely a bear in the area. I never call this into question.

With Mr. Siggi – my asking him to do anything is laughable. I need to do as I do with Tinni, and need to tell him what to do.

There are not a whole lot of trainers out there who make a gender-related distinction. I think that a gender-related distinction is actually legitimate. And I’m most definitely going to give the matter more thought.

Next: 23. 1/23/13: Peaches, etc