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April 2, 2013: Proud Horses, Proud Owner

Yesterday I rode Raudi and ponied Signy. Pete followed, leading Hrimmi. She’s been doing very well lately, stopping less and moving forward more. Pete and I both think this is an instance of cognitive development. She is finally mentally ready to do what she’s being asked to do. This is not an instance of having to comply, but rather one in which she agreed to go along with our very informal training methods. Come spring, when the grass is again green, Hrimmi will again be less attentive. But at least she’ll then have some idea about our expectations in relation to ground training.

We trained Raudi and Siggi by having them walk on lead individually. It was very difficult. I did not then acknowledge what I knew, but had not internalized. Horses are herd animals and they are more relaxed and receptive to learning (particularly when young) when they’re with their buddies. We’ve not yet taken Hrimmi out alone, and it will be some time before we do so. It’s not something that we actually need to do. Why force the issue? If the clock was turned back, and Raudi and Siggi were again Hrimmi’s age, I’d find a horse for them to walk alongside. My model is the Icelandic horse farm, where they tend to work with the horses in groups. It’s not unusual to see a group of eight or so horses going out for a ride. The one advantage to having taken Raudi and Signy out alone when they were young is that now neither sees this as any big deal. And I can, when out on trail or road rides, turn Raudi in the opposite direction and continue down trail away from other horses.

Yesterday – we were ambling along and I had an idea. I asked Pete to hand me Hrimmi’s lead, which he did. I then handed him my crop, since I was now holding reins and two lead lines. I was

now ponying two horses. Hrimmi was on my left, Signy was on my right, and Raudi was in the middle. Pete followed, and with the crop, tapped Hrimmi on the rear when she lollygagged, and he stroked her on the chest when she barged ahead.

I was impressed with the fact that the horses quickly settled down and focused on the activity at hand. All moved forward nicely. And all seemed to put their little heart and souls into this seemingly insignificant exercise. This was a memorable outing, and one that I won’t soon forget.

When things go well (and admittedly, this is not always the case) I tend to find myself reliving the experience. I also think some about my philosophy of horse training. No, I am not a horse trainer. And I will never, ever be a horse trainer. I’m instead a writer. And as I’ve said in other dispatches, I have finally accepted the fact that this is my lot in life. Having horses gives me something to write about when I exhaust certain subjects. (Imagine it, 365 dispatches on Larry the Cable Guy).

I do have a philosophy of training, however. Horse training is a personal, individual, and spiritual exercise, one that’s based on where you and your horse are physically and psychically. It begins when you meet your horse for the first time, and ends when you part company with that horse. Training is woven into your life, as is your horse. Communication and trust are central to good training. Good training also involves determining what your relationship with your horse is (and vice-versa) rather than exclusively what you want the horse to do.

My friend Heather has one horse. She’s had Rio about eight years now. He was two when she got him. It was (as it was Raudi and I) love at first sight. She has, since day one, been focused on training Rio to be a reliable mount. It’s supposedly taken her a long time because life (family, job, relationships) has been a constant. I say supposedly because most people back their horses at a very early age. But Heather has persisted. And now she’s finally riding him. The two are tight, and this is as it should be.

I would, of course, like to dwell on yesterday’s success. But I’m instead going to move forward. The sun’s again shining brightly. Time to go out and interact with the five best horses in the whole world.

Next: 93. 4/3/13: Death of Photoshop