I decided to play with Misty because she has been asking to play for the past week or so. She would pop over to me when I was playing with or catching or letting Blu go. She stares me down as soon as I pull in. In general, she hounded me until I finally caved today. It might be just what Blu needs, too; it’s time when I am present, but not focused on him at all.
I took a halter on a featherline and a strung carrotstick out, but I was planning on doing liberty only. It was important to me that she had 100% ability to leave at any point she needed to. The halter was just a test for me to make observations about. She immediately walked to me when I entered the pasture; she’d been hanging close to the front since I pulled up in the Barnkat. When I picked up the halter, she did not look away, and when I did not produce a treat she did not leave. I did approach and retreat with the halter for several minutes. She would draw to the halter and put her head under my arm, but she would keep her head tucked instead of aiming her nose into the halter. In the end, I put the halter on her as she was tucking her head in. Once it was going on, she was very cooperative—she did not look defeated, either. As soon as it was on, I took it off again, which seemed to surprise her.
At liberty, I just tested things out so that I can draw up a program for her. Throughout the testing, Misty had to walk away or look away several times. When this happened, I just turned away from her and waited. She did a lot of yawning and licking & chewing. When she left me, she would get so far away, look at me, and come back. She usually went to the front fence, but once she went to Connor. The further away I was from the fence/her, the faster she came back to me. If I smiled and asked her to come back to me faster, she would trot to me from whatever the distance. She cantered to me when she left me way in the back of the pasture. I like this about liberty. It is like a gage for me. I will know that we are getting better (I at being a leader and Misty at being a confident horse) when she does not leave so much and eventually not all.
Once I’d stood by her doing nothing for a few minutes, I tested out her extreme friendly game. I sensed more of the toleration vibe coming from her. At first, she had her head slightly above the withers, ears concerned. I put her head down with my hand and returned to zone 5. It was clear, though; her head could be down, but her face was uncomfortable. I think I might try having someone else stand by and swing the carrotstick and string around while I move her around.
Next, I tested out her lead by the tail. She put me in zone 5 just by me lifting my hand. That was very cool. She lead with just a few hairs for several steps and could even turn with those 5 hairs. That was even better. All that practice, but it was so long ago!
I did several spins at medium range, sending the forequarters away and then, if needed, pushing the hindend before drawing the frontend to me again. I also tried multiples and got to 3 before calling it good. We also did both directions. So great!
We did a few rears--not too many. That is all good.
I wanted to see where my starting point is for the next big thing I am adding to our repertoire: close range circles at liberty; it is time for this one. I started with the yoyo. I had to do a lot of waiting and adjusting the amount of energy I used for phase one--she could not go back smoothly, at first. For her comeback, she would trot back to me with a great expression. I want to see her get more confident about the first "yo."
I started with a super close range circle that was only one step on the allow. I also did some sideways around me in a circle--all an effort to build up the draw and focus on me. I got up to a 3/4 circle, today. I also did several changes of direction. It was a good start and I can see how it's going to grow.
The final big thing I did was mounting from a barrel. We were in my homemade arena. I went to the barrel and called her over. She got into position when I waved her butt over, but then she stepped forward. I felt weird about this because it did not look like she was trying evade me by her facial expression. I scooted down the board between the two barrels and she did not move. I got on, no problem. A loose dog spooked her and I ended up dismounting when it was safe. Misty chased me back to the barrel, and the whole thing was repeated. Aha! She thought I was asking for her zone 5 so I could lead by the tail! I lead her by the tail backward until she was lined up with me. No problem at all, no negative expressions. I got on again, but the dog showed up again, so I never really did anything while I rode.
One of the most striking things is how much she recalled and how much sensitivity was right at hand after all this time. I stopped trying to pop my eyes back in after the fifth time they exploded out. And so went my Misty session, aka, hounding-horse with a good memory session
Natural Horsewoman Out.