After bringing Jean-Luc home, and watching his introduction to the heard go far better than expected on Monday, I rested him on Tuesday. I figured he would use the time to really get to know his buddies, and I had made plans weeks ago to attend a local play with friends anyway.
Wednesday was Jean-Luc’s third real day on the farm and I had just received my new Oster brushes in the mail, along with his Starfleet uniform (burgundy rope halter) – it was time to work. When I arrived at the barn, Jean-Luc was hanging near the fence. He really likes people because he’s been trained, up until this point, that people equal sugary horse treats. This is a habit no one at the barn is particularly fond of and I expect it will take some time to reprogram his brain. Regardless, I was thrilled to find him waiting at the gate when I arrived.
Quickly, I popped into the tack room to grab him an apple (cutting someone off cold turkey is rough after all) then I made my way over to the gate. He anxiously took the apple and easily let me walk in, fumble with his new rope halter and walked unceremoniously inside the barn where I tied him up and begin brushing him. I knew I would be a little distracted yesterday since my husband, Austin, decided to come meet Jean-Luc. He has never spent any time around horses and was happy to learn a thing or two.
I handed Austin my new Oster curry brush and explained how to use it. In retrospect, I wish I had taken more time to work with Jean-Luc on the lead rope, rather than rushing him in to the barn. I know that I cruised passed a bad habit that needs worked on. He bobs his head and is pushy on the line. What I should have done was correct the action with several quick jerks to his halter making him back up, stand in place quietly and repeat until he would walk calmly by my shoulder. However, today is a new day and those actions are absolutely in the agenda.
Anyway, after getting Jean-Luc in the barn and giving him a rub down, Liz arrived with a lunge line and whip in tow.
“Let’s see what he can do in the arena,” she said.
Inside the barn is a small round pen made from dusty red metal gates. The sod on the floor is perfect moving around in. When you’re as clumsy as I, you tend to like places with soft landings. Liz, took Jean-Luc’s lead and showed me what she was looking for.
“Line your shoulder up with his shoulder, making a forty-five degree angle. Point in the direction you want him to go and give him a cluck,” she said. She made it look easy, and I keep reminding myself just how long she’s been at this.
Eventually, it was my turn. Liz handed over the thick brown lunge line, at the end of it, my Jean-Luc. She then passed off the lunge whip and basically told me to have fun. I was nervous. Could I do this? How many ways will I screw this up? What am I am even asking Jean-Luc to do? Man, he’s big.
All these thoughts began racing through my mind, and looking back on it, I should have taken a moment to collect myself. I should have really focused on the purpose of being there. Yesterday, my signals were confused and awkward because, well I was confused and awkward! Eventually, our barn owner (for the purpose of this blog we will refer to her as Barn Momma, or BM). She is the person who taught Liz much of what she knows, stepped in – and boy was I grateful.
BM is amazing. She’s five-foot nothing and cute as a button, and a silver fox to boot. But don’t let that fool you, she is also a nonverbal communication guru. Impressive doesn’t even cover it. BM asked me to retrieve her shorter lung whip she referred to as a “carrot stick” and showed me how to use it. Body position and an almost psychic connection is what she said helped her get a very stubborn Jean-Luc to perform.
I did feel a little better when after working with my horse, BM determined he may have never been introduced to the methods of teaching she was using. (Australian Horseman Clinton Anderson, and the school of teaching nearly everyone at the barn prescribes to, teaches that horse are inherently lazy. Only after watching several of his videos can I say that he tends to effectively utilize rest as the animal’s reward. When a horse doesn’t do what he is asking, he adds pressure and various other techniques to assert his rank as number one in the herd of two.) BM continued working with Jean-Luc for nearly a half hour before handing him back over to me.
I wish I could say that the rest of the evening went much better, and that I picked up on the lesson quickly – cannot. These things take time, and practice. It’s only after digesting everything that I can say I’m prepared to give it another go today. Today, I know what my cues need to be and result in. However, just because I understand what I was doing wrong yesterday, doesn't mean it's going to be perfect. The work will be much more focused, though, and begin from the moment I catch my horse to lead him to the barn. #Engage!
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.
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