This afternoon, I went out with the intention of riding through our bends and walk-halt transitions since it's muddy. But when I went out to see Joey, he was girth-sore and sleepy, and I remembered that yesterday, after our ride, I had made a mental note that we would take today off from riding since Joey was likely to be sore. Sill me. :)
But I still wanted to spend some quality time with my boy. So I went down to the second paddock and grabbed the blue tarp off the fence and we played with that for a few minutes, eating cookies, and just enjoying being together.
Then I got the grand idea to get out of the paddocks and take a walk on our [only] trail; we hadn't been out in a while. So I grabbed Joey's rope-halter; he came eagerly to have it put on, wanting to know what we were going to do next. We went out the gate; and from the way he "settled in", I knew he thought we were walking laps. :P I grinned and changed the course on him, going around to the backyard. It was a little scary at first (he thought we were going to fall into the pool). We inspected grass, acorns, rotting timber, leaf piles, rotting hay, and old plastic wagon, oil drums, and my dad's goods trailer (ya know: one of those small covered trailers that you can't put horses in?). The trailer was a little spooky, but we managed.
Instead of going down our regular trail, though, we suddenly felt adventurous and turned off of the trail and headed into the woods, down the leafy hill, trying our best to find spaces between the trees and shrubs big enough for a certain large bottom *ahem*ahem*. Joey was just as interested in exploring these new woods as I was; yet, he stayed calm. He had to figure out how and when to reach each hoof up and over in turn in order to get over a tree branch from time to time. And he got his legs into some situations in which I was expecting him to panic; but he never did. Instead, he either calmly worked his way through his predicament, or stood there, patiently waiting for me to get him unstuck.
A couple of these times included there being too much slack in the lead rope, so he would accidentally step on it, pinning his nose to the floor. Each time, he would only sigh and calmly back up, releasing his face. Then I got an idea: why did I need to hold the lead rope when he was following right by my side? Sure, there was the risk that he would spook, bolt, and either run into a tree, or step in a hole and hurt himself; but he had already handled so many other new situations with success on that walk that I decided to risk it (always consider all of the possible risks before doing something out of the ordinary with a horse!). I knotted his lead rope into his mane, leaving enough loose so that I could grab him if I needed to, but not enough so that he was stepping on it. It worked: he followed close behind as we explored our way down the leafy hill, deeper into the strange woods.
Of course, soon we came to the old barbed wire fence that divides the properties. The fence is down in disrepair and buried well under the ground in some places -- Joey and I could have walked across with no problems. But, alas, a large tree had fallen close on the other side of this, and I thought that even the smaller branches looked too solid for Joey to navigate. (And I've always, always had a fear of barbed wire when it's around horses; I've learned the hard way to always expect the worst and the unexpected; especially when it comes to barbed wire fencing.)
So we turned around and headed back to the familiar trail. The only exploring Joey felt like doing after that was of the old, dead grass along the trail. So I went on ahead, trying to see if there were more hidden trails big enough for the both of us away back in the trees. After a while, I threw a glance over my shoulder to check on him, and, much to my surprise, I saw him trot right on past me down the trail, head and tail up, looking like he was searching for me. Suddenly, I thought of how the trail dead-ended at the pond a little ways up, and I came out from "hiding" and he came right to me.
Calm walk home, except for a part where he was once again afraid that we were going to fall in the pool. (I really hope someday we can work through that fear; but I have a feeling it's going to take a long while. :/ )
Aaaand pictures are still not working on blogger. -_-
So I guess to finish up, I want to share something that my friend Mosie told me:
"The difference is (when working with horses) is the intention. It is not about the goal, making sure the horse is "correct", or forcing "fun/activity/etc" - its about the relationship and communication you make on the way. The thing is, the simplicity of it is what makes it so complicated. Children, with their innocence and pure love for the horse and who they are when with the horse, hold the key of trust without trying. The simple connection they have is something people work to get back for years. They automatically possess the "missing piece". Think of yourself, when you were younger - that little girl, the horse-crazy girl who simply loved horses for their grace and beauty (in every meaning of the word), she did not think about what "needed to be done". And she was fulfilled. She was natural with her friend. This is all we need you see... the pure love, the great bliss of simply enjoying each other... this can be the only key. At least that is what I see."
Again, you can view Mosie working through these methods/ideas with her mare Annie at her YouTube page here, or get in touch with her via Facebook here. She's always ready to talk horses, and she's super friendly and encouraging! :)
Thanks or reading; and, as always, I hope you decide to come back for more.