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Be prepared...

Arab gelding trotting at Pippsway Classical Natural Horsemanship Wellington Somerset near Devon

Today was a timely reminder that, no matter how many times I have done something with my horse, I must always be present in the moment, connected and focused. Without these fundamentals in place even the most simple of tasks can go very wrong indeed!

Normally when I arrive at the yard I consider what I will be doing that day and get all my things ready before I bring Bronson in. Today however, I arrived to find the tack room full of lovely folk and the offer of a coffee so instead happily sat drinking coffee and chatted for a while.

When I went to get Bronson in he wasn’t particularly impressed with my presence. He didn’t leave, just ignored me really, so I popped his head collar on and led him to the gate. I had Luke, my dog, with me as he loves to run in the field on the way up to get Bronson and I’ve worked in the past on training him to follow us down the lane. We’ve done this many times with great success.

So there we were, coming through the gate onto the lane, at which point Bronson decided to plant himself and not move, Luke ran ahead out into the lane and I was stood in the middle of them, not in control of either of them!

Thankfully Pip was in the field and could see I was struggling. Luke wouldn’t come back through the gate so I had my dog in the road and Bronson was ignoring me. I tried shutting the gate behind him but he wouldn’t budge. Then a car came. Luke was still in the middle of the lane and Bronson was half way through the gate! Thankfully it was someone we knew and he just stopped to see if I needed a hand. I finally made it through the gate with Bronson but instead of turning round to follow me he was facing the opposite direction completely ignoring me.

By now, Pip had finished what she was doing and came up to sort us out. I was so relieved she was there and could show me where I had gone wrong and how to fix it! She took Bronson whilst I caught Luke and put his lead on. She explained that there were a few things going on. Firstly I had twisted Bronson’s headcollar when I put it on. Some horses wouldn’t mind this, but he isn’t one of them and from his point of view if I can’t put his headcollar on properly how can he trust me to be in charge of anything else? Also now he’s in the field with all the mares he’s feeling like the big man who doesn’t have to listen to my feminine energy and it’s my job to remind him that he does indeed have to listen to me. Most importantly, I couldn’t leave the field to go down a road and work safely with this horse, having just set us up so badly at the start.

Pip took control and brought Bronson through the gate correctly. She then brought him back through, so I could do the same whilst she held onto Luke. We went through the gate and all was well until I came to close it and Bronson stepped into my space. That was unacceptable, so I had to move him away and repeat the exercise. This time, it went well and so we headed down the lane with Pip following behind us. When we got to the yard I realised I hadn’t prepared any of my things, so rather than going straight into the ménage I had to start dashing about getting my lunge line etc.

Finally I was ready and put Bronson’s rope headcollar on. When I went to do up the throat lash I realised the end of the lunge rope had slipped through it and the lead line was caught up in the lunge line. I was in a right tangle. Whilst I was trying to untangle the mess Bronson was resting his hind leg, his way of letting me know that he knows my focus is not on him, and Pip called out to let me know. But I had headphones in and couldn’t hear her so she came over (I find listening to music whilst schooling and lunging very helpful, but clearly I need to wait until I’m in the ménage and ensure I am completely focused before introducing music).

Suffice to say it wasn’t the best start and, whilst Pip was very kind and patient about it all, by this juncture I was seeing Bronson’s point of view about how hopeless I was being!

I took a deep breath and led him up to the ménage. We worked for 30 minutes and I was pleased with what we achieved, especially as he’s just come back into work after a period of lameness. Afterward, when I came to bring his feed into the stable, he moved away from the stable door, stood by the wall and waited there until I left, before turning round to his feed bucket. This was exactly what I was asking him to do and I was really pleased that he was listening.

Most of all, today was a reminder that it doesn’t matter how many times we’ve done something, I have to make sure I arrive at the yard in the right mindset, be 100% switched on, connected to my horse and mindful of all that is passing between us and going on around us. We need to be together as one!

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