Something really interesting happened. I created the three signs: “I love carrots”, “I love treats” and “I love studmuffins”. We played this new game in the stall. Zelador obviously enjoyed going to a specific sign, coming back to me and receiving the specific treat. We went to the arena to play games. No riding yesterday with the temperature in the arena at minus seventeen! It was cold and damp with snow on the way. Fingers got cold almost instantly. We entered the arena and I turned him loose. I said, “You can go roll.” (When I don’t want him to roll, I keep him near me.)
He went to the west of the closest low pedestal and proceeded to lie down and roll. I went further north to the other low pedestal and was smoothing out divots in the arena footing to the west of that pedestal.
I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye. What I saw caused me to stop divot replacement and focus on Zelador. He was watching me, sort of waiting for me to pay attention to him. When I did he started to get to his feet BUT stopped and sat patiently…for a long time…looking at me. He had a very kind look in his eye and I got the impression that he was offering this sit as a BIG thank you for introducing the “sign” game in his stall. I was about fifteen feet away from him. I walked over, gave him a treat and he continued to sit…contentedly. He didn’t get up on his feet until I asked him to.
With this cold weather I spend a bit more time in the house, often at the computer. I looked up the website of one of my favourite trainers, Alexandra Kurland. She has a short video at her site showing a lady and her horse at liberty, walking, trotting and cantering, side by side. Often the lady has her hand on the horse, even at the canter. At any time the horse could leave, but it chooses to stay close to the lady, cantering in harmony with the lady’s walk. Alexandra points out what a joy it is to have a horse that strives to stay connected with you AND how valuable that is when you’re in the saddle!
Another computer discovery was the newly posted videos created by Jutta Wiemers. They’re so new that many of them have been viewed less than ten times. One of the books she wrote is “From Leading to Liberty, 100 Games Your Horse will Want to Play”. My copy arrived last week and I’m enjoying learning her approach to teaching horses. Jutta mentions “nose away”. She teaches the horse that has learned to stand quietly to put its nose away from the person. “Away” translates to: just beyond the centreline of the horse. She explains that the head mare in a herd will periodically check with a horse to see if that horse still understands that she’s in charge. When the lead mare stares at the horse it is to turn its head to the side, showing polite respect for the head mare. Jutta likens this polite sign of respect to the good ole days when the boss walked past his workers and they tipped their hats. Humans no longer exhibit this behaviour, but the horses still do.
I read this in the morning. Later the same day I was preparing to bring Zelador and Zeloso into the barn. I was about thirty feet away and the horses were at the paddock gate. I looked at them as I approached. Simultaneously both horses turned their heads to the side, then back to me. It was like a lovely, soft, perfectly choreographed Pas de Deux. That’s when I realized I’ve seen this “nose away” many times. However, I thought they’d heard something and were checking it out.
Twenty-four hours later I was again walking towards the paddock. This time the “nose away” Pas de Deux was even lovelier. The noses went to the right and the horses followed them, flowing into a lovely volte which brought them back to the gate, facing me.