Thursday, October 11, 2012

Trainers Come in Many Forms

Like the form of a shoer, for example.  I've just started using this farrier since the person who used to trim my horses feet is no longer at our barn and doesn't have time to come out and trim.  He's super friendly and outgoing and helped me out (again) with Tessa and the wash rack.

I started out in the scary wash rack, feeling overly confident.  We were a hot mess of wiggling, walking over me, bending, rolling her eyes at me etc.  I could hear Joe on the other side of the barn, singing along with the radio he constantly blares while he works on the horses.  So I picked up my shampoo and led the pony to the other side.

I got her in the wash rack.  This one is wider and brighter and overall nicer and easier to use.  Then she started her walk forward business.  I tried to pull her back using the leadrope.  She flipped her head upside down and bulged her neck out.  Then she turned her head.  I went back and forth trying to balance holding the hose, working the leadrope, pushing her back.  Joe came over and asked if he could show me something.  I said sure and handed him the leadrope.

He didn't use the leadrope.  He simply gave my pony the hairy eyeball, a small tug on a the crossties and she took a stiff step back.  Her head was still up, her neck still bulging, but he praised her loudly.

"Good girl!"  he patted her roughly on her belly.  The same belly that she swishes her tail when I brush her with a soft brush on.  She didn't move.  He kept patting her.  It wasn't gentle or soft or thoughtful. It was definitive and in her space.  He kept repeating himself in his big, booming voice.  "Good girl."

She stepped forward and he calmly reached up and gave a tug on the crossties.  She stepped back and he patted her more.  "Good girl!!"  He was enthusiastic with his patting and his praise.

She stepped forward one more time and he gently tugged.  Her head went up , her eyes rolled back and he tugged again.  Her neck bulged and I cringed, waiting for the blow up.  He reached up and made eye contact, his eyes telling her that he wasn't asking her a question, he was demanding an answer.  She stepped back, she lowered her head, she sighed.  She licked and chewed.

From there, he took the hose and went back and rinsed her tail.  She didn't move a foot.  She simply kept her head slightly turned while she watched him.  He praised her effusively.  Then he patted her some more.  He turned the operation over to me and I made a point of not backing down.  Of making eye contact with her.  He reminded me that when she was nervous and then I got quiet, she knew something wasn't right.  He said to give her lots of "Good girls" when she was good and to be business like when she wasn't being good.  To be definitive about my space and where I was and what I was doing with her.  My pony sighed and relaxed and didn't move so much as an ear while I washed her tail.  She did, however, keep one eye on me.  I returned the favor by checking in with her as well.  She just wanted a leader and I wasn't doing the job.

We then went to the scarier wash rack.  She was a hot mess again.  So Joe stepped in and moved her around.  He pointed out that when she moves into my space, I move out.  Or I try to stand my ground (which resulted in my foot getting stepped on today.  I'm grateful for small ponies with bare feet on days like today) and she pushes me anyway.  He went in and asked her to move.  Move here.  Move there.  Move backwards.  Move forwards.  Then he started scratching under her belly.  Her tail swished and flipped and her ears swiveled and pinned and swiveled.

"She doesn't have to like what I'm doing, she just has to accept it.  She has to know you're not always gonna ask her permission to do stuff.  That sometimes you're just gonna do it and she's just gotta accept it."

She didn't try to kick him, she was just agitated.  He just continued to scratch and pat and boom "Good Girl"s whenever she stopped sassing him.  She kept her eye on him the whole time and licked and chewed on a regular basis.

I'm enjoying learning from Joe.  It's different energy with a man and he's got a loud, masculine personality.  You can tell he loves horses and I've never seen him lose his temper, even when dealing with snotty warmblood youngsters who haven't yet learned their manners.  I'm remembering that being a leader to a horse is a lot like being a parent.  You want your kids to love and respect you, but you're not best friends.  Sometimes you ask them to do things and sometimes they just have to do what you tell them to.  Just 'cause.


  1. Love this! I also have a wonderful farrier :)

  2. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

    Once we have the proper energy - calm assertive leadership - then we have to maintain it consistently. That's where I have trouble. Well done!

  3. Your ferrier sounds amazing taking time out of his day to help you. Like he loves what he does... all the ferriers i know get in and get out lol.

    Love how you are looking at yourself and how you can improve as well to many people write horses off because they cant look to them selves and thing "what can i do to make this better"

    So happy for you :)