Thursday, October 27, 2005

Shoving Horses

Today Rusty demonstrated that he remembered yesterday's lessons, and then was humbled some more.

We put a full-cheek snaffle bit in his mouth. It's a very gentle bit, which Rusty needs because as big as he is, he has very sensitive skin on his muzzle. The advantage of the full-cheek bit is that as you pull on a rein to turn a horse, not only does it pull, but it pushes the horse's mouth along from the other side, as both sides, where the bit emerges from between the horse's lips, have a four-inch vertical bar that keeps the bit from slipping from side to side. (God, that sounds confusing. Maybe I'll add an illustration tomorrow.)

Anyway, we put the bit in his mouth and then let him stand around (no reins, no saddle) for about 20 minutes, so that he could see for himself that having a bit in his mouth would not kill him on the spot.

Then my friend exercised him in the round corral, making him think a little while still carrying the bit and the jingling stud chain hanging from his halter. This helped him understand he could still move forward and obey while having the bit in his mouth and things jingling around his head. No need to buck, no need to stubbornly stand still.

After exercise came Shoving. I can place both my hands on my horse's shoulder, neck, head, sides, rump, whatever, and gently push, and he will get out of my way. For that moment, I am bigger than he is, and that is a good thing. The time had come for Rusty to learn that he could be shoved around. Indeed, that he would be shoved around, and that being shoved around is a good thing for a horse. After a few minutes, my friend learned how to brace herself and make Rusty let himself be shoved around the corral.

We saddled our horses and moved to the arena, where Rusty did a very nice job of walking and turning. (My dear Duquesne was, of course, impeccable. Sometimes I think he behaves better when other horses act up, just to make them look really, really bad.) We began work with Rusty to get him to lower that great white head and let himself be turned in a tight circle. It was very hard work for my friend, because when Rusty throws his head in the air, he nearly yanks her out of the saddle. I don't know that she weighs as much as his head.

But we ended after 40 minutes on an up-note again, and then mucked out Dink's paddock. I'm exhausted, but tomorrow we'll be back at it. They only new thing will be a tie-down for Rusty's bridle so that he can't throw his head so far in the air. I don't like tie-downs, but Rusty has learned long ago that throwing his head around works to scare the shit out of the little monkeys who climb on his back.

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