I took Rocky and River out to graze together this afternoon. This is a Big Deal, as in the past their close encounters have resulted in insult or injury to Rocky — injury because he got stuck in the fence while trying to get away and she double-barreled him twice before a human could come to the rescue, and insult because she was too close to him on the tie rail while they were being trimmed or shod.
Today, everyone emerged unscathed, and I feel like we are well set up for another practice session tomorrow.
What has changed? Well, for one, I have become a better leader, and was able to keep each one out of the other’s space. For another, I read River better now; and River herself has learned to do phases instead of going straight from “sweetie face” to KA-BLAM. And I think I’ve made significant progress in my horsemanship this year and can see more of what happens before what happens happens, and act to prevent the undesirable happening before it happens.
It looks easy because I’m just relaxing out there in neutral. Yet I was managing the ropes, gently drawing them in and letting them out as the horses moved around. I also had my carrot stick and string, and brought intensity into my body when it looked like one horse was going to move across the invisible line toward the other horse. I did make sure to move each horse at different times, so neither one felt like they were the princess who got protected or the close talker who got driven away.
Rocky seemed fascinated by River and wanted to go over to her more than she wanted to go over to him. Eventually he got the idea of playing hard to get, and hid behind the tree. She did glance his way at that point, but River tends to be pretty focused when she’s out grazing.
At the Parelli Performance Summit this past weekend, Kalley Krickeberg taught us about playing with multiple horses at liberty. A key component is to grant release when everyone is having the same thought. That is harmony, and harmony is natural for horses. When Rocky and River both stopped being quite so obvious in their awareness of each other, and both were thinking about grazing and about checking in with me periodically, I gently gathered them in.
I tied Rocky at the hitch rail, keeping River a safe distance away, and then took River into the front arena in case she wanted to roll. All she wanted was a drink of water and then to stand by me, so we hung out for a while and then I put her away. I took Rocky into the covered arena to play “hunt the jump,” a game I learned the Summit that I plan to blog about soon. He enjoyed it and we took some additional bonding time before I put him back in his pen.
What a pleasant way to start this next year of horsemanship, before next year’s Summit.