Roger Thompson: Horsin’ Around 1-2-12
Fort Collins, Colo.
Last time we talked about attitude. Like the rest of us humans, each horse has his/her own attitude that comes from what happened to him or her when they were younger. I had an old gelding that was king of the herd but good when I rode him. Except he bucked every time when I first got on him in the spring. But he was a good cow horse and I used him a bunch.
I learned his ways and we got along fine, I just had to learn to cheat him when he bucked. He was good at roping, cow cutting and trail riding. When he got too old I gave him to a stable and they fell in love with him. I now have a smaller mare that I am teaching to cut cattle.
Lena is a nice little sorrel mare that dominates in the corral. Sam is very mild in that situation but in the ring with an instructor, he takes the opportunity to get even. When the instructor is not looking he goes after the other horses.
I had a small proud cut gelding in my dude string one time that was gentle in the corral because we had gotten after him so many times. But one day in the line of horses set to go out on a ride I looked up and he had mounted a mare in the string. The woman on Lena was so petrified that she just sat there. We all ran up and forced him off of the mare and I got rid of him as soon as I could.
There are also horses that take control of the best hay. They will guard their best place and not let any other horse near the spot. This is a natural instinct for horses and requires feeding them in separate places. I like a large round bale feeder for my horses. They can go around and around the feeder and not fight, once they have established the “pecking order.” You have to let them do this for themselves because no amount of replacing, yelling or standing out there to keep them separated will do any good when you leave. Or you can build a barn with separate stalls and feed in that.
Tail wringing (wind milling) indicates conflict signs unless you study the whole horse. Some Jumpers wring their tails in pure delight over fences. On the flat, tail-wringers are showing distress at a too tight bit, uncomfortable saddle, over zealous rider, or a host of other unpleasant things. We have to read the whole horse before voicing an opinion.
Foot falls that are light and springy are so much like the human emotions expressed through foot movement. We have all seen happy horses, especially Arabs who seem to have springs in their feet. Maybe also seen elegant animated strides of the American Saddle bred, or the disciplined controlled foot falls of the dressage horse. Perhaps you have witnesses the school horse, who, bored with carrying beginners around the ring, shuffles, drags his feet, even trips over his own feet. Isn’t that like a reluctant child who is told to do something, and says, “Do I have to?”
Reading horses helps to educate the riders in the psychology of the horse. With frequent practice, we can become good amateur pshchologist.
Prior to his retirement, Roger Thompson was a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.