I should set the stage before I go to far with this post. Three years back Lucky (and the rest of my herd!) had a reaction to Spring Inoculations. The Vet thought it might have been the 5 in 1 that set it off. Which ever it was, he went in to Laminitis. It was serious too. At one point both the Vet and the Farrier suggested I put Lucky down. Lucky made it clear he wanted to fight, so fight we did. All of this happened just as we were going to send in a video of our Level One audition. This year has been the first year since, where we've been able to work everyday, so the progress we're making is blowing me away!
Now, to bring you up to last night. It was a Tuesday after a holiday, so I knew John wasn't going to be home for a while. Lots of catch up after his time off. Since he's working with Apache and I'm trying to set him up for success, I've been waiting and going out to work with Lucky at the same time he does, to help alleviate the tension of being separated from Lucky, for Apache. As their relationship deepens, Lucky and I will go back to working on our own.
John called and told me he was going to be even later than he anticipated, so I said I'd just groom the guys while we waited. I did, and it was a very nice, mellow evening. We're all working on standing at Liberty quietly while I brush coats and pick hooves. I always throw in a massage to make it worth their while(s) to stand still. Last night was so nice and quiet that I was able to stand them next to each other and work on one, then the other. I love it when it's like that! Apache even "groomed" me between my shoulders (on my whithers).
By the time John made it home, there were only about 30 or 40 minutes left before the sun went down, so not enough time to do our usual hour or so of work/play. No worries! John didn't even stop to change out of his work clothing. He just came in to greet me, Lucky and Apache (I was the only one who got a kiss!) and to go get the halter and lead, carrot stick and string. We talked about it while we got ready to go OUTSIDE and decided to do a Walk-About with the horses leading us. Always fun because neither of us every has any idea where they will take us.
Now a bit more back fill to the story. The past two weeks I've been doing my own version of the Patterns with Lucky. I'm still doing everything in order (will wonders never cease?!), but I'm also emphasizing one game each evening. One day it's Friendly and as many different kinds of Friendly as I can come up with, based on our skill levels together. The next it might be Circle or YoYo. It's my way of trying to take us to a higher level of communication and still keep it fun and intriguing for Lucky.
It's not hard to do this. Seven games, seven days. It's never dull when I keep adding in new components. Lucky's a Left Brain Introvert with some Right Brain Introvert tendencies, so we're working on timing. Ever so often he flips over into a Right Brain panic so I do my best to shift to Right Brain Introvert techniques. Keeps me hopping, I can tell you that! We are getting more and more balanced as his confidence comes up, so I must be going in the right direction.
Well, last night HE decided to make it a Squeeze Game night. It's not his favorite game, so he really surprised me. We started out with him leading and me following in either Zone 3, 4 or 5. I wanted him to feel like he was in control, that this was a Walking Passenger kind of a trek. Didn't take him long to get it either. As soon as he realized he was Leader and I was there to follow, off we went!
And it was ALL Squeeze games too. Being a bit slower than he is, it took me a good five minutes to understand what he was doing. We Squeezed through all kinds of tight spaces...between the propane tank and the end of the shed and then the forsythia bushes and the shed, then under the little oak in the front yard, with the branches brushing his back (and me ducking). We walked along the outside of the arena between the hill on our right and the fence line on the left, then across the driveway and under every single one of the cedars and pines! Somewhere along the way I lost my hat when it was knocked off.
We walked around the back of the pond, along the top of the berm. That's usually a very "scary" space because there's quite a drop off to either side into water or a creek. We walked up around the house and under the carport. There's a step up on the side we came through, much like getting into a trailer. It's cement too, so there's a hollow clop-clop-clop sound when we walk through. That was brand new territory for us. Usually it's just an Approach and Retreat space without actually going through since his thresholds are so evident. Looks like it's working too, because not only did we walk through (and it's only nine feet high, so pretty low for my big 16 hand horse) but we Squeezed between the truck parked there and the wisteria vine, past a wheel barrow and over the water hose twice.
We even stopped to step into the vegetable garden, just in case something especially nice might be growing in there. His opinion? Tomatoes are awful, butternut squash are tasty. Green peppers make an nice sound when you crunch on them, but they aren't good enough to swallow. Basil isn't as interesting as it looked from the other side of the fence. Ah, but little, brand new green lettuces for the Autumn are worth pulling straight out of the ground. I'll have to replant those and I don't mind if I do. It was his first time inside the garden...and it's all raised beds with tiny pathes in between and a deer fence around it too...more Squeeze!
Then we headed up the driveway along the back of the shed with a drop off on one side and the shed on the other, around the end and between the propane tank, forsythia and the shed again. By this time my mouth was hanging open in astonishment! The best part was for last though.
We have a little gate next to the shed that we call the "Donkey Gate". It's just the right size for one of us or Willow to go through. Most of the time I can leave it open while I'm doing chores and neither of the horses does much more than just stick their head through to watch. It's so close together that if one of them goes through, their sides will touch both sides of the fences posts at the same time. That's a bit too intense, or at least I THOUGHT it was. Lucky headed straight for it, walked through and stopped to scratch both sides by rubbing back and forth before he walked on in. It's so low he had to lean down to get through too!
The horse completely blew my circuits last night! He knew it too. I could swear his eyes had a sparkle in them when he turned to look at me after we got home. Not once did his head come up or did any thresholds show up. No spooking, no tension. It was all easy, easy does it. All I could do was stand there with my jaw dropped clear to the center of my chest, goggling at him. I was that surprised!
Number 2 in the 8 Principals of HORSE-MAN-SHIP is : "Don't make or teach assumptions." and Number 7 is : "Horses teach humans and humans teach horses." I think I can easily say that Lucky was the Master last night. I was just the "grasshopper".
Oh...and John? He looked kind of cute in his city clothes, working with his horse. Guess he's lucky Apache didn't take him into the pond! He told me the look of astonishment on Apache's face when Lucky Squeezed under the carport and through all the obstacles was worth the cleaning bill for his clothes.
I am having so much fun! Does it get any better than that? I think it might, given the new things that come up nearly every day. The learning curve is steep and my brain is being stretched...by my horse Lucky, the Squeeze King.
Nancy, laughing all the way!