A while back I wrote a post about our family’s use of nicknames and the fact that because of a series of Struggle Bus incidents Indy may have thought his name had been changed to Di**head. (He’s young and blessed with ADD and I have a tendency to communicate through the use of colorful language).
I find that things with Indy follow a pattern. Lots of really good behavior and then some not-quite-so-good behavior. The other night, for instance, was one of the latter. It was a gorgeous night, we’d had a lesson on Sunday that was not one of our best (totally my fault) and I thought a trail ride would be a low key experience for us both.
And the trail ride part was great. The beginning and end parts, not so much. When we left the barn I noticed the outdoor ring had a new wall jump that looked like it came from a giant Lego castle. There was also a round pen with poles set like a pie cut into a bunch of pieces. Some of the round pen walls had fallen and were laying on their sides. Did either of these new items in the ring bother Indy? Nope. He marched right up to investigate, sniffing them and noodging them with his nose.
The issue came when we left the ring. I went to steer him left and he planted his feet and refused to budge. The issue? A patch of grass he walks over pretty much every day. Heck, he GRAZES on it darn near every day! He snorted and refused to go near it, backing up, hopping up and down, and trying to wheel around. We went back and forth for a bit, and eventually he gave in and we went over it.
Maybe not the particular patch we were fighting over, but we went forward over grass that was very close to the patch we were fighting over. I called it a moral victory and off we went to the trails, where things were wonderful.
And then we came back and I got the bright idea to bring him over to the offending patch of grass to CONFIRM the correction we’d made. Big mistake. HUGE. What can I say? I’m an idiot with a talent for making life harder on myself. We argued. We discussed the issue at length. He cited reasons why we shouldn’t go over the grass, I contended it was the only acceptable outcome. We expressed our divergent opinions, crossing over the driveway and every damn blade of grass in the area except the ones we were squabbling over. As you can imagine, my language was a bit creative. Downright salty, even. I may have called him Di**head again. (I did. Several times. I felt the situation warranted it. I have opposable thumbs, so I get to make those calls.)
Seeing as the what we were doing wasn’t working, I decided it was time to try something different. I know you’re not supposed to get off the horse when things are going badly, but being on him wasn’t getting anything accomplished so I got off. I started to do some ground work, moving his haunches and front end, and getting him to back up or come to me just to get him to listen to me again. At first he was resistant, but I persisted and he became softer and more willing. We did our groundwork for about 10 minutes, on the offending grass, no less. (He didn’t seem to have a problem with it once I was off him, the little booger). Once I felt he was completely focused on me and what I was asking him to do, I got back on him and walked him up to the Grass Patch of Doom. He hesitated, but went over it. I made a fuss over him, jumped off, and let him grab a few bites of grass.
Maybe conventional wisdom says I shouldn’t have gotten off him, but the way I was doing it wasn’t working. I felt the need to reframe the conversation, and in this situation it worked. That doesn’t mean I should or will get off in the future. It just seemed like the right thing to do that night.
And we’re all good. He got lots of kisses and scratches and he put his head in my arms for a long hug. I said I was sorry for calling him Di**head, and he told me he may have been over-reacting about the whole grass thing.