My grade school teacher, Mrs. Wagner, told us firmly, “There is no time for love in sixth grade!” I don’t know about sixth grade, but in training horses, horse love turns into another hurdle to overcome. Overnight Splash was smitten in love with Kiwi. For a brief time his affection was only for me. He had no other friend on the farm and he joined up solidly. But when I came out to get him today he herded her away to the other side of the pasture leaving me to chase them. When I finally caught him he reluctantly came with me attempting every moment to steal glances by turning his head and interrupting my lead. Both of them were whinnying back and forth as I led. When I got in the round pen he could hardly pay attention to me so distracted he was–wistfully, longingly gazing through the fence to his filly, the new object of his affections.
I had to be more aggressive in the round pen to regain and keep his attention. When I attempted to pick up a foot he snatched it away in order to steal another peek at the object of his idolatry. This betrayal of attention sent me into action and Splash to encircling me in the round pen. After 10 minutes he was able to gather his emotions and pay attention to me once again.
I groomed him, saddled him and lounged him some more. I asked him to walk at first and then trot. He responded calmly and did not buck. I put the bosal on him to teach him how to give to the mecate. It was harder for him to go left than right. He did not freeze as some but he was fairly stiff and heavy both ways. Standing on the left side I ran 12 feet of mecate along his right side around his haunches above his hocks and pulled so that he was forced to turn right. He did not panic. He was slow and heavy but responded reasonably. I did this exercise both sides, right and left, several times and he got lighter as I repeated the exercise. I took off the saddle and attempted to give him a little weight by leaning over him. He handled it nicely. I’m not quite ready to put full weight on him yet. I called it a day.
I led him back to the object of his affections. He arched his neck and trotted to her like the stallion. She promptly proceeded to kick him, squealing as her hooves slapped against his chest. Then he attempted to chase away Crusoe, the other gelding in the pasture, who also kicked him. I watched amazed at their violent, horsey, social drama.
Incidentally, this horsey affection is not normally called ‘horse love’ amongst horse people. Rather, when this behavior becomes a vice, it is called ‘herd bound’.