As we commenced our circle dance, Sophie, frantic to get out, demonstrated a new level of wildness. This is a problem. As we are working out the training Sophie should be paying more and more attention to me, not concentrating on getting out. This all comes of me not keeping up-to-date with the sturdiness of my round pen.
A human smells like a predator to a horse. This presents a problem for the horse in discerning the human’s intention. Each horse is a unique individual with a personality and intelligence of its own. Some horses have a more difficult time deciding whether the human is a member of the herd or a predator with an ultimate purpose to kill them and eat them. Sophie is one of these horses who has had a difficult time discerning my intentions for good or ill.
While I could saddle her and get on her, she never joined up with me so far as I could see. She was alert for treachery. When she escaped it seemed to reinforce her fear, probably only because she found an escape and after that kept looking for another escape thinking it safer than to wait and see.
Today more than once she bashed herself against the fence hoping to escape by pure force. Thankfully nothing broke. However, when she bashed herself against the rails next to the gate, the gate popped open and out she ran, but this time not out into the big fields but in the smaller riding arena. It took me a few minutes to catch her again. On our way back to the round pen, she was difficult. She moved rudely into my space, making it plenty obvious that she was not convinced that I’m the leader.
I could not allow this rude, dangerous behaviour of her getting into my space. With lead line in one hand and the lungeing whip in the other, I waved it around in an attempt to push her out of my space. She took off hoping for escape, but this time I had the lead rope in my hand. I braced myself and gripped the rope tighter. She hit the end of the rope just as she was bursting into a gallop. This forced her to turn abruptly to her left. She ran again, this time the rope on her right side. Again she hit the end of the rope and turned abruptly 180° to the right. One more time she ran, but now she did not attempt to run away, rather she ran around me. We worked with the rope for a while longer but she did not test it again or push hard against it. She was light from then on.
When we went back into the round pen she was transformed. She wanted to stay with me, following me wherever I went yet respectful of my space. Somehow or other she had joined up with me. She was a changed horse.
I led her down the driveway, mounted her and rode her back to the round pen. She was calm, respectful and more responsive to my reins and my legs than I’d experienced before with her. This was a milestone day for Sophie.