"As a rider you must slowly and methodically show your horse what is appropriate. You also have to discourage what's inappropriate, not by making the inappropriate impossible, but by making it difficult so that the horse himself chooses appropriate behavior. You can't choose it for him; you can only make it difficult for him to make the wrong choices. If, however, you make it impossible for him to make the wrong choices, you're making war."- Buck Brannaman
I want Avalon to have positive experiences. I want her training to be based around positive experiences and getting through scary things in a calm, non-threatening way. I want her to trust that I will not put her into dangerous situations, and that we can trust each other through all things. I have not had her long enough, or worked with her enough, to even get a taste of that yet. She doesn't have any reason to trust me yet. Her life is based on fear, and getting away from scary things.
The scariest thing that she has had to deal with (other than the 20 hour trailer ride to get to me), was asking her to step into a slant load 3 horse trailer in the pouring rain yesterday morning at 7am. The woman I use to trailer runs her own local transport business, has a great trailer, drives safely, and is also prompt and reliable. A little backstory: she's trailered Finn probably a dozen times. Finn is an asshole getting on the trailer, and it normally would take 30 minutes to get him on. He would eventually get on after a lot of angry prompting and pushing, but it was nothing he couldn't mentally handle. He wasn't scared, he was simply being a jerk and refusing. Avalon was not a jerk. She was scared and had no idea what was being asked of her. Asking her to step a foot up, into a box, was not part of the routine. After about 5 minutes of leading her up to it, turning her, and leading her up to it, she put one hoof up as if she was going to jump in, but then backed right off. She was figuring it out. She wasn't being mean or aggressive, she was being a scared baby. This was when the woman I use took her, put the chain over her nose, and basically forced her into the trailer. It was not positive, but she was in. When we arrived at the new barn and got her off the trailer she told us that we can't let her get away with that crap. I'm not quite sure what that meant, as she wasn't being a jerk.
I see so many trainers and horse people that base their training on fear, and scaring their horse into doing things. I want my horse to WANT to do things. I'm fairly certain that if we had given her another ten minutes she would have gotten on. I want her to figure things out, whether it takes five minutes or an hour. I want her to respect me as the leader, and I think there is a fine line between respect and fear, that many tend to cross over. I do know that I don't want our relationship to be based on fear.
Today I went up to the barn and Avalon was hanging in the back of the paddock with the broodmares. Everyone seems to be getting along really well. For some reason I feel way more confident with her at this barn. I think part of the reason is due to the fact that there's not 30+ Thoroughbreds running around like psychopaths trying to kill each other in the paddock and breaking fences and each other all day long. New barn is a small mix of warmbloods, retirees, and quarter horses. All the horses just seem calm and peaceful...and so does Avalon. I actually want to see my horse now. Walked her around the property a bit and let her graze. Then I took her into the indoor, which she hasn't been in yet. I love the indoor because you can close all the doors completely so that she can't see out and can focus completely on me. The old barn there were only chains closing off the aisle ways, and the doors don't close completely, so Avalon was always distracted. I worked with her on some basic groundwork and then we played with some cones and worked on whoa's. She is such a curious and friendly little one, and a quick learner
Here she is distracted by the mirror (she's never seen one before) and NOT whoa'ing. After about ten minutes she was stopping right away and turning into me.