JOE and The Ring
It had been decided that Joe and Barry would have lessons from The Classical Riding lady. This education will involve our going round and round in the training arena up at Celia’s place. In order to get us ready for school I decided to give Joe’s schooling technique a brush up. When I collected The Boy from the field just after lunchtime, I should have known I was in for a surprise because he was laying down on the ground in the field. Joe was fast asleep and in the middle of the day. However there was no problem because I had in my pocket the obligatory carrot. So long as you can offer the orange and green succulent, then Joe will take interest. I fitted his head collar and led him into the yard. I gave him his groom and as usual for this time of the year, hair came out in handfuls. Then I dressed him up in his saddle and bridle and we were ready for the arena.
Setting the training arena up involves laying out some 9 foot long wooden poles. They are laid down in such a way as to make a horse think about where he puts his feet and remember Joe has got four to think about; two of which he can’t see. Joe is fine as long as the poles are on the ground but rest them on supports off the ground and it all gets too difficult for him, especially at the walk. Don’t ask me why. We have another little test, I lay out some milk crates and a chair for Joe to negotiate. The idea is that the tighter the turns, the more he has to flex his body to negotiate them. The more he flexes, the better the body - or so the theory goes. In horsey parlance, “we are aiming for a rounded profile.”
Anyway we did the business for 15 minutes or so and all went well until, as usual, Joe knocked the pole off the supports. So to get it up off the ground, I had to dismount, reset the pole and try again. Which I did.
The other exercise Joe was having a problem with was to go into a narrow gap created between two barriers which had been placed at right angles to a wall. Then he had to back up at least three steps to get out. He could back up but not in a straight line and that is the rub. He has to do it straight. So I decided to show him on foot by leading him in hand.
I dismounted for the second time. I led him by his lead rope around the course. In, out and round we went. I decided to relocate one of the crates and let go of the lead rope. Joe stood and waited for me to pick up the rope again but for some reason I hesitated. Instead I walked over to one of the other crates and Joe followed me at the shoulder. I turn right to go round the obstacle and he turned right with me. I walked on, The Boy followed. I walked round the arena and Joe kept up by my side. Round we went, circles and half turns, to the right and to the left. Where ever I went, Joe went too, with his head by my shoulder.
In the riding manuals, this process is called being “joined up”. It doesn’t come easily and it will only come if the horse feels very comfortable with the rider. To get Rocky my dog to follow me at heel is difficult enough but to get Joe to walk at the shoulder is indeed a real coup. Obviously, Joe feels very comfortable with me, even if I do ask him to walk around silly things poles.
Nice - isn’t it.
PS Maybe it is the side effect of all those carrots?