Monday - President's Day. A day off work. Glorious weather. The slick mud was drying out. It was time to get The Big Brass out in the hills, which we hadn't done since the December snows and deep freezing weather began. And since it had been two months, I was excited to get out but also a bit apprehensive wondering how much of this green horse's training had come undone with a long break. Yes I had ridden him in the round pen and pasture, but that's not the same as out in thousands of acres.
Right from the get-go Brass had an attitude. He hesitated about coming up to me for the halter. He hesitated about loading in the trailer. I am sure he could sense my small insecurity. Once on the trail we were doing great. After a few miles we came to some slick sticky footing and I was off leading. I had intended to go straight out to the road but the footing on this little downhill looked good so I decided to try it. You know, I know that look in a horse's eyes when he says 'Really?" But I went anyway, thinking if he slips a little it'll be good for him, he has to learn how the feet work. He slid a few steps but nothing bad in my eyes. (Mistake one.)
But then at the bottom of the hill along the powerline, suddenly he wanted to take off. The one rein stop worked beautifully and onward we went. I thought he was just wanting to take off and go, and I made him walk and settle down. Later we got into more sticky and a bit deep footing. As long as I was using one rein at a time and taking him left then right, he was fine. But my mind forgot he was green and inexperienced horse for a split second, and I made the mistake of giving him slack to pick his way. (Mistake two) He lunged and was gone! I was looking right between my boots in mid air and watching him leave. A few cuss words escaped! I was fine, ground was soft. Caught my horse. Blamed myself. And figured that was my lesson for the day. Wrong!
After the ride he would not load in the trailer. I spent 45 minutes at moving his feet, doing all the horsemanship things I knew how to do, rewarding every try, but not getting him in. I was hot, tired and confused. He knows how to load, we have been doing it for months! OK fine, give in, call Ted. Recall Ted Nicholes is the guy who trained Brass and helped him overcome many of his issues. Obviously I was doing something wrong. You know I have never "worked with" a trainer in my life but this guy is a God send! The whole family is really.
Anyway - Ted to the rescue. Ted said it took him a good 15 minutes to re-establish leadership with Brass. I had the poor horse all confused. And by the time he was getting him in the trailer again, Trish Frahm was back with her second horse. I said no worries, I'll just ride Brass again after this trailer lesson. Ted loaded him up twice, I loaded him up twice and it all seemed good. I was thinking that I had not rewarded every try, that I had misread some signals. Mr Brass got to go around another loop of trail. He wasn't tired anyway, and there were several times that when Thunder was younger I'd do double duty on him to correct issues. It was good for both Brass and I to go back out again.
So back up the hill we went. We had our ride, it got cold and windy, we loaded up just fine, and went home. But Ted, bless his heart, continued to analyze all of this. Remember he knows Brass very well. Ted believes Brass is not a horse that wants to be the leader, he doesn't want my role as leader, but he questions my leadership ability. In other words if I direct him into the cave (trailer) will there be a monster in there? Am I able to protect him? A leader has to be capable of more than direction but also able to give others confidence in their role.
Out on the trail when I gave him his head I was telling him to find his own way through the mud. Yet he didn't know how because he didn't have the experience. He looked to me for guidance and I let him down. And now he doubts me, he has lost confidence in my ability and he questions my worthiness. He has lost trust. WOW! I have been riding horses for a lifetime and this horsemanship stuff that I have been studying for years via Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, now Buck and Clinton Anderson, all through Ted, has suddenly shown me I don't know squat. Other horses have been more tolerant of my lack of ability to lead. Thunder recognized it and just wanted to take over and be leader all the time which often led to a battle of wills. And I know now that because of my lack of adequate leadership and Thunder trying to be the leader that is just how we got into that huge wreck years ago! But Brass and his background makes him different. And he has driven home not just this lesson but one more that hits me hard! I am the same way! OK so maybe you knew this about me, but I didn't. But I question people's ability to lead, not because I want to be the leader, but because I think they are going to misguide me and I'll mess it up. And then I do mess up because of my lack of trust. Oh and this goes farther back when I recall really tough times and didn't even trust God to fix it. I just got mad and quit talking to him. While later I overcame the anger and defeat, and surrendered all to God several years ago, this lesson just now hits home!
All thanks to one horse and one bad day. Now I have to fix me, and I have to fix me in the eyes of my horse also in order to succeed.