I am sure everyone saw this title and couldn't figure out what it meant. Today Duck taught us all a little bit about what and why a horse needs to understand the things that we teach them.
This morning was spent helping a neighbor gather and load some bulls from a large pasture. We had three riders and just a few bulls to load...but asking bulls to leave their lovely ladies in a pasture can always be a pesky business. We set up a funnel of panels that led to the stock trailer and brought them in. The first few went along fine, but the last big bull had a whole set of ideas in his head that did not agree with ours.
After some wrangling, we had finally gotten him pointed in the right direction. Duck and I were riding out, keeping to the bull's right and moving him towards the funnel. The bull suddenly hit a long trot and seemed to have an awful lot of intent, but since he was going in the right direction, I wasn't too worried....but Duck was. Without any cue from me, Duck switched into a strange, super collected lope and began to move perpendicular to the bull...in what I believe is called a "half pass" in dressage terms. He stayed in the mode until he got me only about four feet from that bulls shoulders. Duck was so collected that he felt like riding a giant spring...he was just ready to jump into action if that old bull decided to try anything at all. We stayed just like that right down the funnel and to the trailer door.
The bull jumped in the trailer rather quickly and I wasn't quite in position to get the door shut on him as he spun around to hop back out. Again, without prompting from me, Duck saw the situation and actually jumped us both inside to push the bull to the front and keeping him in. We got the inside middle gate shut and the job was done...all thanks to a Thoroughbred who could read the situation faster and better than any one of us "old hands" on the job. What a horse!
All of Duck's work this morning made me realize that sometimes training the really smart horses are like teaching smart kids...they often will ask you the question of "why". Duck is one of the most intelligent horses I have ever worked with and for better or worse, often thinks for himself quite a bit! When I was first teaching Duck to sidepass this summer, I could see that he understood but he just didn't want to and would often argue about it...it was like he kept asking "What is the point of stepping sideways across the arena?". But the first time I ever asked him to sidepass so we could shut a gate behind us, he did it perfectly and quickly, without question...as if he was saying "Geez, why didn't you tell me in the first place that was what that was for?"
I guess the moral of the story is to try to take time to see things from the horse's point of view and know that they are individuals who have questions and want answers just like we do. Make it make sense for the horse and you can go a long way!