An unexpected year
Traditionally, it’s the time of year to take stock and make plans. See how plans made this time last year have turned out. If we do the same now, can we expect anything better of Peanut next year?
I guess I have to say right out that this wasn’t the year I expected with Peanut. If I’ve learned anything at all it’s that whatever plans I had for this year, they weren’t Peanut’s. And I think the first thing I learned about Peanut was that I might plan all I like but he has a mind of his own. If he’s got a plan, he’s not telling me about it!
Time and again (not a lesson I learned quickly), we’d have a good session together and I’d go home happy that we’d ticked a box on my list and could move on to the next item. Only to come back the next day and find that Peanut had overlooked ticking that particular box. In fact, he wasn’t ticking boxes at all. He was just having a laugh.
Screw the plan
So, early on, “the plan” got screwed up and binned. Fair to say, of course, that our “year” didn’t start until about April after we’d decided to just leave the boy alone for a while and let him find out about being a horse again. He’d had a pretty unsettling 12 months with 3 different homes before he ended up with us. At one of those he’d been a sort of unwanted Christmas present and had moved on in the space of about 6 weeks.
You just can’t treat a horse like that and expect him to give himself to you. And so, taking Vivien’s advice, we just left him for about 6 months. Which, I have to say, was a frustrating time because, of course, I’d planned to be showing him in his first Western Pleasure class by then. Such a dreamer…
At the beginning, I kept asking myself: do I need to do this from the ground? Or would it be better mounted up? Reckoning myself a fairly competent rider, I was inclined to just climb up and get on with it. That lasted only until I saw KP explode on the end of a 22′ line. Then, I was just glad I hadn’t been on his back at the time!
Of course, in the end, it was me who had to make the adjustments. Get to grips with a whole new way of going about things and go the Natural Horsemanship route. Welcome to the world of Pat Parelli. Start from the standpoint that you can’t expect anything of a horse until he knows and trusts you. Accepts that you’re the next one up the pecking order in his particular herd.
Easy to say that but my problem was that I knew bugger all about Natural Horsemanship. And, worse, neither did Peanut.
Everyone was very kind and understanding, telling me that Peanut wasn’t the best horse for a Parelli novice. But, thanks to Vivien and Webster, we got past the “blind leading the blind” stage. Vivien worked the edges off Peanut and let him find out there’s an easier way for him. And Webster patiently let me get some Parelli basics in my bag. I found a new little friend in Webster, but that’s another story…
9 months gone…
Looking back, the person I was before all this would have been spitting feathers. Already nearly a year gone and nowhere near even a gentle Western Pleasure class – never mind a bit of Working Cow Horse.
Friends with a pithy turn of phrase were asking: “When are you going to stop looking at that horse and git on ‘im?” Others, that knew George well, were just looking at me with a slightly bemused expression. They just didn’t believe that I could own a horse for a year and not ride.
But, by September, it was starting to come together. We were narrowing the gap between us. Me, by expecting less and being supremely pleased with just a little more. And Peanut just starting to get that he didn’t have to be on the defensive all the time.
It’s amazing the little things that mean so much but have taken so long to arrive. Lying down in his stable. Pooing in the same corner of the stable rather than spreading it everywhere. Just walking along coming in from the field. Quietly at my side, head down and ears pricked. There’s so much more, but you get the picture…
No question: meeting Lyla Cansfield has been another big milestone in our progress down the natural horsemanship road. We had our first session with her in October and it was good from the start.
Lyla has a very pragmatic approach to natural horsemanship that understands Peanut’s anxieties. But, just the same, she quickly spots his “stroppy teenager” tendencies and deals briskly with them. Doing it her way has given me confidence and her progressive approach, expecting more without demanding it, works.
… and 2018?
No question that we’re on a long road that I never saw coming. And I can see that it’s all been worth it. We’ve laid some foundations that are going to allow us to accelerate without having to force it.
My main problem now is not knowing where I am along that road. Vivien, ever the pragmatist, will say: “Forget the bloody road! Just enjoy it the journey!” And I get that. But if the ultimate aim remains to have a finished and versatile Western Horse (and, whatever happens, that will always be) I need to figure out where we are in relation to that destination.
I’m still figuring that and although I’ve learned the lesson about “the best laid plans”, I still believe you must have a goal. And it would help to know how far away we are from that. We’re seeing Lyla again in a week’s time and maybe we’ll know more then…