Having fun = trail riding with a friend.
Trail riding with a friend = perfection.
Ziggy is one of the most gregarious horses anyone could meet. He loves to work. He tackles any job with enthusiasm and a large dose of humor. He is bottomless - I've never had him get tired. He's a thinker, show him once and he's got it, then get out of his way and allow him to do the task. But left up to him, his preference is to work from home. So when he sees me load the trailer with equipment and a stuffed hay net, he knows some equine is going to be plucked from the pasture and placed in the trailer. He never knows if it will be him.
I don't trick my horses. If I'm planning to take one of them on a trail ride off the property, I load my gear, stuff a hay net, open the back doors and lower the ramp before I go get the horse. For me, I don't see any reason to have them standing around while I do all that. Plus it seems a little sneaky to halter them out of the pasture and then inform them that they're going in the trailer. I suppose I could do it that way, but then I would never know how they feel about the situation and I am always interested in how they feel about things. Should their feelings include a negative response - well, that probably won't change my mind, but it does give me insight into the horses's thoughts.
This morning, Ziggy saw me loading the trailer while he was finishing his hay. When I went to get the halter, all the horses looked at me with perked ears, wondering who was going. When I opened the gate, Carli came over, but she knew she wasn't going. Berlin, the other likely candidate, showed interest, made a connection with me, then glanced over at the trailer and changed his mind. He didn't want to go. I set my sights on Ziggy.
He looked at me and knew he was chosen. He didn't move. His ears stayed up, his eyes were bright and he sent a clear communique that he was not sticking around. At first, he didn't leave fast. In fact, he kept both eyes on me as he moved away. He stepped back (easy to keep his eyes on me), he turned left (not so easy to keep both eyes on me), he started walking away (very difficult to keep both eyes on me). So he opted for one eye instead. Quite the comedian! And off he went.
He started out with a normal trot and then turned it into that boinging, poppy, vertical trot that mimics a cartoon character. Hysterical! I followed along slowly. OK, so he didn't want to get caught. No big deal. He boinged to the farthest corner of the pasture. I walked over. When I was within 20 feet, he boinged over to the opposite corner and turned to face me. I wandered that way. His little avoidance game gave me plenty of time to appreciate his deep copper red coat sparkling in the sun. He was brilliant.
At that 20 foot boundary, he lowered his head and perked those ears. He looked me right in my eyes. I could see he wasn't going to stay in that corner; he still wanted to play. So I "spooked" him with a big "BOO!" and a laugh and bunches of happy energy and he took off like a shot, back to the original corner, which was, of course, at the opposite end of the pasture. I turned on my heel and followed along. I could have been mad or I could have said that I didn't have time to chase him. Really? What better way to spend the morning than watching an amazing animal have fun?
When I approached him this time, he walked right over and asked me for a few scratches. He was so content and happy. He knows that I understand him. I give him the right to express himself. Sure, he really didn't want to go in the trailer, but he was given the opportunity to share his opinion without feeling wrong. I needed him to go with me. By giving him the chance to express himself, he got that out of his system and we had a perfect ride.