25 January 2012

A Better Set of Rules...

I got on and off of Bravo several dozen times today and began fixing all the rules he's generated about this exercise:

Move very slowly
Move very smoothly
Don't bump me
Don't move around up there
Don't touch me with your calves
No barking puppies
No breeze blowing, including falling leaves and waving palm branches

My answer:
I have a better set of rules.

Move very slowly - Bravo wants me to sneak up there. Crawling up slow and quiet and nervous and tense. I move the way I move - businesslike, with purpose. When I do, he jumps around like I'm going to skin him alive. Repetition calms him.

Move very smoothly - Bravo doesn't want me to make any mistakes - like touching the left stirrup on his elbow, or sweeping my foot across his rump, or settling in the saddle a bit to heavily, or touching the off side stirrup on his ribcage. While I am a very smooth rider, I am not with a horse like this. Instead, I make all kinds of "mistakes". On purpose. Businesslike and deliberate. When I do, he gets all white in the eye, looking back at me, stiff and nervous. More repetition.

Don't bump me - Bravo does not want to feel any bumps against his skin, like my toe against his side as I place my foot in the stirrup, or a bump on his flank as I swing up. More "on purpose" work. More repetition in a businesslike manner - never getting mean, mad, angry, frustrated, annoyed, anxious or fearful. I just do it. (After all, I'm not going to be the only one who rides him. What if someone gets on and they have no coordination or they lack the knowledge to get on smoothly and elegantly? Bravo needs to stand quietly for them, too.)

Don't move around up there - Literally, he doesn't want me to move up there. So I sit down on him and the first thing I do is rub him all over. The movements of me stretching up to rub around his ears, down to rub his shoulders and back to rub his butt just about sent him into orbit. I didn't hold him still. The halter rope was completely loose. I'm not going to trap him so he can't move, I'd rather he did and discover that rubbing and me moving around up there, doesn't hurt him. Therefore, it shouldn't bother him. All the rubbing is firm with a gentleness. It is repeated until he relaxes.

Don't touch me with your calves - Even the normal resting leg position against his sides causes Bravo to threaten all kinds of stuff like bucking, running backwards, racing forward. I sit there, legs relaxed and wait for him to stop. He's in the round pen. He can't go far. Pretty soon, he realizes that all of his negative activity = sweat and heavy breathing. This is a form of repetition, too.

No barking puppies - Jute barks. Heck, there are squirrels, rabbits, lizards and whatever else puppies find to bark at and Bravo jumps and leaps around, the whites of his eyes showing. C'mon now! She's been barking and yipping the entire afternoon - sometimes right in his face. What's so different now that I'm aboard? It's a new excuse to create another rule he wants me to live with. I surely didn't stop her from barking. After awhile, he gave that behavior up, too.

No breeze blowing - It's getting ridiculous now. The breeze blows out in the pasture where he lives. It blows leaves around and causes the palm branches to wave. Bravo spooked and spun at every movement. Really? I mean, REALLY?

No GOATS! - Yeah, well, they are kinda scary if a horse has never seen them before. And my neighbors' goats are very friendly and curious about anything happening in the round pen. They have to clatter across an arched footbridge to get to the fence line, so they can see the action. Bravo freaked. I rubbed him until he could focus on the little beasts and realize that they meant him no harm.

Here's the deal:  Bravo wants me to stay within the confines he dictates. Using these rules (and many others I haven't mentioned) he's created his own little reality. He expects the humans around him to stay within these confines. I do not, because they make no sense! As the leader, I move about my business with confidence and assurance. I treat the whole thing like it's a job that needs doing. No hard feelings, no pressure, it just has to be. This attitude drives him crazy, because he's not in control. Well, he's not in control out in my herd either! He's at the bottom. With me and in his current living situation, he cannot dictate what happens next, or when it happens, or how. He needs a reality check.

So I use repetition to change his mind. Some reps took hundreds of times before I saw even a slight change in him. And I kept going until he came all the way around to my way of thinking. I will have to repeat this for many days before I can convince him that my way is better. I am willing to do this for him. Like I said, it must be done to change his perspective about life.

My leadership and a better set of rules, offers Bravo freedoms that are much easier to live by.


  1. Yes! Again with the wonderful, Dee. :) I've learned that flexibility is key to any level of sanity and peace, if we wish to have it.

  2. Wish I could have been watching, but thanks for the great write up as I know the way you go about things and he is very lucky to have you working with him to show him a better way to live.

  3. That is a fantastic explanation of the process you are using to help Bravo. Bravo to you Dee.