Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fearlessly Following Felines

We had a nice weather day last weekend and I decided to take advantage of it by working with Tiki in hand for a few minutes.  After she was done with her training session I was walking her back to her field when she decided she wanted to check out a flatbed trailer that was parked in the backyard.  Being a bright day, the barn cats Catarina and Sassy were sunning themselves on the wooden floor of the trailer.  Tiki, ever curious, wanted to check it out. She gently pulled on the lead rope, straining to walk over to the trailer.  She craned her neck out, flared her nostrils and blew at the wooden beast.  Since horses have very poor sight when it comes to anything right between their eyes in front of them and right in front of their noses, she startled herself when she craned down to sniff at the trailer and smacked nose-first right into the handle.  She jumped straight up into the air about six inches and landed with her feet planted wide and eyes even wider.  She snorted and tried again, bumping into the handle a second time with less fanfare.

I couldn't help it, I started laughing at her confusion.  After petting her and telling her that it was ok, she seemed to shrug her shoulders and started eating the grass next to the wheel.  Then she noticed the cats, who had woken up with all the commotion and were now trolling about on the deck of the trailer.  She realized they were SO much closer to her and more attainable than normal due to their elevated status on a raised wooden surface.  This completely fascinated her, and she gazed at them longingly, craning her head and neck over the edge of the trailer to try to reach them.  This was cute for about 30 seconds, until I realized that her completely fearless self was poised to just hop up about 2 feet into the air to join them.  I looked back and saw her positioning her hind legs underneath her body and starting to lift a shoulder.  Having taught her how to jump in hand and how to start the spanish walk, this would have been a cakewalk.  But in my mind I saw a flash of the future, with her sliding her hooves across the deck of the trailer in a cartoon-like banana peel type of fashion, trying to stop her forward momentum (she puts a LOT of gusto into her jumps and tends to fly through the air twice as high and far as she planned) and then scrambling off the other side, probably cutting herself on the sharp metal corners in the process.  So I quickly said NOOOOOOOO and backed her away from the trailer.  She went back to quietly nibbling on grass like nothing happened and her feline friends returned to their napping state.

I am forever floored by how curious and fearless she is.  She often looks at me to see my level of concern about anything, and so long as I am calm, she is calm and willing to go anywhere and try anything.  She'll walk on any surface, hop up on or over anything I present her with, and generally just doesn't blink an eye about most things.  If she does startle, she hits the end of the lead rope but really doesn't pull or do anything stupid anymore.  I don't feel like I signed up for an impromptu skiing lesson when working her in open spaces anymore.  There was a time when she was young that she figured out how to turn her head away, take control of the lead rope and knew the exact angle to lock her neck and pull that would make hindquarter disengagement impossible by pulling in the exact opposite direction from the handler.  Thankfully, we've worked through that and now have softness and give when being worked with.  She naturally yields now and will step over as necessary and disengage her hind when necessary. 

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