All natural horse care in the west of Ireland

Make The Right Thing Easy
Sunday, 27 July 2008
We set out for our normal Saturday hack at 1pm as normal. Planned to meet up with some friends about 4 miles away. We had arranged to meet around 1.45pm. 45 minutes is how long it took us to get to the meeting place the last time we met up.

This week I rode Magpie and Annalice rode Polly.

About a mile out Magpie had other ideas. She stopped dead and turned around to head for home. I turned her back in the direction we were heading but she was having none of it. She turned again. I turned her back so she half turned and started walking sideways back towards home. I turned her again but every few steps she stopped and attempted to turn for home.

Each time she turned for home I made her do a full turn so she was heading back in the direction I wanted to go.

Eventually after about 20 minutes we got going. I decided to halt for a minute to call my friend to let her know we were running late. Bad move!! As soon as I stopped riding, Magpie tried again to turn for home. So we went throught the whole process again. Her turning, me turning her in a circle. Magpie trying to walk sideways home, me letting her go a little way then walking her on and turning her around in a circle so we ended up facing the way we were going.

Once when we were facing home, I couldn't get her to turn so I leaned back and she walked backwards in the direction I wanted to go. She wasn't facing the right way but at least we were getting closer to where I wanted to get to. 

I got a little worried at some points as she was side stepping quite close to some ditches. When she got close to the ditches, I walked her on a few steps in the direction of home and then turned her again in a circle. I even got Annalice and Polly to block our way so that Magpie couldn't pass her.

It was a very hot day and she and I were starting to sweat profusely with all the effort.

Eventually we got going in the right directions when we spotted a car and a tractor coming towards us. I said to Annalice we will have to keep going. The car driver had other ideas. As he approached us he wound down his window to say hello to Magpie. He said what a lovely horse. I apologized that I couldn't stop and chat as we were having a few problems going forward. We had only stopped for a fraction of a second but that was all Magpie needed. 

She turned and started for home again. The man in the car said it's OK to pass. I said " I know but my horse has other ideas" He was very good and waited for me to do a couple of circles to get Magpie facing the right direction again. As we passed the car Magpie let out a snort and a buck just to let me know she was not impressed.

Further down the road Magpie started and stopped every few steps. Eventually one of the times she was facing home I asked her to stand. No problem, once we were facing home!! And Polly was standing sideways in front of her blocking her way! I phoned my friend, Sarah, to let her know we were having a few problems and would be late meeting up with them. 

We turned again and got a good way down the road and eventually met up with Sarah and her sister. 

As soon as we met Magpie had another try at going home. Circles, backing, walking sideways until eventually Magpie agreed to go the way, we the humans, wanted to go.

Had a good canter down for about half a mile and cantered back the way we came. Another bad move as this signalled to Magpie that we were going home.

That wasn't the plan. We wanted to go further down the road, so another episode. We didn't turn the corner to go home but as we approached we done a lovley side step manouver around the corner and proceeded to walk sideways back in the direction of home.

All that was going through my head through all these episodes was 'make the wrong thing difficult and the the right thing easy'. During my holiday in May this year I had read Tom Dorrance's 'True Unity' and Ray Hunt's 'Think Harmony with Horses'. Can't remember which book it was from but it stuck in my mind. 

So loads of circles, backing and sideways stepping we carried on with our hack. Polly took the lead and Magpie followed with a snort and a buck. This is not the normal position for Magpie as she is a lead horse and doesn't like to follow.

All was going well until we got the point in the hack were we had to take a turning which would bring us in the direction of home. Now Magpie had been down this route many times and would know that this would bring us home. We stopped for a brief second and all horses were at abouth the same level in the road and Sarah's sister's horse, CoCo, decided to reverse into Magpie and tried to double barrel her. Magpie was quick out of the way but it resulted being behind all three horses AND FACING HOME!

More of the sideways walking homeward bound, reversing into ditches but I did notice that she wasn't stupid enough to reverse right into the ditch. Just close enough to the edge to worry me and she knew it. A couple of times Magpie stopped and I just sat calmly as long as she didn't try and head for home.

Eventually, she seemed calm enough and we were sideways across the road facing in neither direction. Not the way I wanted to go or the way she wanted to go. We sat for a few minutes, I stroked her neck then asked her to go back toward the other horses. She did but let me know, with a snort and a buck, that she wasn't totally happy with the decision.

We over took the other horses (it's Ok, I asked first) and we turned the corner. From this point on Magpie was her normal self. Forward going in the front of the herd.

Sarah and her sister left us part way down this track as they live in the opposite direction to us.

We had fun on the way home with Magpie and Polly have races here and there. They really seem to enjoy that. They both like to have their noses out in front.

The homeward journey took 45 minutes. We were out in total 3 hours. The whole ride would normally take 1.5 hours so it took us twice the time it would normally take to do this route.

I am so glad Magpie was wearing her Bitless Bridle and all that circling and arguing would not have been good if she was wearing a bit.

This is the second time in the last few months that Magpie has behaved this way.

The first time was when I was out on a short hack on my own in early June. We got about a mile from home and I wanted to go down a canter track that we have and she point blank refused. Same performance as above but I didn't argue with her too much and I didn't make her go down the track. I just thought she wasn't in the mood to go down that particular lane.

We circled a couple of times, backed a few steps down the lane and then went home and it never happened again until Saturday. Maybe she throught the same was going to happen on Saturday if she kicked up a fuss.

Magpie is a Left Brain Extrovert and learns everything very quickly including how to get away with things. 

It seems that there is never a dull moment on these weekend hacks lately 

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