Yes, the two are directly correlated.
Much like this post from last February, life with this little mare has continued well along the track I set out on 10 months ago. (And wow, can I just say for the record how much I love blogging for exactly that reason? I can look back and be like, "YES. That is IT. Go me for doing that then!")
Q is calmer and better on trails. She is still, hands down, the looky-est fucking horse. But, I'm learning how to manage and deal with that all the time.
She is also HIGHLY drawn to her herdmates when we are at home. HIGHLY drawn.
While yes, her instincts tell her that she should be a social flight animal because safety is in numbers for such critters, her tendency to listen to this instinct is far greater than any horse I've ridden.
She wants to try to listen to her rider. She tries to be a good girl...but she struggles.
Why? I'll tell you the best hypothesis I have: that damn cowboy.
- When Q was under his tutelage, working WAS NOT FUN. "Work" was terrifying. He misused and overused those flags on a stick that are so popular. I witnessed a short session of this the day I met her; she was downright terrified and despite that very obvious body language he kept plowing ahead and working her up more.
- He gouged her with his spurs too much forcing her to submit to his wishes. She has the scars (white hairs) on her belly to show it.
- He tied her hind leg(s) up one at a time to tire her out and better force submission. (Noted through her issues with hind leg handling and
- "Work" meant being forced to comply with whatever the daily task was. It meant being man handled. It meant submitting out of fear and pain.
Q is a sensitive horse. While she has no papers to my knowledge, she is very much an Arabian. The cowboy hated that about her, he's much more drawn to quarter horses. (Noted through observation; Q was the only Arab on a farm of all QH and a couple APH. And he wanted to be RID of her SOON.)
Piecing together the stories I've gathered from a few different sources, this cowboy seems to have been the main person in Q's life when she was transitioning into her life as a riding horse. I firmly believe that his methods are the root cause of why she is the way she is.
In nearly all things I pursue with her that she also experienced with the cowboy, she exhibits a variety of nervous/scared behaviors more often (e.g., work in the round pen, many aspects of trail riding, the act of "training" to get on and off a trailer, handling her feet for trims, any work in and around "home").
However, if I throw her into situations that are complete novel to her time with me, I witness an animal who is inquisitive and curious, maybe a bit timid, but ultimately an incredibly willing partner (e.g., parades during daylight or night time with and without flashing lights and sirens, crowds of people, elementary school jumping demonstrations, riding through an urban area at night, use of the trailer to go somewhere and not just train, work/activities away from "home").
This year has been more of an anomaly than past years for work with Q. The majority of our riding time was spent off property. I'd really like to make this anomaly more of the norm.
Any time I work Q at home, or really within a mile of home, the magnetic force of her herd draws her attention away from the task at hand. She is nearly incapable of focusing on what I want because she is so drawn to watching the other horses/trying to be near the other horses. She also is spookier near home than away from home. I suspect her lack of attention on the task at hand is a contributing factor, I'm more startled by things when my attention is elsewhere, too! Hell, the whole premise of trying to scare your friends revolves around their attention being elsewhere while you sneak up on them. So it isn't too surprising that Q gets more wigged out by things at home when her attention is on, "Friends. I have friends. Did you see my friends? My friends are over ther-- DARK SPOT ON THE GROUND OHMYGODITSABLACKHOLETOANOTHERUNIVERSE. I'M GONNA DIE."
But if I take her off property her propensity toward her herdmates disappears. Additionally, having a new area to ride in means less anticipation of scary "monsters" and more focus on what is actually present. (And it is great training to experience different things!)
Additionally, this horse benefits greatly from a buddy on trail. Maybe one day she won't (time and miles seem to dictate that most horses get better and move past this?!), but right now she very, very much needs a buddy. Q builds on her positive experiences when she has a buddy, be it horse or mountain biker.
I'm going to strive to work even better with the horse I have into the future. Great strides have been made this year and I'm going to do my damndest to continue them: more riding in Canaan, more riding in Dolly Sods, more riding at Olson Tower, more riding with mountain bikers on many gravel roads and trails.
This horse hasn't been the easiest nut to crack, but I feel like I understand her better every day. I owe it to her to use my understanding to help her be better. Cheers to that!