It wasn’t quite as hot yesterday as it has been lately, and a thick overcast helped a bit, too. It was nice to be able to head for the pasture with Nevada’s feed pan and not feel overstressed from heat before I even climbed through the fence.
The mares were huddled in their house, avoiding the ever-present flies. I could see Nevada’s white blaze from quite a distance as she watched me, wondering if it was worth coming out to see me. I had left the feed pan by the fence, so she didn’t know it was there.
I was in no hurry—it was pleasant just watching them and listening to the birds. Eventually, she shouldered her way through the other mares (Nevada always commands the best spot, way in the back) and stepped out. Everyone else followed, and then one of the other mares headed off, away from me, to graze near the south fence. Nevada stopped and looked at me. I asked her twice if she was sure she didn’t want to come with me, but she turned away to follow her friends.
There was a time when I would have been disappointed by this, and would likely have tried to beg her to come with me; I might have gone to get her with a halter. Yesterday, I just walked away from her when she moved off.
It’s a wonderful thing to build the kind of relationship I now have with my horses. They feel comfortable saying no when they want to, knowing that there’s no punishment for expressing an opinion. There may or may not be consequences to their decision, but it’s never punishment. The “worst” that will happen is that they may have to move their feet when they’d rather stand still, but that’s as far as it goes.
The benefit for me is huge! When the horse does something I ask, I now know without a doubt that it’s because they are willing to do it, and it’s not that they feel coerced, or fear punishment. And even more important, they say “yes” way more often!
So yesterday I just went partway across the pasture and hung out, watching bees and wasps, pulling a few weeds, and listening to the birds. It was lovely and peaceful. I could see Nevada watching me, and sure enough, after a few minutes she ambled over to see what I was up to.
Eventually she noticed her feed pan across the fence. That got her attention! She started walking that way, but stopped when she noticed I wasn’t following. I waited a minute or two, then asked her to walk WITH me, not ahead of me, over to the food, and she did.
NO fuss, no effort, nothing but a pleasant interaction between friends. How wonderful is that?!