I have had two foals since they were born. Apocalipse was one of those who would rear up against everything, including me, when he was young. I always ignored him, and after he managed to hit me in the head once, with a front hoof, he kind of stopped on his own.
It was never really an issue with him. He still use rearing up against the others, when he plays, but he easily understood that it wasn’t the way to engage humans.
Ablaze, is another matter. When he was small, he did try to engage me a couple of times, by rearing up against me, but when I just walked away, he quickly stopped. The worst I can do to Ablaze, is refuse to play with him.
The boyfriend and Ablaze, though, never understood how to make this behaviour stop. Ablaze has been rearing up against Aston, since he was tiny.
And when he got older.
I don’t know if it is a “boy thing,” or why they can’t work it out. They have had periods, where I have been afraid to leave the two of them alone together, because Ablaze has been so pushy and so dangerous towards Aston, that Aston has had moments where he has been in need of rescuing. I have worked hard with Ablaze, on installing an on/off switch in him, making sure that whenever we play, I can always tell him to stop and take a deep breath, because he is overstepping my boundaries. Ablaze understands so, very well, and I have stepped in once in a while, when he has been crowding Aston.
It is hard to teach him, how not to provoke this reaction in Ablaze, because make no mistake, Aston is doing this on purpose, no matter if he wants to admit it or not. It is so easy to push Ablaze’s buttons, and it is so easy to see when you need to stop the game, or he will explode in your face, and Aston never quite backs down in time. I used to wonder, if he couldn’t tell when Ablaze was about to rear up against him, but I believe that I have been telling him how not to get that reaction, since Ablaze was a foal.
When he comes at you, stop him without touching him, and if he ignores that, place your hand underneath his jaw, or on his shoulder. Never on the top of his nose, that will make him apply pressure back, and he will go up and out of the situation that way. It sort of is a basic instinct in most horses.
I get that it is a very easy way to respond involuntarily, when a horse comes at you. To stop him, by pressuring him on the nose. And I get to, that Ablaze isn’t allowed to respond by rearing, no matter what you do, but to be honest, it is so easy not to get this kind of behaviour from him, I would never tell him off for it, when he does respond to being goaded.
I have to say, I watch these pictures with a sort of ambivalent feeling. Mostly, I am happy that Ablaze is now, being very, very careful and attentive, making sure not to hit his little human.
And at the same time, it always bothers me, that they can’t work out how to play nicely with each other. I never want my foal to respond like that, to anyone. And they know better, both of them. Still, they have to push each other, all the time.
I guess that my real luck is that Ablaze is reasonable enough to know the difference between Aston and me. So what I am really saying with this post, is that clearly, I am better at training horses, than humans. Because of the two of them, Ablaze knows how to behave.
And I know, looking at these pictures, this is what I love about Ablaze. His wild spirit. How he will respond with force, if you pressure him. I want to keep him exactly like this forever, I adore working with him when he is this raw and unbroken.
I just need to figure out a way to make Aston stop provoking Ablaze. Especially now, when Ablaze is actually being this careful and attentive. It feels a little unfair to him, that he is put in this position at all.
I know of my other girlfriends, who has boyfriends with horses, and they instinctively wants to use contact with the horses. Instead of teaching the horse to keep its distance, respect your space and guide it with no- touch signals, men tend to want to place a hand on the horse, and push it, thus invading the horses space. Aston used to love to wrestle with Apollon, because Apollon was very much a little bulldozer. I told him a lot of times, that he shouldn’t do that. It had taken me years to install a safe distance between me and Apollon, because he wasn’t as reasonable as Ablaze. Apollon went for the kill, when pushed. But Aston only knew him, after he grew up, and somehow what I really think he is missing is a healthy respect for the huge animal he is working with.
I am not afraid of my horses, but I learned very early on that I cannot win any fight, based on muscle power. Neither can Aston. When push comes to shove, a horse is always stronger than you, and if you refuse to use evil aids, you have to train your horse instead, and establish some rules for how to be around each other, and how to play with humans. Also, I will admit, with my red horses, Poseidon and Saleem, with super touchy skin, I always found that it was nicer to not touch them, if I didn’t have to. If I could just place my shoulder in the right angle, and move them with my body language, rather than having to push them around, we were all very much happier. But men are not like that, it seems. No matter how reasonable and sensible a man you find, there clearly is a bully inside him, who loves to push a 500kg animal, when it needs to move, rather than just ask it nicely.
I know, it is minor issues, and I can’t expect the boyfriend and me to train our horses exactly the same way at all times, since we are all different, but it does bother me that he seems to be aiming for getting this response from Ablaze, because part of him kind of thinks it is funny, to have him rear up against him.
One would think that he would know better, after a foal I looked after once, kicked him in the face, completely unprovoked… He still has the scar, right across his forehead. They are huge animals and something like this can easily go from sort of fun and games, to injury and death.
Add to that, when Ablaze was young, he found it funny to rear up against people. He would bully everyone on the pasture, my friends who came to visit too, except me, and he didn’t understand how wrong it was. Now, he does know that it is wrong, so when he chooses to do it anyway, he is really pushed into it, by Aston’s body language. Whether it is intentional or not, I guess I will never really know, but I sure wish I could make it stop, because it is bothering Ablaze by now. He becomes rather frustrated, when he finds himself backed into that corner.
And I know, I should worry for Aston’s safety, rather than my horses state of mind, but I don’t. I trust Ablaze by now. He is looking out for his silly little human. Even when said human, needs to be taught a lesson.
I guess the scary part about this, is that I find myself once more, unable to communicate with humans, but completely able to read, teach and trust my two year old Arabian gelding.