With the New Year come resolutions to fix or address some issues. It’s also a good time to try to make some new commitments to our equine partners. Don’t berate yourself about what you haven’t done. The idea about resolutions is not to immediately “fix” something but, instead, to commit to improving, to making progress. In the words of the famous American poet and humorist, Ogden Nash:
What lordly aspirations dawn
The while I draw my trousers on!
Oh beamish morning, big with hope
And noble tasks with which to cope,
If I should fail you, do not sorrow;
I’ll be a better man tomorrow.
So here are a couple of ideas for the new year.
1. Play. Create a game to play with your horse. My favorite is hide-and-seek. In my variant with my horses, I play with them at liberty. I give them a chunk of carrot or apple. Then I walk away and hide behind a tree. I wait for my horse to come find me. When he walks up to where I am hiding, I give him another treat. Very quickly the horse catches on that the human being goes to hide and if the horse can find him or her, there’s also a treat there to be found. In no time, I am running off to hide and the horse is running after me to find me. It’s a hoot. A word of caution: play this game with a horse you trust running after you.
2. Put aside one hour for cleaning and grooming your horse. Just dedicate yourself for one full hour to your horse’s hygiene. Groom him from head to tail. Clean out his eyes. Clip his ears. Trim his mane and tail if they need it. Pretend you are getting your horse ready to present in a horse show.
3. Have an adventure. Stop riding around the arena in circles. Instead, pack up a lunch in some saddle bags and head out into a new territory or explore a new trail. Sometimes I’ll head out early on horseback to try to spot game and wildlife on the move as the sun gets ready to come up. Being on horseback makes animals much less shy about showing themselves. I suspect because you smell more like a horse and less like a human.
4. Teach your horse a new trick. Teach your horse something new that is just for fun. Like how to pick a hat off the ground or take a bow. Just do it for the fun of letting your horse show off how smart he is.
5. Do some unusual work with your horse. Teach your horse to drag. Start with dallying a rope around the horn of your saddle and pulling something simple behind the horse like a drag made from a piece of two by four. Gradually work your way up to a log of fire wood and then a branch. Then tackle a project like clearing out dead limbs and put your horse to work helping to drag branches off.
Think back to how they did things at the turn of the century. No, not the twentieth. The nineteenth. Then do things the way they used to do them. There are few things a horse loves more than having an actual job to do. And there are few things that engender a deeper partnership than doing hard work together.
Happy New Year!