There's a fine line between youthful exuberance and insolence. Dar, just beginning school, is not yet balanced enough to walk that line. He tries juvenile things, sometimes to entertain himself, sometimes to assert himself, sometimes to pat his inner jerk. He came to me with mouthiness, and we've made good progress dialing that down. He stands quietly in cross ties where before it was hard for him. As for his studdiness, only time will tell.
Lately, Dar's begun barging out of his paddock when it's time to come in to the barn for food time. He doesn't run through the gate; what he does is blow by when the gate swings open, and sometimes he accents his barging with a swift buck, the kind that lets you hear his hooves whistling by.
Despite doing PM feed three nights a week, Dar's barging was something I hadn't seen. E mentioned it to me a couple of weeks ago. In hand and on the longe line, Dar isn't pushy or bargy, just clingy sometimes, so his gate capers had to be coming from somewhere else. On Tuesday night, I saw the barging firsthand. One look was all I needed. Rude, dangerous behavior has to be addressed quickly. Since I was scheduled for PM feeding yesterday, I went to the barn prepared to give Dar a reality check. Another boarder was there, so I enlisted his help.
Dar was pressing at the gate. That's something he's done off and on, especially when he's in solitary turnout. He'll back on command, so I backed him. I made him stand off while I unchained the gate. Then I swung the gate partially open, creating a six-foot-wide lane. T, the boarder, held the gate steady. Uninvited, Dar moved forward. I backed him by voice, pointing my dressage whip at his chest. After he stood quietly for a few moments and I felt I had his attention, I stepped aside. He barged right through, flying past me, tossing a buck in my direction.
No. I went to Dar and haltered him. I backed him across Lot 1, into his paddock, Lot 3. I left him standing, stepped out and closed the gate. Lather, rinse and repeat.
Dar stood off from the gate. Again, I opened the gate to a six-foot-wide lane. T held it steady. Dar thought about moving forward. I puffed up like a blowfish, lifting my arms and standing tall. I held him in place with simple dominant intention. I moved into the six-foot space, a dozen feet out in front of Dar. I had his attention. I walked quietly to him and patted his neck, then moved back into the lane. Dar stayed where he was. He lowered his head, chewing softly. A minute or two passed. Finally, I stepped aside. "Come forward, Dar," I said. "Dar, come." He hesitated, then quietly walked out his paddock, past me, and into Lot 1.
This is a five-minute lesson that will have to be repeated several times, but yesterday, as I watched Dar walk submissively past me, I felt almost like a horse trainer. He needed to be corrected and I knew how to do it. That, and I had no fear; I just didn't feel anxiety at all. There is nothing about Dar that makes me uneasy, and I don't think I really understand why. Maybe I have to look at the question of fear from a different perspective, because when I discovered my anxiety with Scout, I essentially assumed (painfully) that I had become fearful of horses in general. What if that fear is just all about Scout? I guess I'll know more on the day I fall off Dar, but for now, it seems there is no place for fear to grow in me when it comes to him. I'm not saving it up for tomorrow.