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Big horses and little girls

 

Few things put me in a better mood than watching little girls play with very big horses. Tiny human beings learning the power of asking gentle giants nicely instead of demanding and scolding. Watching reservations on both sides melt away and turn into mutual trust.

Any equine can do training with poles, obstacles, and new sensations. There’s no magic secret, just communicating. Exposing horses to new things help them learn to trust that we really do know best—so that when something unexpected happens, their response is to ask us what to do instead of bolting or panicking. This is a game humans and horses play together, where humans come up with challenges and obstacles, and horses show humans that pshaw, that’s nothing.

Training last Sunday turned out to be day of the cold-bloods. I present to you, in no particular order, haflinger Nando, Jutland draft Emilie, and fjord pony, Loke—the cold-blood allstars.

Nando is a big, playful boy who loves people and showing off. Always up for a kiss or an ear scratch, he’s pretty unflappable on the obstacle course.
Nando is a big, playful boy who loves people and showing off. Always up for a kiss or an ear scratch, he’s pretty unflappable on the obstacle course.
Emilie has never had to learn that humans can be scary, and consequently, few things humans do are scary. Balloons flapping on a string in the wind? So what?
Emilie has never had to learn that humans can be scary, and consequently, few things humans do are scary. Balloons flapping on a string in the wind? So what?
Loke, named for the Norse trickster god, lives up to his name. Clever and mischievous as, well, a fjord horse, he’ll do almost anything for his human playmate—as long as she asks nicely.
Loke, named for the Norse trickster god, lives up to his name. Clever and mischievous as, well, a fjord horse, he’ll do almost anything for his human playmate—as long as she asks nicely.
A horse depends on his legs for survival. Horses are picky about what they’ll step on, and big, noisy tarps are often a flat no. Nando required his human to show him but then it was fine. Mutual trust gets you everywhere.
A horse depends on his legs for survival. Horses are picky about what they’ll step on, and big, noisy tarps are often a flat no. Nando required his human to show him but then it was fine. Mutual trust gets you everywhere.
Force is never the answer, and nowhere is this more evident than when a tiny rider easily handles an 800 kilos draft horse. Emilie loves the small riders; they ask for little and reward her so much.
Force is never the answer, and nowhere is this more evident than when a tiny rider easily handles an 800 kilos draft horse. Emilie loves the small riders; they ask for little and reward her so much.
Training with poles and obstacles (the polka dotted object in the back is a plastic bowl full of plastic balls for the horses to try to step into) can be done from the ground or from the back. The horse may find it easiest from the ground at first (so he can watch you not being scared).
Training with poles and obstacles (the polka dotted object in the back is a plastic bowl full of plastic balls for the horses to try to step into) can be done from the ground or from the back. The horse may find it easiest from the ground at first (so he can watch you not being scared). Also, Nando tried to eat the plastic balls.
Emilie takes this sort of training a little further than many. She is completely voice controlled when working with someone on the ground, to a point where she flat out dismisses the riders’ signals in favour of those of the person on the ground. We deliberately trained her this way. With my handicap I may literally pass out in the saddle. If I act weird (or not at all) she will instantly walk up to the nearest human being to ask for instructions. A bonus effect is that insecure riders can feel completely safe with her, because all they need worry about is staying on—the guy on the ground has their back.
Emilie takes this sort of training a little further. She is completely voice controlled and ignores the riders’ signals in favour of the ground handler’s. We deliberately trained her this way. With my handicap I may literally pass out in the saddle. If I act weird (or not at all) she will walk up to the nearest human to ask for instructions. Insecure riders can feel completely safe with her, because all they need worry about is staying on—the guy on the ground handles the rest.
It doesn’t hurt that Emilie thinks playing with people is the best fun.
It doesn’t hurt that Emilie thinks playing with people is the best fun.
The coolest cat of the day, however, was Bella the barn cat. What's a warm midden for, if not sleeping in?
The coolest cat of the day, however, was Bella the barn cat. What’s a warm midden for, if not sleeping in?

Emilie has always had a thing for little girls. Remember this one from a few years back?

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