Since I adopted Glasswing in April of 2009, we have had a hard time bonding. She is a crabby little mare in general and even though she does learn most lessons I set out to teach, she always has her ears back and is impatient or frustrated. Sometimes she gets so excited about the food reward she moves into sexual arousal and treats me like a stallion, squealing and presenting to me. I admit I haven’t invested the same amount of time working with her as I have with my other horses because of her unhappiness and arousal during lessons. It is difficult to look forward to working on her emotional issues constantly instead of a satisfying progression toward riding. She treats the other horses much worse than she treats me – constantly laying back her ears if they come anywhere near her space, biting and going after horses much larger than herself and actively running after and biting the divider between the two sides of our lean-to at feeding time. She crosses the line from posturing to aggression. Twice she has gone after and shaken a barn cat for walking too near her hay pile.
She is a beautiful pony, though, and so smart it makes my head spin. She remembers everything I’ve taught her after one or two repetitions, much quicker than my other horses. And sometimes, in the morning while I’m scraping out the lean-to she’ll come over to greet and see what’s in my wheelbarrow and we will have a quiet, easy interaction.
When I first saw her picture she reminded me of a witch’s pony – dark chocolate with snowcap overlaid and a pattern of mottled brown on her neck that reminds me of a map of a foreign place. A silver mane and eyes that look human. An odd looking pony, but powerful too.
For over a year I have had a beautiful bridle picked out for her, a tiny dark-oiled western bridle set with stones. I was going to purchase it as a reward for myself once I had finished all her groundwork but she’s just not at the place where she wants to be ridden. The riding will come when her emotions level out. The accomplishment with Glasswing will not be riding (I’ve already sat on her back multiple times), but helping her relax and enjoy work without being over-aroused and over-intense.
Our lessons for this winter will be working on “Happy Ears”, a foundation lesson from Alexandra Kurland, at least three days a week. I’ve selected a low-value food to decrease as much arousal/stress as possible. Basically, we will go for walks both indoors and out and every time she puts her ears forward she will receive a click and treat. Since ears forward is physiologically linked to a different emotional state than she typically displays when working, I am looking to condition a new state of mind during training. As she is successful I will look for her to keep her ears forward for longer and longer duration. Hopefully, by spring, she will be ready to re-visit some of her other lessons in a new state of mind. I invite you to come along on this journey with me and my crabby, strange, gorgeous pony who sees the world in a way I’m still trying to figure out. 2012 is supposed to be a year of transformation – so let us begin!
What a lovely looking pony! I hope the two of you make great progress on your goals in 2012.
I have two large ponies I’m working with now. One (a mare) who gets frustrated easily and is sure to let you know it. Another, a gelding, who is very laid back but, after playing around with somethings recently, I’m realizing that he is sometimes a lot more concerned / frustrated than he seems to let on.
They can both be challenging, but they both have been and continue to be great teachers for me.