Today I decided to take Timber out into the pasture and let him eat a little real grass. Little did I know that I would first have to convince him it was OK to go thru the gate to get out of the corral. This was just another reminder that horses don’t think like humans do. Their first thought is of safety. Humans would be thinking about getting out that corral as soon as possible and if the gate was opened we would be running thru it. I was, in fact, wondering if Timber might do this. However, Timber wanted nothing to do with going thru that gate. What a shock! As I thought about it, it made total sense from his perspective. In his life gates, like humans, only meant bad things. Each time he was forced thru a gate, it was not a good thing. One gate (or chute) meant getting crammed onto a horse trailer, another meant getting separated from buddies (including his mom), another gate led to a chute where he was squeezed in to immobilize him so the vet and farrier could attend to him. So, here he was facing another gate and he was justifiably afraid of it.
I wanted Timber to choose to go thru the gate this time, not be forced. This would involve trust and being given the time he needed to test, explore and think his way thru this scary situation. A major part of a trainer’s goal is to increase a horse’s confidence by getting him to think rather than react. The more he learns to think, the more he is prepared to face new situations and not immediately choose to run. My desire to let Timber eat some real grass turned into an opportunity to get him to think more and, in the process, trust me more.
Once he got to the pasture, this was likely the first time in years that he has actually eaten grass from the ground rather than eating dry hay in a holding area. I probably was more happy about this than he was, but who knows?