Winter Came Quickly

As the days of autumn kept a steady stride of heat and humidity, we had a special visitor.  Our great nephew Michael came to visit and wanted to ride his Uncle Terry’s horses.  Michael has a love for horses and comes to ride every time he is in our ‘neck of the woods’.  Michael had a chance to meet Image and Ember while he was here too.

Ember with our nephew Michael

Touchy and Michael share a special moment

The beautiful leaves in all their bright colors had barely made their way to the ground before the snow made it’s abrupt entrance.  The calendar said it was still Autumn, but the snow told us we were well on our way into the cold season.  Image and Ember have continued to grow and thrive in their new home.  Terry and I had established our positions as their leaders (their 2-legged alphas).  Image accepted us as his leader quite early on after we brought them home in the fall of ’09.  It took a little longer to earn Ember’s trust.  But we did get there.  One method we used to get Ember to face us instead of turning her back on us, as she was prone to do, was to flick the end of a rope on her rump any time she turned away from us.  This was to encourage her to realize that it would more comfortable to face us than to turn away from us.  It is just a little flick with the rope, nothing that would hurt her.  But something to make her think about it.  When she would face us, we released the pressure we had on her by turning our back to her.  It was only then that we were able to make a connection with her and start to gain her trust.

Ember is one those gals who has some moody moments when she only wants her way.  And no other way.  It was during one of those moments that she decided to see if she could be my alpha.  She came towards me with her teeth bared.  I have to admit that I reacted to this by stepping back away from her.  That told her immediately that she had gained alpha status over me.   (What I should have done was march right toward her with authority and purpose that would cause her to back away from me.)  Now, I am not saying that if any of you out there has a horse who tries to dominate you, that you should walk up to them with authority.  (Please-please-please, if you have a horse that bites, kicks, or is aggressive to you in any way, please seek a professional natural horsemanship trainer to help you learn how to communicate with your horse and learn ways to prevent this behavior.  If you would like some recommendations, please let me know and I can give you some names and contact information. ) 

As time went on, when I would play games with Ember in the round pen, she remembered that she had gained her dominance over me out in the pasture.  So, the minute she laid her ears back at me, I started to switch gears in whatever we were doing and I asked her go backwards.  At first she just went sideways.  But in time she did end up backing up when I asked her to.  Any time you can get your horse to back up in a natural way, you are showing your leadership role over your horse.  Regaining my ‘alpha’ status of Ember took a few weeks.  But keeping persistent in re-establishing my leadership role with Ember has done nothing but strengthen our bond.  Ember still has her moods.  I am just learning more about how to work with them.  Some days when Queen Ember is in the round pen with me, we just play a few games that I know she will succeed at and we call it a day.  I am not about to have a battle of wills with Ember.  That would accomplish absolutely nothing.  She does not have these moody moments very often.  Most of the time she follows me everywhere I go.

As the snow started to fly, Image and Ember continued to run and play with each other.  I can’t help but think of how different their behavior would be if they were still in the wild.  Winter comes early on the Pryors and their mountain families had already been trudging through snow way before they saw their first flake of the fluffy white stuff falling to the ground.  Had they still been in the wild, they would not have wasted precious energy by running and playing.  They would spend their days foraging for any kind of food source they could find.

As the snow continued it’s unrelenting descent upon us, the horses continued to have fun in the snow.  Our neighbor’s dog Sony decided she wanted to see what Image and Ember were doing and ran out to them, barking all the way.  As soon as Ember saw her, Ember decided to get a closer look at what was running toward her.  Image soon followed.  As Image and Ember got closer and closer to Sony, she rethought her decision and came running back to her ‘mom and dad’.  Sony, Image and Ember kept up a game of running and playing as Sony went back out to see them a few more times.

As the snow just kept falling, we all settled in for the long winter months ahead...