Today, Encore! spends the day in her small corral. I give her grain then leave for the day. Usually, Wilda lets her out to be with Coltrane and Bambi, but today she is penned up until 4:00 pm.
When I arrive, Encore! stays back and stares. Usually, she nickers and waits at the gate with her ears pitched forward . Not today. She hangs back, wandering back and forth from feeder to other side of the corral. No nicker. No cheerful greeting. Thinking about it now, she must have an opinion about being locked in all day.
No worries. As soon as I enter she walks up and nuzzles the collection of gear I brought with me; two lunge lines, halter with lead rope, flag, brush, sweat scraper with tiny teeth and a bag of mini horse treats.
I start with the halter she is quickly outgrowing. She is still and waits for me while I fumble and flip the halter strap up over her neck, Encore! doesn’t move. I catch the end of the strap in my teeth, then reach up to slip the strap into the buckle. Encore! gives me plenty of time to get the halter on. I clip the rope on to the halter and lead her to a small area near a wash rack that has metal rails. I loop the line over the lower rail and pretend she tied. She stands while I lift each hoof for a few moments. I rub her face, laugh and marvel at her good nature. I give her a bite size horse treat that she nibbles without fanfare. I brush and scratch her with the sweat scraper. I hold the end of the lead to keep her thinking she’s tied. I get a good idea of how long we can go without drama. She pulls against the rope a little then yields and I give her another treat to reward her for the cooperation. She stands and stands and I brush and brush.
Eventually, I stop brushing and just stand too. Encore! cocks her hind leg and lowers her head. No tension. It’s been fifteen minutes. I un-wrap the rope from the pole and praise her effusively. Another treat and then we walk into the corral. I circle each direction, back her for ten steps, then ask her to come to me and whoa. The flag I carry gently signals that no resistance to a command will be tolerated. Encore! must learn to accommodate the slightest request.
Now, Encore! is ready to walk at liberty away from me without kicking up her heels. I direct her with my flag and whip the air to ask her to trot in each direction. She is willing to trot a little each way with a bit of canter. The game is relaxed. I say trot she trots. I say walk she walks. Sometimes she gets it right away, other times I flick the flag to get her moving. Sometimes she moves out and I remind her just to trot. She stops when I say whoa. I go to her with a treat and give lavish praise. We end on a very high note!
The lesson over, we walk through the barn breezeway and out into the five acre field. Coltrane and Bambi are eating their hay a couple of hundred yards away in another paddock that is always open. Encore! peacefully ambles over to her stable mates and begins to munch hay. All is calm. All is well.