Progress with BeeGee has been slow, mostly because of weather and daylight. Now that the weather is improving and there's daylight on both ends of the work day, I've been able spend more time with him. The first thing I realized is that I need professional guidance but without a horse trailer, plus a horse that is reluctant to get in any trailer I was limited to people who would come to me and be willing to work in a muddy pasture, sometimes in the rain or drizzle. With a recommendation from my sister-in-law, Kim Knott came out and helped me on a nice day last winter. Kim is great and gave me some exercises that I could do in hand with him. The only problem with Kim is that she lives on Whidbey Island so trying to coordinate around my work schedule, her commute and other obligations, plus the weather and dwindling light was becoming impossible.
Then I asked my farrier, Daphne Jones, for a recommendation. I really like the way she handles him, calms him down when he's nervous and brings his attention back to her gently. He responds very well to persistent gentleness. She recommended Meghan Valenti, who is a horsemanship trainer. I have to admit that I've gotten far away from horsemanship. When I had my own horses at home, of course I had to practice horsemanship, but once I got into various trainers' programs about 15 years or so ago, it wasn't necessary. Often my horse was handed to me, groomed and tacked up. At the end of the lesson the reverse happened -- I handed the horse back to the groom for the untacking and grooming. At best, I got to groom and tack my own horse but that was it. All my lessons were in an arena. No hacks or other activities were part of the program so it seems easy to understand why I lost interest. To me the best part of owning a horse is spending time with him/her, grooming, playing silly games, riding bareback or out on the trails with my friends, even picking the pasture is a nice way to spend time with your horse.
It's interesting that on social media there's a trend of articles and opinions that the art of horsemanship has been lost. I couldn't agree more and I am one of those people who lost it. What is also interesting is what has changed in the art of horsemanship. The former fashion was a do-as-I-tell-you sort of style (which may or may not include some form of violence) and today the fashion is a different mind-set. The buzz phrase is "emotional control" and the way that the horse is taught is to offer choices but to make the "right" answer the easy one. This method takes a long time, especially with a horse like BeeGee who has had a suspect past and very little confidence.
The key about teaching a horse emotional control is that you, the handler or trainer, also has to have emotional control. The horse is not bad because he's upset or doesn't want to do what you ask and there's no reason for you to be upset. Sometimes your reactions have to match his actions but you have emotional control. Compassion has a place in training when you realize that when a horse reacts big that he's not in a good place in his head and that feels good to no one. Maybe pity even has a place. Feel sorry for the poor horse that had to go to that place but love on him when he comes back to being the horse you met and couldn't help yourself when you brought him home. I admit to being frustrated with BeeGee because I didn't know how to respond to a big reaction and I've had to put him away before we got back to a good place but horses are forgiving if we are kind, even if uninformed. Mistakes will happen and are allowed because no one is perfect.
BeeGee is going back to regular work in June. He's moving to a private stable just north of Arlington and a little east of the stable I started riding at 30 years ago. It's funny that him going to that neighborhood feels almost like a full circle in my horse life. I have high hopes for him, although it could take a couple years and I'm okay with that. Eventually his emotional maturity will match his age but it's been like that for me too.