Here's a situation that involves communication versus obedience (and
maybe the current heat wave).
Cory's back is sometimes sore. When I tack up, I palpate to see if
he should be longed prior to riding. If he's sore, he gets longed.
He's always less sore after riding than before, and he's been seen
by vet and massage therapist, so I have no problem here.
He also has skin more sensitive to fly bites than probably 80% of
horses-in-general (at least twice as sensitive as General's). The
other day the face-flies, deer-flies, green-heads, and B-52s got
seriously hungry. I go to mounting block (wonderful steady section
of tree-trunk) to mount; Cory stands for exactly long enough for me
almost to put my foot in the stirrup, then moves rear end away. He
was shaking his head a bit, and I got the message: too many flies
to be outdoors. After several tries, I just walked him into the
indoor arena and mounted him there. There were no flies there.
A day or two later, same thing, except that his nostrils were flared
slightly, indicating discomfort from heat/pollution/allergies.
Some time in late winter, he wouldn't let me get on in the outdoor
arena; frustrated, but "listening," I took him to the indoor, tied
up his reins (there's no fence around the outdoor), let him go:
there followed eight minutes of running around, bucking, and being
the kinds of things one doesn't want him doing under saddle. Then
he let me catch him, and we had a pleasant ride. Another time, he
got done loosening up and walked over to the mounting block and
stood there. Another really fun ride followed.
So what I have here is a horse who can communicate pretty damned
clearly. Both times he complained about the flies, he was right;
I brought a fly-whisk with us and had to use it on the trail. The
time in the outdoor he was right: to anthropomorphize, he "told" me
that he didn't trust himself not to buck or run, etc. That other
time, he clearly told me that he was ready for mounted work and
would I please come over and get on. Today, when I led him away
from the log-mounting-block and toward the indoor arena, he almost
trotted into the arena: willing to work indoors but not outside.
Our ride today was delightful: nice forward trotting up a long
long hill, through the woods to a cut field we'd never been on,
passed three woodchucks and some rabbits and a sheep (and probably
other critters he knew about but I didn't). . . But I did have to
use the fly whisk frequently.
The problem is that I do not want to ignore what he is communicating,
because if I do, how is he to know that I know what he's concerned
about? (How dumb can one be? not to notice all those biting flies?)
That is, in response to his being bothered by flies I decided to bring
the fly-whisk along the last three or four times I rode him on the
trail. Earlier in the summer he was not bothered by, and I did not
see, flies on his face (or: earlier, fly spray was enough; now it's
not). If I ignored the flies on his face and the deer flies near or
on his ears (they can bit through a mesh "fly bonnet"!) neither of us
would have enjoyed these rides. But I do not want to spend precious
minutes of the remaining daylight "discussing" flies. What I'm
asking is: how do I tell him that "yes, I understand what you're
communicating, but, as the *** intellect in our partnership,
I'm making the decision"?
Rosemarie in PA, where horrible heat indexes cannot keep us entirely
from mutual maintain-condition-and-even-improve-it
excursions among the hills and things. Nor flies.