We had set up a portable round yard very similar to the one at home and I had seen Bazaconi
gallop around in there a hundred times, so I knew he would put on a spectacular display when we put him in and let him go. After reassurance to some of the participants that I wouldn’t over face them, and that no-one had to do anything they weren’t comfortable with, we got hands on.
I did a little demonstration using Baz. By this time, with me, our join up sessions were not all that exciting. If I didn’t chase him away he would stick to me like glue. I gave the soldiers a rundown on how it worked. I sent Bazaconi out by creating some energy, in this case I used a lunge whip, but what you use to create energy is irrelevant, throw your arms around, chase them, use a Parelli carrot stick or even a dressage whip with a plastic bag tied to the end.
Keep the energy levels up until the horse believes you are pushing him, not him just running away from you, there is a huge difference.
Bazaconi was great, not too crazy and still having a nice canter, he had one ear on me at all times waiting for a command, pretty good in a strange environment. There is a school of physiology called “gestalt” put forward by a guy called, you guessed it, Gestalt. It revolves loosely around how all creatures are affected by our environment and in part, it concluded that we are instinctively relaxed in our most familiar environment with constant cues and surroundings. With Bazaconi, I had become his gestalt, it didn’t matter where we went as long as I was there giving the well worn cues and constant aids, he could relax, he was safe. This is how you need your horse to be if you want to have him with you when you go out to competitions and such. For instance, this is super important for a police horse. So as soon as I stopped applying pressure, Baz came running to me. As I walked around the arena giving my description on how things worked, he was constantly within touching distance. I watched an awesome example of this once with horses in the paddock and I wish I had videoed it.
I have a big Warmblood gelding named Snippy, posh name, Millfield Samurai. He is
17.3 hands and 700kg. Snippy is very dominant and is often in the paddock with the thoroughbreds and does a good job of teaching them manners. Most have no idea of paddock etiquette. When they come of the track, most have never been on their own with an adult horse in a herd situation since they left their mothers, maybe as long as 10 years. Snippy is a very good teacher as he does a lot of biting around feed time. No-one questions him but they all want to be with him – normal herd behaviour.
On this one occasion, I put a pretty little mare in the herd and she wanted nothing to do with the geldings, turning and kicking and squealing every time they came near. She did it to Snippy once, and then he went to work, giving her a hard bight on the rump when she presented to kick. She kicked again, he bit harder and off she went with Snippy giving chase. Now with Snippy’s size chasing a nimble little thoroughbred filly around a two acre paddock is bloody hard work, she must have been a real good sort. Every time she kicked, he raised his head to avoid getting hit and bit her bum at every opportunity. He chased her for about five minutes flat out, eventually she started to get sick of it, but Snippy persisted in making her run. It’s about this time that most horse owners panic “quick get her out, he is going to kill her” two more bursts of chase and then Snippy let her stop. The mare walked briskly up to Snippy putting her nose into his shoulder, and she was never more than touching distance
away from Snip for the next two months. A perfect join up, she was distraught every time I took him to work.
So that’s how it worked with Baz and I. Bazaconi would be suspicious of the soldiers when
they came into the yard and if they didn’t take control of the situation, he wouldn’t respect them. Too passive no result, too aggressive no result. I stood with the first girl when she came in so I could talk quietly to her and direct her. With two of us in the yard, Baz’s gestalt was broken and I got my student to cut him off and make him change direction in order to regain his attention. Initially when she went toward the side of the round yard to cut him off, she didn’t allow enough time to get in front of him and he rushed past even faster. He, felt like he was running away from her, it was imperative that he believed she could direct him. In a small round yard with Baz cantering pretty fast, she needed be looking at Baz, turn at least 180 degrees and head quickly to the far side of the arena. Don’t worry that you feel like you are moving away from the horse, he will very quickly be there. Create energy in front of his eyeline and send him back in the other direction, she couldn’t believe how much influence she could have on such a powerful wild looking creature. A few more quick changes of direction and then the tell tale sign of Bazaconi’s inside ear came to her – he was listening, concentrating. He started to anticipate her changes of direction, she now only needed to threaten to move to the side of the arena and he responded. Her energy and anxiety levels were able to drop and as she was becoming constant with her communication, Baz focused more. Now, by relieving the pressure by turning away, lowering body height, relaxing shoulders, and talking in a calming tone, she could show Baz that she was no longer making him run, Bazaconi stopped and faced her. She was relieved and a little exhausted. Baz was switched on, focused with both eyes and both ears. She sent him off again, stopped him again and Baz came to her. You have never seen such a smile; she looked like she would burst with pride.
I was proud of Bazaconi, he followed her around like a puppy dog. She gave him a good old pat, first lesson complete. Bazaconi’s increasing intelligence and focus made him a great teacher and he responded immediately to every minor cue either correct or incorrect.
One soldier down, six more to go. I decided I would use Bazaconi for all of them. Yes he knew the game better and better with each soldier, and he penalised them if they got it wrong, but he rewarded them generously if they got it right. Just like a good horse trainer, Bazaconi had learnt well how to train his humans. Every one of the soldiers got a good join up by the end of the session and Baz seemed to love it at the end of each job as he got real love from someone who felt they had made a real connection with another creature. Some soldiers had not had this connection since they had returned from their armed service. Wow, they were all beaming. What a great start to the week. Baz was a star.
End part 14