Last year I took Angel and myself to a Jerry Tindell clinic. One thing that happened during that time was that Jerry was able to get Angel to walk over a blue tarp on the ground. I was in awe, as Angel had consistently refused to step on any tarp on the ground.
When I got home, I was able to repeat the whole walking-over-the-tarp thing, and even trotting-over-the-tarp as well. Angel was reasonably comfortable with it, and I was ecstatic. Lookie what my horse can do!
A couple weeks later, and Rod wasn’t at the stable that day, I attempted to practice this skill again. Total failure. It was my Worst Horse Day Ever, a Very Bad No-Good Day With Angel. Angel flatly refused to cross the tarp. I could blame the wind, blame that the tarp was in a different spot, blame myself, blame whatever. (I don’t blame Angel.) But for whatever reason, he flatly refused. We went round and round for OVER AN HOUR. I finally gave in and gave up. I was exhausted and dizzy, and the only reason Angel didn’t just kick me and walk away is because he is, well, an angel. He actually did just turn around and walk off several times, but he didn’t kick me.
I felt horrible. I felt that I didn’t treat Angel right during that day, and I felt like a failure as an equestrian. The fact that another person at the stable “tattled” on me to Rod, which took away from me the opportunity to talk with him about it on my own terms, just added to my upset over the whole thing. I decided I would not ask Angel to do this again. I felt like I had “broken” him to some extent. It just wasn’t an important enough thing to make him miserable over.
At our new stable, like I’ve said, I’m on my own. Time has passed, and I thought I’d try it again. No big deal, no big pressure, just give it a try. If he flatly refuses, I’ll just put it away and forget about it. So today, I took Angel and a Big Blue Tarp out to the large round pen. I turned him loose as I shook it out and spread it out on the ground, close to the wall but with enough room so he could go around it if he wanted to. Totally his choice. I put Angel on the lunge line, and off he went. He walked around it several times, then I asked him if he might walk over it. And he did. With no problem. Walked and trotted over the Big Blue Tarp in both directions with little to no hesitation. I told him he was a rock star!
After that, I turned him loose again so he had total freedom of movement, and took the tarp, shook it by him, draped it over him, flipped it, pulled it around him, and he just stood there looking at me like, “Is that all you got?”
Apparently I didn’t break my horse, at least not irrevocably. Have I mentioned that I think he’s a rock star?