Thinking of my last horseback ride with my friend here in Scottsdale, I remember listening to her brag for hours about how much her boyfriend loves her and spoils her. So on this day of love, I ask myself ‘What is love?’ And I have to remember: ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not rejoice in evils but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’ I have a beautiful image of my two Chihuahuas in love. My little dogs are my role models and a source of my own hope for human love.
If I approach Zum with the saddle and he begins to move, I take the saddle to the middle of the round pen and set it down. Then I take Zum on a lunge line to the round pen and I make him work hard with many changes of directions until he is glad for a chance to relax and to stand still. I approach him with the saddle again. If he moves, then I make him go in circles on the lunge line. I repeat this sequence until Zum is solid in standing calmly while I set the saddle on his back and then take the saddle off several times in a row. These saddling lessons take time but eventually Zum wants to stand quietly as I swing the saddle on and off.
I have learned never to tie Zum when I am bridling him. He will feel trapped and be more apt to resist and pull back. And I have also learned to only remove the bridle when Zum’s head is lowered and he is relaxed. I don’t ever want to pull the bit out of his mouth. I rub on his forehead to teach him to lower his head. Then I wait for Zum to release the bit by opening his mouth. I can also hold a treat below his nose so he has to reach down for the treat.
All last summer, Zum stood perfectly still while I put on his hackamore. I did a lot of groundwork with a focus on stopping and standing still. He learned that whenever I say ‘Ho’ he must stop moving and he must not move until I tell him to. When he stops and stands still, he is rewarded with lots of praise.
I am putting the bit into Zum’s mouth finally! I stand next to him on his left side by his face. I put my right hand on his forehead putting pressure down. As he lowers his head, I put my left thumb into the side of his mouth and slip the bit inside. I cannot be in a hurry. I have noticed that the less threatening I am about it, the more cooperative Zum is. Fighting a horse makes a horse more aggressive. I release pressure on his head when he responds properly and I position a treat so he has to lower his head even more!