Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fishing is a lot like Gentling Mustangs

When I was a kid my dad would haul me down to the local fishing pond on derby day, fix up my pole with a Dick Knight spinner, and off to the races I'd go. I'd cast and reel it in, cast and reel in, cast, feel the bite, set the hook, and reel in. Over and over until my limit was reached. It was exhilarating. I loved the constant motion, and I was always in the prizes, so obviously what I was doing was right, right?

Other kids? Well, some used worms and some sat there with bobbers, waiting for the fish to strike. Of course, with a bobber you had to watch the little air filled ball disappear beneath the surface of the water before you picked up your pole and set the hook. Slow. Much too slow. And it had to be wrong, right? I mean...my hand was on the pole when that fish hit, and those kids with poles resting on little forked sticks had to bend down and pick up that pole before they could set that hook. Obviously, my way was superior.

Obviously.

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Yeah, like a bobber would even work in that water.

As I grew older I began to realize that each fisherman had his own style, and the style that fit each fisherman may be a little different than it was for the next. Some people catch fish just fine with that bobber. Some can't sit still and need to cast that spinner out there again and again. And then there are those who can't settle on a method...the ones who start with a bobber, switch the spinner and then run to the store and pick up some power bait.

When it comes to gentling horses, I tend to be a lot like that last fisherman. The one who switches gears and can't quite seem to find the right speed to work at. I know...crazy! Look at all the horses who've come through here, right? And by and large, I've done well by them. And with each horse, I've learned a little more and become a bit more confident with the way I've approached them. And this is a good thing. It brings me closer to my own style.

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Sandy's style gets squeegeed.

I have always loved my rope the best, but after watching many of Kitty Lauman's videos with Ranger and her pole, I found a great appreciation for that method and have found that using one of my little alder trees, or perhaps the long handle of a mop...or even my friend the 4' garden rake (jokingly known as the face rake) has added a new dimension to my gentling.

But I've come across a horse who's stopped me in my tracks. A horse who does not like spinners or power bait or the shifting of gimmicks or tools. And I've felt as though I've lost ground.

Although, not really. I mean...he leads. And rather nicely, too. He backs between poles and walks through gates and I can stop and open up the panels between paddocks and lead him through the maze fairly comfortably.

So what's the problem, then? Why am I second guessing my 'style'?

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Curt has always said, in his kinda quiet cowboy way, "I always find a hand works best, but you go ahead and use whatever works for you." I always thought he meant that. Because obviously...the rope and the pole (or mop or rake) was getting me into the space of my wild ones. But then came Red. And Red does not want to be touched with a rake or a mop or a pole or a rope.

Sometimes I think Red looks like me as though I'm Sam I Am. That Sam I Am, that Sam I Am, I do not like that Sam I Am. I do not like her with a rope, or with a mop or with a pole...

Red is a smart boy, of that there is no doubt. He's simply not into gimmicks. He's fearful of those objects reaching towards him and he simply is not ready to give in. He's making me wait. He wants me to fish with a bobber...my absolute worst nightmare as a fisherman.

And it has suddenly dawned on me that I ought to have been listening to Curt all along. Why on earth had I not? I should know better by now. Curt is always right. So much for round pens, square pens, and all the natural horsemanship wisdom. Good horsemanship, again, wins out.

"Better feed him," Curt said. Okay. I'll feed him.

Alongside Red's stall is Jethro, one of the lambs from last spring. I stood just outside of Jethro's stall and fed him through the panel where Red could see. Red watched intently, and finally decided to come and snatch a bit of hay for himself. He backed away and munched, then came forward again. At one point, his nose 'accidentally' moved up my arm to get a good sniff. It wasn't much, just a fish bouncing the bait around at the end of my line. But eventually he'll go for it, and he'll be mine.


12 comments:

Pony Girl said...

Great post Tracey! Nice reflection on training and the methods you've used for gentling. Can't wait to hear more about Red's progress!

photogchic said...

Great analogy. Keep reeling him in.

photogchic said...

Great analogy. Keep reeling him in.

gtyyup said...

That's the term the John Sharp used...fishing for mustangs. Good post!

Shirley said...

Good insight. There are always those who think their method is best, but ultimately it's the horse who decides.

Breathe said...

Ooo, I love this. When the teacher becomes the student, all learn the most.

JeniQ said...

Great post Tracey! I've always wondered how this was done.. please tell me more!

Tracey said...

So glad you've all enjoyed this post!

Crystal said...

I love this, and always when you think you know what works, they want something different, excellent analogy!

City Boy said...

I knew I should have taught you how to fly fish!

Tracey said...

I'm not so sure about catching fish with flies...though I'm sure I could catch flies with horses!

Karen C. said...

Tracey, this was fantastic! I have posted this on my blog because I think it will help so many people...not to mention it was written in a way that pulls us in.
Thank you! :-)
Karen and Tripp