It started last Saturday. Although we’d had what seemed to be a quite successful session, with Brody circling much more consistently and in a more relaxed manner, I could see the first signs of annoyance during handgrazing afterwards. On Thursday, Brody had surprised me by responding to every “Aaaand UP!” by lifting his head from grazing and looking to me for the next direction. But now only two days later he was ignoring my verbal command, and responding to my subsequent tug on the lead by tossing his head and striking out with a front leg (I was clearly out of range).
From there it was pretty much downhill. I can think of a few contributing factors, like the static shock Brody received despite my best efforts when I lifted his carefully folded blanket off his back. And then there was our return to one of Brody’s least favorite games, where I place my stick on his withers and ask him to keep pace with me. During this one he started snapping the air between us and maneuvering like he was going to try to kick me.
Hence the reference in my last post to “inconsistent and sometimes baffling” progress. Sunday Brody refused the halter, so although we haven’t done any work at liberty, I tried moving him around with just my body and stick, and was able to move him backwards, yield hindquarters, yield forequarters, and best of all move sideways with his nose towards the fence before he was ready for the halter. By Monday Brody was consistently showing me his cranky face, and alternately walking away from me and trying to walk over me (which I prevented with my stick pointed towards him).
The weather and footing prevented us from doing much during the week, but honestly it was a relief. I’m so glad Brody’s not the only horse I’ve ever worked with, or even owned (I’d gotten a green broke two year old when I was sixteen). He’s the most challenging and complex horse I’ve ever worked with. Brody can easily spook, but can also be quite confident and curious. As unpleasant as he’s been to interact with this week, Brody’s also given me practically zero problems picking his feet. Just as the vet was arriving Friday, I had him circling at a walk and he tried to pick an argument by stopping suddenly and pulling back away from me. But then he showed great courage and set about inspecting the vet and the ultrasound machine until he was comfortable enough to stand still for the procedure.
One comment we hear from all visitors is how beautiful Brody is-- and as my husband says, “he knows it.” Brody is dominant, and smart, playful, and defiant. There’s no shortage of personality in the paddock. The last time Brody got sour, it was because he hadn’t been played with enough. This time he’d been played with no more or less than usual. This weekend, Brody’s been more willing to be touched, so I’ve been giving him scratches and some treats. I have to say I’m finding it difficult not to take personally. I just wonder how long it’s going to take to build a consistent rapport, and what my part in this recent deterioration is.