Poor Mr O was woken by the sound of his mobile going off at 5.30am and again at 5.55. It was the alarm company to say the alarm had gone off at work and could he go and check it out. This was fine when we lived in Worksop, a mere ten minutes by car to where Mr O works, but now he is forty-five minutes away, and isn't the first person on the list to receive a call. Where were you all, huh? So Mr O had no choice but to get up and go to work, sans tea, sans breakfast, sans everything.
My alarm clock (Barnaby) went off at 6.50 and I decided to get up, so staggered downstairs and outside, to be greeted by a mini-blizzard. I decided that horses are, in fact, horses, and turned them all out. This hadn't been the original plan, I'd meant to do some work with Max, but thought it would be a bit mean while it was actually snowing, so decided to muck out instead.
Update: the rubber matting in Zak's stable is fabulous. It takes me ten minutes to muck out instead of forty-five. What a blessing. I just sweep all the muck to the front, shovel it into the barrow, and Bob's your uncle, Fanny's your aunt, there's a clean stable. I put half a bale of fresh straw down and it's fit for the King's Horse.
I must tell you, though, that when I went to turn Max out, I put his head collar and lead rope on as usual, opened the stable door, stepped right in, facing him, and made him walk backwards six steps before turning him out. It was worth it just to see the look on his face. It said, "You don't do that to me! Who do you think you are?" but he still did it. By golly, he is going to learn to respect my space if it's the last thing I do.
We got the horses in at lunch time, and I decided to take Max down to the manege. I just put his lungeing bridle on, no saddle, and took a lunge line with me. We walked down to the livery yard, enjoying the view together, and got to the manege. I let him off the lunge line, and sent him away. There are two cute mares in a little paddock quite near one end of the school, so Max set off to join them. They didn't take much notice of him, so he went bucking and leaping round the school. I swooshed behind him with the looped up lunge line, to keep him going. He stopped dead again, imploring the mares to notice him, but they gave him the cold shoulder. He turned to look at me. I walked up to him, stroked him and walked off again, but he didn't follow me.
I sent him off round the school again. Ideally this would be a round pen, but it didn't really matter. I have loose-schooled Max quite often in the past, and can actually say, "...Aaaand Max, Turn!" and he will do it on command.
Anyway, he kept trollying round, but got a lot slower, then really started to walk round with his head low down, which is apparently a good sign. I moved in, eyes down, and turned in front of him and walked off, and to my absolute joy, he followed me. I burst into tears, and really struggled to stay calm and keep the momentum. I gave him a rub on the forehead, and clipped the lunge line back on.
Then I stood about four feet away from him and called him to me, and he looked at me in astonishment, then walked towards me and stopped. I don't know which of us was the most surprised.
Then I made him back up. I really had to concentrate to stay on track, as I was feeling pretty emotional by now. I wiggled the leadrope in front of him, and he immediately and smartly took three paces back. It was the most massive bit of obedience I've ever got from him. I repeated the requests, and he did them again. I gave him another rub on the forehead, and led him out of the arena.
He walked behind me, all the way home, quietly, with his head down, ambling along at perfect peace with the world. I paused at 'Terrifying Rock' for him to have a sniff. I led him up to it, and he completely ignored it and ate the grass about four inches away from it. Bizarre! Normally it is the scariest thing in the world, and well worth a little leap around. Today... nothing.
We got back to the stables, and the next most striking thing was Barnaby's attitude to Max. Barnaby had his ears back, looking very aggressive, as if to say, "Why have you been out?" and Max showed him his teeth, saying, "I don't have to listen to you, I've got mummy!"
Then Barnaby tried to insist that they groom each other, and Max made no move to go near him. I stood and groomed him, and stroked him all over, right up to his ears, which he normally hates, and he stood there motionless and let me do it. Altogether it was a thrilling experience and very emotional. I do love this horse, and so want him to be okay with me. I think today, we may have made a breakthrough.