Indy and I didn’t return to the bank for a couple of weeks. I wanted to do more work on the footing first, and then of course some jerk had to go and break the top rail. It’s really frustrating when you, (and my good friends!) work so hard to make something nice for everyone and then someone goes and breaks it. Not only that, but they didn’t tell anyone and didn’t take responsibility. Imagine my disappointment when, less than a week after building it, I walked by it and noticed it was broken.
You know, I wouldn’t have even been mad if someone came to me and told me they broke it. Things happen. Accidents happen. It would have been nice if that person came to me and said hey, I broke this, I’m sorry. I would have appreciated their honesty and moved on.
My friend came over and fixed it, stronger than ever. It was finally complete and safe for Indy to try going down it.
I’ve done a lot of ground work with Indy. We’ve gone for long walks, alone or with Shady. We walk over logs, trough puddles, and over small obstacles. He’s never learned to refuse anything; he simply has learned that if something is in front of us we go over it. Simple as that. He really doesn’t understand why he wouldn’t go. I’ve always made sure it was a fair and simple question for him to understand.
Going down the bank was finally the first time he questioned me. Not necessarily a bad thing; I like a horse that thinks for itself. I will admit too that our bank isn’t exactly a rank beginners bank either.
I planned a time when we had time – not at dinner time, not when it is super buggy, or hot, and not when we would be rushed to beat sundown.
We started by going up the bank. A simple question he has already conquered. We walked by the bank on top, getting closer and closer to the edge. Then we walked up to the edge and looked down.
Something people often forget is that horses do not have the same depth perception as we humans do. This is why horses are most afraid of ditches, puddles, holes, etc. This is why we use ground lines underneath our jumps. They simply can’t tell how deep that ditch is, or how deep that puddle is. They can’t immediately see it and understand like we can. They have to learn.
So I was patient. We stood at the top, checking it out while I patted and scratched him. Then I stepped down the bank. I didn’t expect him to just follow. I patted him, reassuring him that I was okay after falling off this massive cliff. He stepped back. I didn’t let him back away. He tried to turn to go down the side and I straightened him. Standing and contemplating is fine; saying no is not.
I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly he decided to jump down. I was patting him and talking to him when he started to fold him little knees to prepare to lower himself. I stepped back to give him room, loosening his lead and talking to him in an encouraging, soothing voice. He made up his mind, tucked his little legs, and jumped.
I tell you it was the cutest darn thing you have ever seen. He was so trusting, and so unbothered by the whole thing. While my heart was swelling with pride he dove for the grass.
We ate grass for a few, then went back up for a second attempt to solidify that this was indeed acceptable. With very little hesitation, he bounded on down. I may have been slightly emotional.
That was it for the bank. We won’t visit that again for a while. There is no sense in drilling him over it, no sense in putting stress on his joints. He has seen it, he was great, and it made our relationship that much stronger.