"Round Penning." What do you think of it? As a verb, I don't like it. I haven't done much round pen work with my mustangs. Well, not the current ones. Willow did a lot of it, thanks to my John Lyons video. Now I just feel like it's a bit too agressive, a bit mean. I want my horse to be with me because he trusts me to be his leader, not because I've bullied and scared him into following me. I want to be Mark Rashid's passive leader, not Clinton Anderson's dictator. I guess maybe I'm a softie, even thought I don't think of myself as one. Another reason I don't do it is that I know for a fact working on a circle is most definitely not good for them.
But, I decided I was going to try it. I read Marv Walker's "bonder" the other day. I don't know, I don't see the difference between it and other round pen work. His statements make me feel like the idiot who can't comprehend the philosophers, but I wonder if it's more a case of the Emperor's New Clothes. Maybe I'm not dumb, and maybe it is the same. The only real difference I can see is that he makes it clear it's not just about chasing them in endless circles until they're worn out.
As background info, I should say that Tonka will walk with me without a lead most days when he's saddled and bridled, so he is already a good boy. He doesn't present himself to me to ask what he can do for me every time I go into his area, but he usually doesn't run away. He sometimes pins his ears as he follows, but not when he's next to me, which tells me we might have a respect problem.
Anyway, I took him to the round pen today. I say this in my head all defeated-like, feeling like I'm saying I took him to the whipping post. But I digress... Trotted circles, changing direction every 3 laps or so, with NO agression, just calmly keeping him moving where I want him, waiting for him to really give me his attention. He did, I asked him to hook up, he did pretty well on one side. Not so great on the other side at all. After about 45 minutes I had a horse that was scared to walk with me on that side. He'd try to hook up and then get worried and decide it was easier to leave. He pivoted great in either direction, worried but with me, on hinds or forequarters, but he couldn't walk next to me without getting scared. After exactly 59 minutes (that felt like two hours) he was doing better, gave me hope that I didn't make a huge mistake. He was following me well on both sides, backing without getting scared on one side, then at the very end he did it on the other side. He was sweaty and winded. I felt like a big jerk. And I still don't think it improved our relationship. Rather than walking next to me perfectly and with interest, he was lagging behind kind of sullenly, making me jiggle my stick to encourage him to keep up. Maybe he was just tired.
I'm still a bit torn on what to do with this. Did I not keep it up until he was fully "mine" or is it just not the right technique for him? Would it be better to try it again or walk away from that idea with this horse?
Hopefully he'll let me know whether this was some amazing breakthrough or a really big mistake. Probably neither. I think we already had a pretty good relationship, and I don't think he'll hold it against me.